Computer Adaptive Testing

What is it?
Computer Adaptive Testing or CAT is a form of computer-based testing that adapts to the test taker’s ability level. It is also known as a tailored test.

How Computer Adaptive Testing Works
Computer adaptive tests are, of course, completed by computer. The test taker will be given a set of questions that have been pre-chosen by the test administrator and the test will readjust upcoming questions based upon the test taker’s previous answer. Basically what this means is that if a student does well on a question, the next question on the test will increase in difficulty. If a student does poor, the test will readjust the next question accordingly. With computer adaptive tests, the main objective is to match the test to the students’ ability level to effectively determine what skills or concepts a student has mastered or needs reinforcement in.

Relevance to Educators
Computer Adaptive Testing can be very useful for educators. Educators can use it to help them distinguish specific skills in various subject areas. For example, math, reading and writing could be subject areas where computer adaptive testing can be used.
Computer Adaptive Testing is great as a pre-assessment or post-assessment. Teachers can use it as a way to challenge gifted learners and possibly remediate for younger learners.

Where it is Used
Computer Adaptive Testing is widely used. It is used as part of entrance or placement exams at both the collegiate and high school level. It has also been adapted for IQ Tests, MBA programs and as an assessment tool for tutoring companies like Kaplan or Huntington.

  • can provide precise scores for most test takers
  • can be a continual ongoing assessment for students
  • tests provide results immediately
  • can give different sets of questions to students
  • can be shortened or lengthened depending on time available

  • expensive for smaller schools
  • student can catch on to patterns of questioning. For example, if a student misses a question on purpose and become aware that the test will give them an easier question next, the student might how show their true knowledge ability.