How to Prepare for the Executive Assessment – Part 1
The Executive Assessment (EA) exam was launched in March 2016 to provide a more streamlined version of the GMAT for Executive MBA (EMBA) candidates.
In this series, we’re going to discuss what (and how) to study for the exam. Let’s start with an overview of the exam itself.
Which EMBA programs accept the EA?
Very well-known ones, including LBS, MIT Sloan, Wharton, Berkeley Haas, and INSEAD. Check out the official full list on the Executive Assessment website.
How is the EA different from the GMAT?
If you are coming to the EA from the GMAT world, then you’re going to see a lot of familiar material.
The two tests contain all of the same sections and question types that you know and love (cough, cough):
- Integrated Reasoning (IR)
- Quant (Data Sufficiency & Problem Solving)
- Verbal (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, 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.
Fourth, 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? So far, schools are saying 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 18 on one section but only 5 on another. It’d be better to have all scores in the 10 to 15 range.)
Finally, 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. Let’s dive more into this below.
Adaptivity on the EA: Integrated Reasoning
You’ll start with the IR section. This section looks just like it does on the GMAT—questions that test quantitative and verbal / logical reasoning skills simultaneously—and the individual questions are all chosen up front. In other words, the individual questions are not being chosen for you as you work your way through the section. (The IR on the GMAT works this way, too.)
As I mentioned earlier, you can move around within the section! It’s not the case that, once you answer a question, you can’t go back (as it is on the GMAT). You can also mark questions to come back to later (while you’re still working in this section). Later, we’ll talk more about marking questions during the section.
Adaptivity on the EA: Verbal and Quant
Your second section, after IR, will be Verbal, and your Verbal is going to come in two separate sets, or panels, of 7 questions each. You’ll have 30 minutes total to complete the two Verbal panels together (14 questions total). Within each panel, you can again move around and answer the questions in whatever order you want.
You’ll have three question types: Sentence Correction (SC, a grammar-and-meaning-based question type), Reading Comprehension (RC), and Critical Reasoning (CR). The latter two test your logical reasoning skills and comprehension.
Now, here’s how the adaptivity works. Your performance on the IR section will determine the difficulty level of the mix of questions that you are given in your first Verbal panel. If you do really well on the IR section, you’ll get a harder mix of Verbal questions. If you do medium-well, you’ll see a more medium set of Verbal questions, and so on. (That’s what I’m trying to show with the blue circles—you’ll still have some range of question difficulties, but the range will not cross all difficulty levels.)
When you finish that first, 7-question Verbal panel, you will confirm that you want to move to the second panel of Verbal questions. At that point, you cannot go back to the first panel of questions. The second panel will be chosen based on how you did in the first panel—again, you might get a harder mix or a more medium mix and so on. And since this is now the second time the test is adapting to you, we would expect the mix of difficulty levels to be somewhat narrower than it was in the first panel—the test knows more about you and can target the questions better.
When you finish with verbal, you’ll start Quant, and this will work the same way. Your first Quant panel of 7 questions will be chosen based on how you did during your IR section. The second panel of 7 Quant questions will be chosen based on how you did during the first panel of Quant questions.
I mentioned earlier that you have to take IR seriously because it is equally weighted in your overall score. There’s a second reason: Your IR performance determines your starting points on your first Quant and Verbal panels. Do pretty well on IR and you’ll earn a higher starting point on quant and verbal.
Takeaway: Study all 3 sections fairly equally
The takeaway pretty much says it all.
One more thing. Since you can move around among the questions within any one panel, we need to talk about a strategy for time management and for marking questions as you take the EA. How do you decide whether to mark something to return to later? And, if you mark more than one, how do you know which one to go back to first?
We’ll talk about that more later on in this series—but, first, we need to talk about how to prep in general. Join us next time, when we’ll discuss exactly this!