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The Adaptive Nature of the GMAT

So what makes the GMAT so hard?

No matter how good you are with numbers, no matter how strong your logic is, no matter how comprehensive your powers of comprehension are – the GMAT is a hard exam. This is true for any test taker, including GMAT Masters.

The reason for that is the adaptive nature of the GMAT. While the intricate workings of the adaptive algorithm is too complicated to be communicated in a blog post, the logic behind it can be simplified thus:

1. In the beginning, the algorithm knows nothing about the examinee, so it assumes he or she is of an average level. Consequently, the examinee gets a mid-level question, one that was answered correctly by around 50% of past test-takers.

2. If the test-taker gets the first question right, he or she gets a harder question (say, one answered correctly by only 25% of past test takers); if the test-taker gets it wrong, he or she gets an easier question (for instance, one answered correctly by 75% of past test takers).

3. This process repeats itself in the following questions, with each subsequent answer providing the system with more information about the actual level of the examinee, as the algorithm tries to push the test-takers boundaries and determine the theoretical "breaking point".

The adaptive nature of the algorithm thus makes sure that each test-taker is treated in the same "unfair" way: the questions test takers face vary in their difficulty level, but are equally hard relative to the test taker that faces them. Whether you are in the 99th or 10th percentile, the GMAT algorithm will make sure that you will be presented with questions that are difficult for YOU.

Guest post provided by Geva Stern, an Academic Support Manager at Master GMAT

About the author: Stacy Blackman
Stacy Blackman

Stacy Blackman, has been consulting on the Master of Business Administration degree application process since 2001. She has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy has worked with the admissions committees at both schools, conducting alumni interviews and evaluating applicants.


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