Adaptive Nature of GMAT Test: A Worry or An Advantage?


It does not really matter how good you are with the basic concepts and fundamentals. No matter how strong your logic is, no matter how perfect you are with your reading skills, no matter how quick you are–the GMAT Test is a hard exam. And this remains a fact for even the GMAT Masters, one has to be excellent with logical skills to execute his/her best on this exam.

Another strong reason for the same is the adaptive nature of the


. It is not like any other online exam. You do not encounter the questions in a linear format or a computerized version of any pen and paper test. Its adaptive nature makes it unique and more challenging. It adapts to the test-taking abilities of every individual. Let’s understand the meaning of its adaptive nature and how it works.


At the beginning of the section (please note that adaptive testing feature is integrated into Quantitative Ability and  Verbal Ability sections and not on Integrated reasoning section), questions that typically appear on the computer screen are of a medium level of difficulty. Reason being algorithm knows nothing about examinee and assumes him/her to be an average candidate. If test taker can solve the question, the level of difficulty will go up, higher with every correct answer. In case you get it wrong, the computer will start showing easier questions. GMAT test algorithm is such which takes into account the level of difficulty and also the number of easy and difficult questions answered correctly.

When you are almost done with first 12-15 questions and go deeper into the section, the algorithm learns more about your ability and serves questions accordingly. You may face an easy question in the middle of the test but that does not mean that you are not performing well. An easy question can be a part of the algorithm to gauge your preparation in a particular area or can even be an experimental question. By increasing or decreasing the level of difficulty as per your performance on previous questions, test attempts to work out your correct score level and then confirm that level.

Quantitative and Verbal scores are based on following parameters:

  • Number of questions answered correctly
  • How many difficult questions attempted
  • The range of question types and skills that are tested
  • Number of questions left unanswered at the end (CAT doesn’t give the option of skipping the question) there is a severe penalty for an incomplete section than for questions marked incorrectly

Say, if we consider two test takers A and B. Both having the same difficulty level and the number of correct responses. Then the examinee with more evenly distributed correct responses will score higher.

GMAT’s adaptive nature ensures each student is treated similarly. It does not matter if you are a 99th percentile or 10th percentile test taker. This amazing algorithm will ONLY show questions that are difficult for you. A question which is harder for one person may not be the same for another person. GMAT Test has humongous question bank which keeps showing questions as per the candidate’s caliber and previous performance. The end result is that GMAT Test that you appear for will be custom built for you. No other examinee will encounter the same set and order of questions.

One would generally avoid random guessing. This may save your time, but at the same time probability of correct answer is only 20%. An incorrect response may move down your level of difficulty. Guessing, in the beginning, is far more dangerous than later in the section. This is because initial questions establish appropriate level for you. While few incorrect answers won’t change your level drastically in CAT algorithm.

A perfect roadmap will be to take balanced prep strategy. Use GMAT official guide and other GMAT related material to strengthen your skills. Use GMAC software and other additional authentic practice tests to understand how GMAT works. A key area of GMAT is time management. One can overcome the anxiety towards the adaptive nature of GMAT with practice. Use its adaptive nature to your advantage for a better score. Perform on this exam with best of your knowledge and skills. Rest assured, trust the terrific algorithm to do justice with your scores.

Team Leverage

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