How to Study for the Executive Assessment – Part 1

by on June 2nd, 2017

University student working on academic assignmentAre you aiming for an Executive MBA? You may have heard already that GMAC launched a new exam designed specifically for EMBA programs: The Executive Assessment (EA). Eleven world-class programs now take the EA and GMAC has just released a great new study product—so there are even more reasons for EMBA aspirants to take the EA rather than the GMAT.

How is the EA different from the GMAT?

The two tests contain all of the same question types that you know and love (cough, cough): Integrated Reasoning, Data Sufficiency & Problem Solving, and Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning & Reading Comprehension. There are some significant differences, though.

First, the EA is only 1.5 hours long. Each of the three sections is 30 minutes (and there’s no essay). It costs $350 to take and there’s a 2-test lifetime limit.

Second, the topics tested on the EA are narrower—you won’t see any geometry, for example.

Third, the EA is section-adaptive, not question-adaptive like the GMAT. The practical implication: You can actually move around within a block of questions, going back to earlier questions and working in the order that makes sense for you. More on this later.

Fourth, if you’re coming from the GMAT, you need to know an important difference between the two exams. On the GMAT, IR is less important than Quant and Verbal. On the EA, by contrast, all three subsections combine to give you your overall score—and those three subsections are equally weighted. In other words, on the EA, IR is just as important as Quant and Verbal.

Finally, let’s talk more about that scoring. Each sub-section (IR, Verbal, Quant) is scored on a scale of 0 to 20. Those scores are then combined to give you an overall score on a scale of 100 to 200.

What do the scores mean? We haven’t heard a ton yet about what schools like to see, but we’ve heard that a 150+ is good, and they’d also like to see something of a balance across the subsections. (In other words, they don’t want to see that you scored a full 20 on one section but only a 5 on another. It’d be better to have all scores in the 10 to 15 range.)

By the way, if you’re wondering how they go from the two-digit subscores (0 to 20) to the three-digit overall score (100 to 200)…we don’t know. They don’t disclose this calculation (nor do they tell us how they do this on the GMAT, so that’s to be expected!).

Which schools accept the EA?

Very well-known ones. :) Here’s the list as of today, in alphabetical order:

  • CEIBS (China European International Business School)
  • Booth (University of Chicago)
  • Columbia
  • Darden (University of Virginia)
  • HKU (University of Hong Kong)
  • IESE (University of Navarra)
  • Insead
  • LBS (London Business School)
  • Jones (Rice)
  • Anderson (UCLA)
  • Owen (Vanderbilt University)

What’s the EA Official Practice Questions tool?

GMAC’s official study tool contains 300 practice questions, 100 of each type (IR, Verbal, and Quant). But it’s actually a lot more than just a question bank.

When you first start up, you’ll enter your planned test date and the software will “feed” you assignments spread out over your study timeframe.

For instance, see a screen shot of my current Study Plan below. I’ve got 66 days to go until my test and I’ve completed 17% of my plan. Up next, I’ve got a set of Integrated Reasoning questions to complete.

You’ll do problem sets in blocks of 10. You can bookmark individual problems, take notes that the software will actually save for you (tagged to an individual problem), and rate your confidence on each problem (low, medium, or high). Later, you can look at lists of problems sorted by this data—say, everything you tagged as Low, or every problem on which you saved a Note.

Here’s a note I saved on a problem that I tagged Medium confidence:

(For copyright reasons, I can’t show you the full text of the problem itself—it’s just below the green line that you see in my screen shot.)

If you want to do a problem set, click on the Study Plan link (on the menu to the left, not shown in my screen shot) and just do whatever the software presents to you as the next step—you don’t even have to think about it.

When you’re done, though, don’t review the problems right there (though you can). Instead, click on the Practice Questions link and click into the problem set you want to review there.

In this area, you get a summary of all of your work to date, as the above screen shot shows.

Click down into any problem set and you’ll see a neat little “dashboard” summary of the problems—Did you get each one right or wrong? How much time did you spend? From there, you can click down into any problem to review it, or you can review the whole set at once. The review screen also includes an official solution for the problem.

I’ve only been using this for a few days, but I think people are going to be really happy with this study tool. There were a couple of times when an interface or navigation was a little bit clunky, but overall, this is easy to use. And they only just released this—they’ll presumably take user feedback into account for updates.

What else do I need to know about the EA?

I mentioned earlier that the EA is section-adaptive (vs. the question-adaptive GMAT) and that this allows you to answer in whatever order you want within one section of the test. There are some important implications for how you study and for how you take the EA—and we’re going to talk about those implications in the next installment of this series.

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