CAT stands for Computer Adaptive Test. The GMAT® uses the CAT to offer a platform for delivery to its test-takers a range of multiple-choice questions (MCQs).
The MCQ format is one of the most widely used testing strategies in
educational programs. When constructed well, this format assumes many of the psychometric properties that characterize valid assessment practices.
The CAT is user-adaptive, in that it "adapts" the level of the questioning
according to the test taker's abilities. What this means is that the computer throws questions at you based on the correctness of response you gave to the question preceding it. If you answer the present question correctly, the following one will be of greater difficulty. If you choose an incorrect answer to the present question, then the next question will be less difficult.
Is the CAT an improvement over the old P&P (paper and pencil) based test? The jury is still out on that, but we feel it is.
By giving you questions in order of increasing difficulty, is the CAT allowing you to increase the likelihood of a better score? Nope. Gone is the confidence building by skipping questions, and answering questions in random order to build up the tempo. Gone is skipping when you run aground with a tough one. If you get stuck, it may unnerve you. If you lose your composure, you lose the perspicacity needed to attack the questions with the full force of your arsenal.
If you fail to answer questions towards the end of the test you are sanctioned (you cannot normally fail to answer in the middle of the test, because you cannot skip unless you abandon!). The final score views the correct choices and the penalties that have been sanctioned.
The exam is three and a half hours long, but with the breaks and intervals that are provided, the test can take upwards of four hours.
The CAT Format
The GMAT® consists of three parts: Analytical Writing Assessment, Quantitative Section, and Verbal Section.
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
The GMAT® CAT begins with the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). The AWA consists of two separate writing tasks-Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument. You are allowed 30 minutes to complete each one. First optional ten-minute break follows (Take it!)
The Quantitative Section of the GMAT® follows. This section contains 37 MCQs of 2 question types, Data Sufficiency (DS) and Problem Solving (PS). Time allotted: 75 minutes to complete the entire section.
Second optional ten-minute break follows (Take it!)
The Verbal Section of the GMAT® is next. This section contains 41 MCQs of 3 question types: Reading Comprehension (RC), Critical Reasoning (CR), and Sentence Correction (SC). Time allotted: 75 minutes to complete the entire section.
Range of scaled scores
Analytical Skills: Score Range 0-6
Quantitative: Score Range 0-60
Verbal: Score Range 0-60