Is CAT Different from CBT?

Posted Nov 1, 2018

In simple terms, yes. They are very different.

Ok, but what do CAT and CBT stand for? And what do they have to do with the NREMT exam?

CAT stands for computer adaptive test, and CBT stands for computer based linear test. The EMR, EMT and Paramedic level exams are all CATs and the Advanced-EMT exam is a CBT.

A computer adaptive test is an exam that changes and evolves based on the individual answering the questions (Read more on Computer Adaptive Tests). Questions begin at a “below passing standard” level, and progress to an “above passing standard” level if a candidate is able to correctly answer the questions presented. Once the CAT has a 95% confidence rate that the candidate has either successfully mastered the content or has failed to master the content, the exam will end. This could happen anywhere in the range of 80-110 questions on the EMR exam, 70-120 questions on the EMT exam, or 80-150 questions on the paramedic exam. Find more information on this by clicking HERE. Therefore, each candidate's exam will end at a different point, and will have slightly different questions (although they are all pulled from the NREMTs pool of researched and approved questions) based on that individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Another important aspect of the CAT exam is that candidates are unable to move backwards. This means that the candidate has to answer a question at the time it is asked, and once it has been answered and submitted, it cannot be revisited.

While a CAT exam changes based on the way an individual answers questions, a CBT is a “linear” exam. A linear exam means there is a set number of questions - 135 with 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the test for the Advanced-EMT exam. Click HERE for more information on the specifics of the AEMT exam - regardless of how a candidate answers the questions as the test progresses.

Unlike the CAT exam, the CBT exam allows candidates to skip questions, mark them for review, and go back to questions throughout the exam. For more information on cognitive exams the NREMT produces, click HERE to visit their website.

The CAT and CBT exams both test depth of knowledge, and the questions on the exam are developed by EMS professionals in a controlled setting. The questions are then tested via pilot studies prior to being made “live” items on an NREMT exam. However, the delivery of the questions and design of each exam is very different, which is why it is important to understand the style of the exam you will be tested on and what to expect when testing.