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Be Aware of the CAT


The GRE is a pretty hip test . . . instead of going with the boring ol' pencils and paper, the GRE is now administered on a computer (creatively called the "computer-adapted test," or CAT). What's the difference between taking the GRE on a computer versus on paper? Feast your eyes on this:

  • The CAT only shows you one question at a time. So you have no choice but to answer the question you're given. You can't skip it.

  • Each question you get depends on whether you got the previous one correct or not. In essence, it's a personalized exam; if you get a question right, the next question will be a little harder, and if you get a question wrong, the next one will be a little easier. This is a way of pinpointing exactly where you fall on the "smart scale."

  • Once you answer a question, you can't go back and change your answer. The good side of this is that it forces you to be efficient and "go with your gut," but the bad news is that if you suddenly remember the definition of "bombastic" four questions down the line, you won't be able to go back and change your original answer.

  • When you take the CAT, you find out your score right away, instead of having to wait for 5 weeks to get your scores. Instant gratification, baby.

  • Taking the CAT means that you have to get used to doing math problems or reading long passages off a computer screen. While everyone is at the same disadvantage, it does mean that you can't undertake standard test-taking strategies like crossing off the wrong answers with your pencil.

  • You probably remember that the SAT penalized you for answering a question incorrectly. Well the CAT does NOT penalize you for wrong answers. So guess away!

As the CAT is phased in around the country and the paper-and-pencil exam is phased out, many apprehensive test-takers want to know if there's any way to take the exam on paper. Our advice is to not bother looking and just take it on the computer. Many studies undertaken by the Educational Testing Service have shown that the scores are comparable, and by taking the test on a computer, you can find out your scores right away, allowing you to make your future plans more quickly.

Taken from SoYouWanna Learn the Basics of the GRE?