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GMAT Prep Guide: 1c. How the GMAT CAT Works

The GMAT is only available as a computerized test. Instead of having a predetermined mixture of easy, medium, and hard questions, the computer will select questions for you based on how well you are doing. The first question will be of medium difficulty (500 level questions are halfway between 200 and 800). If you get it right, the second question will be selected from a group of questions that are a little harder; if you get the first question wrong, the second question will be a little easier. The result is that the test is self-adjusting and self-correcting to your skill level.

 This graph shows how the test keeps a running score of your performance as you take the test. The student's running score goes up after getting the first three questions right (blue) and the score goes down when the test taker gets questions wrong (red) (questions 4 and 5 on lower axis). As the test progresses, the swings caused by getting a question right or wrong progressively decrease.

Harder Questions Count More

A result of the CAT format is that the harder problems count more than easier ones. If one student gets 50% correct, and another student gets 45% correct, but takes harder questions, then the latter student would get a higher score. Your goal is to get to the hard questions and get as many of them right as possible. Simpler questions might be easier to answer, but they count much less. Your goal should be to get as many hard questions right because that will get you your highest possible score.

 The Early Questions Count More Myth 800score's CEO has discussed the GMAT exam with GMAC executives (note: 800score's tests aren't endorsed by GMAC and has no affiliation with them). Many test prep companies give false advice on this subject so students unnecessarily obsess over the first few questions. The reality is that the GMAT is such a sophisticated test that it doesn't just rely on the first few questions. On test day, stay calm and don't panic; the test is smart enough to quickly adapt and get a fair reading of your ability even if you do choke on the first few questions.

Pacing Strategies for the CAT (page 4 of 5 in Chapter 1)

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