What are the advantages and disadvantages to CAT tests?

Advantages: Since each question adapts based on the test-taker’s previous responses to questions, the computer requires less time to calculate your score, resulting in a shorter test.  This can reduce test-taker fatigue, which can significantly lower an examinee’s test results.  CATs are individually paced so the examinee does not need to wait on others to finish before going on to the next section, which can also reduce the total length of the test.  CATs can be given on demand and scores can be available immediately, resulting in greater flexibility for test-takers.  CATs also provide more accurate scores within ability ranges; pen and pencil tests typically do not provide as high a degree of differentiation for high and low ability test takers.  Finally, if you’re slow at writing by hand and more comfortable typing responses on a computer, you’ll be able to write more during the Analytical Writing section.

Disadvantages: The first couple questions are critical in determining your score. If you miss the first question, your score will be significantly lower, even if you get all the subsequent questions correct.  Examinees cannot skip around a section to answer questions; they must answer the questions in the order presented to them. Finally, if you are uncomfortable using a computer or slow at typing, a CAT could further handicap you during the Analytical Writing section.

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