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GMAT: A Computer Adaptive exam

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

What is GMAT?

Graduation Management Admission Test or GMAT is a global level exam, a standardized entrance test for getting admission to a business school. The test is administered and designed by a non-profit organization, GMAC i.e., Graduation Management Admission Council. It is basically taken to test the students worldwide on a common ground of their preparedness for graduation and has been designed to test their critical thinking skills; to measure their proficiency in analyzing and evaluating written material, thinking critically and solving problems.

GMAT Exam Structure

GMAT is fundamentally a multiple-choice, computer-based and computer adaptive entrance exam which consists of four sections and lasts for 3.5 hours. The scores for two sections are calculated together and for other two, the scores are evaluated separately and then the scores are combined to make your final GMAT score. The maximum that can be obtained is 800.

The four sections are:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment- Measures critical thinking and communication skills

  2. Integrated Reasoning- Measures the ability to analyze data and interpret information presented in multiple formats

  3. Quantitative- Measures strong mathematical abilities and reasoning skills

  4. Verbal- Measures reading comprehension skills, editing abilities and the ability to evaluate written arguments

The student also has the flexibility to choose from the three options of the exam’s section order.

About the computer adaptive format

The quantitative and verbal sections of GMAT are computer-adaptive. This is one of the complex parts of GMAT and many people fail to understand it and hence end up scoring less even though they could easily do better. Comprehending how it works can actually improve their marks as it allows them to roughly estimate their performance in real time and help in building test strategies.

So, what does it mean by computer adaptive test?

In a computer adaptive test, each question you answer will determine what questions you see later. The quantitative and verbal reasoning sections both begin with average questions. Then, the questions vary continuously in terms of difficulty, depending on your answer’s accuracy and correctness. When you answer a question, the computer scores you and on the basis of it, presents you the next question. So, if you get a question right, a harder question will appear next. But if your answer is wrong, the next question will be comparatively easier one. This process continues throughout the test using responses to all your previous questions as the basis to decide which question you will have to attempt next. You cannot skip, return to or change your answers to the questions.

Basically, the difficulty of exam adapts itself to your level of ability. The computer has an accurate assessment of your command in the subject. Henceforth, these two sections of GMAT assesses your potential with higher degree of precision and deliver scores that most business schools can trust. The key to ace these sections is to understand that accuracy is not the best measure of test performance here. GMAT is a test of ability i.e., your GMAT score is governed by your capability to answer difficult questions correctly.

So, even if you do any mistake in a question, that won’t impact your score if you prove that you have the ability. This whole computer adaptive thing might seem a little complex to understand but it’s really helpful in the bigger picture as the number of questions you answered incorrectly doesn’t determine your score.

While it is tough to prepare for such exams, it’s not impossible. You just have to be well prepared and focus more on your command in the subjects. When you start preparing, focus on learning the process to solve different kind of questions. Make sure that you master the topics properly as this will boost your confidence to tackle the tougher questions that you may face in the test.

By Shreya Supriya

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