A computer adaptive test is a type of test that, as the name suggests, is completed on the computer. It differs from traditional tests in several ways:
- You can only see one question at a time. There is no way to review the entire test before beginning.
- You must answer all questions as they appear. In other words, you cannot skip a question and come back to it later on.
- Your final grade will be based on the number of questions that you answered, whether the answers you provided were correct, and the average difficulty level of the questions that you answered.
- The difficulty of the questions on a computer adaptive test will depend on the answers that you provide to each question. As a result, the questions on the exam will get more difficult as you answer more questions correctly and easier as you answer questions incorrectly.
Test-taking strategies that work for traditional paper based exams like reading the entire test and returning to questions that you aren’t sure about do not apply to computer adaptive tests. There are, however, a few tips that may help you if you have a computer adaptive test coming up.
- Try to take a sample test: Taking a test on a computer can be an entirely different experience, so try to complete a sample test if possible to get a feel for what you should expect. There are plenty of test prep companies that have sample tests online, so look for one that offers examples of your upcoming exam.
- Access tutorials if possible: If you arrive to the test early, you may be given the opportunity to complete a basic tutorial. Do this if at all possible.
- Observe timers: Some sections may be timed. If they are, you’ll often see a clock in the corner of the screen. Pay attention to it, and set your pace accordingly.
- Read instructions: As with any type of test, it’s important to read the directions for each section of the exam to make sure that you are completing the questions in the correct manner.
- Do your best on every question: If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t enter a blind guess right away. This will make the next question easier and lower your score. Take some time to try to figure out the answer, but not too much. Computer adaptive tests require you to answer questions quickly and correctly in order to do well.