Adaptive Testing FAQ

What is adaptive testing?

Adaptive testing, officially known as Computerised Adaptive Testing (or CAT for short) is the latest development in test administration. In adaptive tests, the test's difficulty adapts to the performance of the candidate, getting harder or easier following a correct or incorrect answer respectively. Research shows that the most accurate questions are those most equivalent to the candidate's ability. This is because easy questions are poor measures of high performing candidates and hard questions are poor measures of low performing candidates. Adaptive tests avoid this by administering questions best suited to the individual's level of ability. A famous example of an adaptive test is the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), often used for entry into top business schools.

How do adaptive tests work?

When starting the test, the candidate is given a question of average difficulty, as no ability estimate can be made initially. If the candidate answers the first question correctly, the next question will be harder, if they get the next question incorrect, the next question will be easier. Eventually, the test hones in on the candidate's level of ability, providing an accurate score. Unlike in traditional tests, both the number of correct answers and the difficulty of those questions matter when calculating a candidate's score.

What are the advantages of adaptive tests over traditional tests?

Quicker: Adaptive tests can be considerably shorter than traditional tests (roughly by half or less), without sacrificing reliability or accuracy. This results in considerable time savings for both candidate and client.

More accurate: Better difficulty targeting results in better measurement. Adaptive tests are more precise than traditional tests, providing more valid and reliable results. This translates into a considerably greater return on investment than traditional tests for the employing organisation.

More fair: In traditional tests, everyone gets 1 mark for a correct answer, regardless of the question's difficulty. However in adaptive tests a questions difficulty matters and harder questions are given more weighting than easy questions.

More Secure: Adaptive tests use huge item banks, consisting of hundreds of questions. As a result, each candidate is given a unique combination of questions, vastly reducing the ability to share answers and compromise test security.

Better candidate experience: In adaptive tests, candidates are only given questions commensurate with their ability. As a result, candidates are not bored by easy questions or stressed out by excessively hard ones. Candidates are all given the same testing experience regardless of their ability, a test which is challenging but not overwhelming.

Better for high and low performers: Traditional tests are only accurate within the average range of ability, becoming less accurate for high and low performers. Adaptive tests however, are equally effective at measuring high, low and average performers, providing more accurate ability estimates.

How are adaptive tests developed?

Designing, calibrating and publishing adaptive tests requires considerable expertise and resources. Publishers must write hundreds of questions per item bank, only retaining the questions which meet psychometric quality control procedures. Often, tens of thousands of test takers are required to calibrate an adaptive test item bank, allowing researchers to identify the item banks psychometric properties and select the best questions. Developing adaptive tests also requires knowledge of advanced psychometric theory, most importantly item-response theory. As a result, few test publishers have the capability or resources to develop adaptive tests.

As a client, how will adaptive test administration differ from traditional tests?

From the client and candidate perspective, there will be no changes in test administration. Setting up and completing tests follows the same procedure as before.

Can I still access the original style of test?

Yes you can still access our legacy tests. You just need to contact us and request access to our legacy tests. We will then provide you access to our old tests, and you can continue to use those as before. Our adaptive tests differ considerably from our legacy tests and thus are not directly comparable, so for older projects it's advised to continue with the older style of test.