A Primer on Computer adaptive tests – the personal knowledge tests

You may not have heard of computer adaptive tests before, but you may have heard of its acronym – CAT.

This is the new generation of knowledge tests. Here you will discover why they have become so popular. You will also learn exactly how they work. You will also go through a few advantages of these subject specific tests on computers. As they are subject specific so you may find names like MCAT, ECAT etc.

What is a compute adaptive test (CAT)?

A CAT is a method of assessing an individual’s level of knowledge of a certain subject matter. However the test is not designed like standard tests you may be used to where the questions are fixed. The key to the CAT is the use of the word computer. The computer is responsible for generating questions.

However, the questions asked by the computer are not randomly generated. The computer has access to a large number of questions. The first question it will ask in a CAT will be one that 50% of examinees will have previously answered correctly. It is a median question that someone with an average level of knowledge of the subject matter should get right.

The computer adaptive test differs from ordinary knowledge-based test. This is because the next question the examinee will be asked will be generated based on whether the answer to the previous question was correct or not. The idea behind the CAT is to see what level of difficulty an examinee can answer questions on. It then has a clear indication of the level of difficulty where the examinee cannot answer questions. This process is repeated several times. This then gives a clearer indication of the true level of knowledge the examinee has on a chosen subject.

A CAT may base upon understanding the meaning of words. The more questions you answer, the harder the questions become. Eventually you will start to get questions wrong. When you do, the next question will be a little easier and they will increase in difficulty until you give another wrong answer. Eventually you will reach equilibrium.

Eventually you will reach a peak or a plateau where you cannot increase your score. At this level you cannot answer enough questions correctly to increase your score before you get one wrong and drop you score. It is a remarkably intuitive system and an extremely accurate way of assessing your knowledge on a subject matter.

Advantages of the Computer Adaptive Tests

computer adaptive tests

One of the greatest advantages of the computer adaptive test is the fact it can be performed at any time. There are no time restrictions on when you take the test or how long you have to complete it.

The next advantage of the test is the fact it is all computer based. That does not just mean the generation of all the questions. It also means calculating the results and scores. This in turn means that the results can be obtained incredibly quickly. There is no element of human marking involved. The speed of results makes this type of test highly appropriate in job interview scenarios.

Another of the big advantages of the computer adaptive test is that unlike other forms of testing, it requires fewer questions to be asked. In general terms, a standard test may have 100 questions. A standard CAT test may have only 25 questions you need answer. The results can be more accurate as well as more rapidly obtained.

One field where computer adapted tests are frequently used is in education. Teachers forever want to know how each individual student is doing. A standard written test takes time. It also needs marking. Finally, for an average student, approximately 50% of the questions asked will be too difficult to answer. Consequently, this wastes of time.

With the computer adaptive test a student will answer appreciably more questions correctly than wrongly. The results can be calculated as soon as the test is completed and the results provided in no time at all. The results can be calculated without any input from the teacher. Because of the speed with which the test can be taken and the ease with which it can be used, teachers can be more up to date on their students’ skills and knowledge.

Now teachers can keep a close eye on the progress of their students. Teachers cannot only identify if their class is doing well, but they can also quickly identify students who are struggling. These students can often need some form of teaching support. This in turn means that none of any individual student’s education is a waste of time or resources.


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