How the CAT Works

The CAT is an adaptive test, which means that the test software uses your performance on one question to determine which question you’ll be asked next. While all CAT questions are pulled from the same pool, each test taker will have a unique combination of questions that forms his entire GMAT.

When you take a CAT you’ll start with a medium-level question. If you answer correctly, the computer will raise your score and proceed to give you a harder question. If you answer incorrectly, your score will go down and you’ll get an easier question. The process repeats for each question on the section.

On a paper-and-pencil standardized test, each question counts the same toward your final score. On the CAT, the first questions are much more important than later questions in determining your final score. It is imperative for you to get off to a strong start on the GMAT CAT.

Many CAT features will be completely new to you. Don’t worry; at The Princeton Review we’ve been helping students crack computer adaptive tests for more than five years. Here are some common issues with CAT format:

  • Make effective use of scratch paper for notes, calculations and process of elimination.
  • Give full attention to each question as it appears: you cannot skip a question and return to it later.
  • Don’t panic as the question difficulty changes. The test adapts itself based on your performance, so all the questions should seem challenging to you.

The Structure of the GMAT CAT

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
The CAT starts with two Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essays. You’ll be given 30 minutes for each essay. You will type your AWA essays into the computer using a basic word processor with cut-and-paste functions.

Math
Next come the Quantitative Section and Verbal Section (75 minutes each). The quantitative section contains a mixture of two basic question types, Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency.

Verbal
The CAT Verbal Section contains Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension, and Critical Reasoning questions-

Each Math and Verbal section in the CAT format contains several un-scored pretest questions. These questions will not match their difficulty level to your performance and will not affect the questions that follow.