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Computer Based Tests

Computer-based testing is now available for several admissions tests throughout the United States, Canada and most locations around the world. This way of testing is important because it can measure different skills or sets of knowledge in order to provide new and better information about your abilities. Colleges and universities receive computer-based test results more quickly than those from paper-based test, and they can make their admissions decisions more quickly.

Computer-based testing provides you with several important benefits:

  1. Testing is offered year-round in most locations.
  2. Tests are scheduled on a first-come, first-served bases.
  3. Testing environments are more comfortable and individualized
  4. A word processor may be used for writing essays more quickly. (This is optional for the TOEFL and GRE.)
  5. You may have access to immediate viewing of unofficial scores on the computer screen (except for essays).

You can take a computer-based test even if you have minimal or no previous computer experience. Instructions provided in a basic computer tutorial before the test will give you the experience you need to take the test using a mouse. You may spend as much time as you need to on the tutorial to ensure that you are comfortable with the computer and with the test before the official timed exam. Visit the testing program Web sites to learn more about the tutorials.

Types of Computer-Based Tests

There are two types of computer-based tests: linear and adaptive. A linear test is a full-length exam in which the computer selects different questions for you without consideration of your performance level. It consists of a full range of test questions – from easiest to most difficult – but not always in order. The linear test is scored in the same way as a paper-based test.

A computer adaptive test is one in which the computer selects the range of questions based on your performance level. These questions are taken from a very large pool of possible questions categorized by content and difficulty.

When you take a paper-based test, you will find that you are asked to answer questions ranging from easy to hard. In a computer-based adaptive test, each test-taker receives questions that are at the right level of difficulty for his or her ability. These tests begin with a question that is of medium level of difficulty for most test takers. After each question is answered, the computer uses the answer and all previous answers to determine which question will be answered next. The next question is one that best follows the previous performance. This means that different test takers – even in the same room on the same day—will receive different questions.

Since adaptive test questions are selected according to performance on previous questions, you spend less time than you would on a paper-based test on questions that are either too easy or too hard. If you make a careless error and answer incorrectly or if you answer correctly by making a lucky guess, the questions you later receive may not be appropriate to your knowledge or skill level. You cannot skip ahead or go back like you can on a paper-based exam.

If you are uneasy because you are accustomed to reviewing an entire test, or section of a test, before filling in any answers, you might find it helpful to practice with a test preparation software program that simulates the test.

For more information on idividual tests, visit our Test Preparation section.

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