The Executive Assessment was originally designed for Executive MBA programs. Business schools liked the relative ease and simplicity of the assessment and some far-sighted admissions committees began to accept the EA for their regular MBA programs. This trend accelerated during the pandemic.
The change has outlasted COVID-19 and now many major MBA and other business school master’s programs accept the EA in lieu of other standardized entrance exams.
The Executive Assessment is run by the GMAC – The Graduate Management Admission Council. The GMAC is also the organization that runs the GMAT exam.
As a result, the question types on the EA mirror the question types candidates see on the GMAT exam. They include Integrated Reasoning, (Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis, Multisource Reasoning, Table Analysis), Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Data Sufficiency among others.
Therefore, candidates who have been studying to take the GMAT can leverage a lot of their existing preparation to do well on the EA.
Simply put: it’s easier to score well on the EA than it is on the GMAT or GRE. There are multiple reasons for this.
Admissions committees are most concerned about a candidate’s percentile on a standardized exam. The percentile reflects two measures: the performance of the candidate on the exam…and the performance of everyone else who takes the exam. Therefore, an individual test-takers percentile depends in large part on the population taking the exam.
The population taking the EA is typically less academically sophisticated than the population that takes the GMAT or the GRE. The EA was originally designed for Executive MBAs and to this day a lot of the people who take the EA are on the older side. Executives far removed from their school days, used to having their subordinates draft emails for them, can be a little rusty in their Quantitative and Verbal skills in a timed environment. And so, the average EA-taker is less academically proficient than the average GMAT or GRE-taker.
This effect is only compounded by the lack of EA specific preparation materials available. As of this writing there is still no official guide for the EA. Third party companies have released, over several decades, extensive guides and tips that help candidates optimize their performance on the GMAT and GRE. There are precious few such materials for the EA and so candidates taking the assessment start out on more of an even-footing, allowing them to score better.
The full GMAT exam can take an eye-watering three and a half hours. It’s hard for any candidate to remain focused for that amount of time. The EA, on the other hand, requires just 90 minutes for the entire assessment. The impact this has on the performance and confidence of clients that have taken both is phenomenal.
Moreover, unlike the GMAT, the EA allows candidates to see multiple questions at a time. This makes time management even easier: candidates can better decide how best to allocate their time to maximize their score.
Finally, the EA includes performance on the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section of the assessment in its main score. The IR section of the GMAT exam has a (well-justified) reputation of being easier to do well on than the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the exam. On the GMAT the IR score is treated separately from the core score and is typically ignored. On the EA it is included in the main score, helping people boost their overall competitiveness.
There aren’t any geometry questions on the Executive Assessment. On both the GMAT and the GRE, as test-takers ascend in score, they see a greater proportion of geometry questions testing obscure properties of shapes. It is often these questions that limit a test-takers Quantitative performance because it’s so hard to prepare for the expansive approach that typical standardized exams take when it comes to geometry.
Geometry isn’t one of the topics tested on the EA, given its limited relevancy in a business context. For many, geometry questions are the difference between a great and a truly exceptional score.
The EA also doesn’t have an essay. This saves valuable time and attention and helps assessment-takers focus on preparing for the topics that help differentiate them.
The Executive Assessment hasn’t hit the critical point of mainstream acceptance. There are several business schools that don’t yet accept it.
However, the number of schools accepting the EA is rapidly growing. Columbia is an M7 program that accepts the EA for admission to its fulltime MBA program. MIT accepts it for its Sloan Fellows MBA program and Stanford GSB accepts it for its MSx program. You can find a list of programs that accept it on the GMAC website here.
Note that as of this writing the list above is incomplete. It doesn’t mention, for example, Michigan Ross’ fulltime MBA program, though in a June 2022 blog post Michigan Ross mentioned that the Executive Assessment could be considered by the admissions committee as evidence of academic readiness for their core MBA program.
Ultimately opting for the EA means improving a candidate’s chance of getting admitted to an elite program at the expense of being eligible to apply to fewer elite programs. For some this tradeoff isn’t worth it – perhaps because they’re able to get truly exceptional GMAT or GRE scores, or because their target business school programs don’t place much weightage on standardized exam scores. For the majority of our clients though opting for the EA has helped them get admitted to a class of programs they didn’t previously consider possible.
The first step to preparing for the EA is taking a practice assessment to get a feel for how it is structured, and how a candidate performs. The GMAC does offer four practice assessments on its website but they are expensive, there’s no option to take a free assessment to understand where one stands, and there aren’t any answer explanations.
The platform we’ve launched allows candidates to take one practice Executive Assessment for free. Test-takers can then purchase an additional practice Executive Assessment for much less than what the GMAC charges. We have more exams on the way. Moreover, unlike the GMAC’s assessments, our platform offers comprehensive answer explanations to help you improve.
It is a common business adage that the last 10 percent of performance generates one-third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems. This rule of thumb applies to standardized exams as well. The EA is the vanishingly rare example of a panacea that can allow one to eke out that extra 10 percent of performance without any of the cost or problems.