4 Myths of the Computer Adaptive Test (CAT)

Because the CAT format for the GMAT exam is relatively new or most people, too many people incorrectly believe certain things about the exam. Let’s break it apart.

Myth #1: It is more important to answer correctly than to finish the test.

GMATPill: There is a SEVERE penalty for not completing the GMAT. Unlike the SAT where you have the option of leaving a question blank, the GMAT grades every question. If you don’t finish the exam, your score is greatly reduced. Failing to answer 5 questions on verbal can reduce your score from the 91st percentile to the 77th percentile. Depending on where you are on the curve, you can expect to drop roughly 15 percentage points for not finishing the last 5 questions. That’s a STEEP drop. Make sure you finish the test!

Myth #2: The first 10 questions dictate which level of difficulty you will be in for the rest of the test and will therefore dictate what scores you can reach.

GMATPill: While it is true that the CAT algorithm uses the first set of questions to obtain an estimate of your ability, the algorithm does self-correct based on each question that is answered. Your end score is based on ALL your questions and is not weighted unfairly to the first few questions. You should not be spending an unnecessary amount of time on the first 10 questions at the expense of the rest of the test.

Myth #3: Getting an easy question means you just got the last one wrong.

GMATPill: Another dangerous myth. Remember there are a few experimental questions on each test that can be in any level of difficulty. Getting an easy question in the middle of the test can mean you got an experimental question. Or perhaps what YOU think is an “easy” question is actually categorized as a “medium” question by the GMAT. At the end of the day, you really should not waste your time assessing the level of difficulty of a question. What you should be focused on is answering each question efficiently and moving on to the next.

Myth #4: You need to think through every single question.

GMATPill:  Remember there is a HUGE penalty for not finishing the exam–roughly 15 percentage points for not answering the last 5 questions. You MUST answer every question–but that doesn’t mean you have to think through every single one. If you come across a very difficult question that you think will take you 4 or 5 minutes, you should probably narrow it down as best you can within 2 minutes and then guess. Don’t waste another 3 minutes if you don’t think you can answer the question correctly. In this case, it is better to guess and move on than to risk not finishing the test.

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