Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT)

What to know about computer adaptive tests

Computer adaptive testing (CAT) is an assessment model that provides a customized test experience for each student. Each CAT assessment begins with a question of moderate difficulty. A correct response leads to a more difficult question, while an incorrect response leads to a less difficult question. Because question difficulty is tailored to each student's responses, CAT assessments can measure a student's performance with fewer total questions than are needed with a traditional assessment. All students complete the same number of questions for the overall test.

Students cannot skip questions when taking a CAT assessment. They must answer a question before moving to the next question. For most CAT assessments, students are unable to return to earlier questions to review or make changes. In some reading CAT assessments, a group of questions may be connected to a reading passage. Students may navigate back and forth among questions tied to each passage. Once students move to the next passage, they can no longer return to questions from the earlier passage set. 

In Fairfax County Public Schools, CAT is used for a number of assessment types, including:

  • Universal screener, reading and mathematics, grades k-6
  • Standards of Learning (SOL), reading and mathematics, grades 3-8
  • WIDA ACCESS for ELLs 2.0, English language proficiency (English learners only), grades k-12

Teachers and other instructional staff in schools work with students to prepare for CAT and provide opportunities for students to practice this assessment format. 

Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) CAT Development

VDOE first introduced CAT SOL assessments in the 2014-15 school year and has expanded use of this model each year. Continued development of CAT is part of VDOE’s efforts to provide students with the best possible testing experience, based on evidence that CAT increases students' focus and engagement during testing. VDOE offers additional information about use of CAT in state SOL assessments

Complete information on student assessments is available.

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Complete information for families is available.

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