What Is the Executive Assessment?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

If you're interested in applying to executive MBA programs then the Executive Assessment may be a useful entrance exam compared to your other options.

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The Executive Assessment (EA) is a standardized entrance exam designed for applicants who are interested in attending an Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

Graduate business school programs tend to require the GMAT or the GRE, which tests your reasoning, quantitative, and analytical abilities. The EA assesses those same skills, but it goes one step further, factoring in your professional experience. When you take the EA, it can replace your need to take either of those tests, but only if the school and program you're applying to accept it, and if you meet the experience requirements.

In this article, we’ll go over what the EA entails, how it’s scored, and how you can decide whether it’s the best entrance test for you. 

What is the Executive Assessment?

The Executive Assessment is an entrance exam designed to gauge how ready you are to begin an executive MBA, or a graduate-level business program focused on executive management and training for professionals with about 10 years of business experience. It was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and designed for “experienced leaders” who are interested in applying to graduate school but who don’t necessarily have the time to prepare for the GMAT.

The EA takes your professional skills into consideration, and evaluates you on a number of other areas, including reasoning, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving. 

Executive Assessment: Format, scores, and cost

The EA is given on a computer, and you can choose to take it in person at an approved testing facility or online at home. Your score possibilities range from 100 to 200, and will be compared to your peers—both those who are applying to the same program and those who were accepted into the program. A good EA score is often considered to be above 150. The EA costs $350, and your scores will be valid for five years.

What’s on the Executive Assessment?

There are three sections on the EA: integrated reasoning, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. In that way, the test is similar to the GMAT, which includes each of those sections. Unlike the GMAT, however, the Executive Assessment doesn’t have an essay section. It also takes much less time to complete—90 minutes compared to 3.5 hours—and you will answer a total of 40 questions. Let’s take a closer look at each section. 

Integrated reasoning: In this section, you will have 30 minutes to complete 12 questions that evaluate your ability to interpret graphics and tables, analyze complex problems, and answer multiple choice questions. This section emphasizes logic and reasoning, presenting you with questions designed to see how well you evaluate information based on multiple sources and formats. 

Verbal reasoning: In this section, you will have 30 minutes to complete 14 questions that test your ability to read comprehensive sections, evaluate arguments, and correct sentences. It's designed to assess how you can read, interpret, and edit. 

Quantitative reasoning: In this section, you will have 30 minutes to complete 14 questions that assess your ability to interpret data and solve problems. It's designed to see how you draw conclusions and analyze data using your math and reasoning skills. In terms of math, you can expect to use basic arithmetic and some algebra. 

Business school exams: GMAT, GRE, EA

If you’re applying for an executive MBA program, you will likely need to submit standardized test scores. You can choose to take the Executive Assessment (EA), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  

Each of these entrance exams is unique—and not every school accepts each option. Ultimately, it’s important to research the schools you intend to apply to, and learn more about which entrance exam they prefer in order to figure out the best one to take. 

GMAT

The GMAT tends to be the most common entrance exam for graduate business programs. It’s made up of four sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. You'll have 3.5 hours to complete the test. The GMAT is computer-adaptive, so as you progress through the test and answer questions correctly, subsequent questions may grow more difficult.

Compared with the Executive Assessment, the GMAT typically contains more challenging math questions, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Compared with the GRE, the GMAT places a greater focus on grammar while the GRE places a greater focus on vocabulary [1].

GRE

The GRE is commonly used by many graduate schools across the US and Canada. It’s made up of three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. The computer-based test takes approximately three hours and 45 minutes to complete. 

The GRE focuses less on math than the GMAT. However, the GMAT allows you to use a calculator on the Integrated Reasoning section of the test. 

Learn more: GMAT vs. GRE: Which Should I Take?

Executive Assessment

Although the content on the EA is similar to the GMAT, there's no essay section. Additionally, while the GMAT's questions become harder or easier on a question-by-question basis, the executive assessment's question difficulty level changes after you complete a section or block of questions. 

Compared with the GMAT and GRE, the Executive Assessment is shorter and takes less time to complete, though that doesn’t mean it’s easier. It’s also intended specifically for applicants to executive MBA programs. 

Learn more: Executive MBA vs. MBA: Which is Better for You?

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Is the Executive Assessment right for you?

Although there are no formal restrictions from taking the EA, it's not for everyone applying to a graduate business program. Each program has unique requirements, which typically dictate the type of test they'll accept and the amount of experience you should have under your belt when applying for specific programs. It’s important to research these stipulations before you begin planning which entrance exam to take. 

Here are three key questions you should ask when trying to determine whether the EA is the best entrance exam for you. 

Does the school you’re applying to accept the executive assessment?

Although the number of schools that accept the Executive Assessment continues to grow, it's not universally accepted. Before you decide which entrance exam to take, make sure the schools you plan on applying to will accept the results. 

What program are you applying for?

The EA is appropriate for one type of MBA program. You should only consider taking it if you're applying to an executive MBA program. If you’re interested in any other graduate business program, one of the other tests would likely be a better fit, but this also varies from school to school. For example, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business accepts the EA for multiple programs, including its global executive, management business analytics, and accelerated daytime MBA programs [2]. 

Do you meet the experience requirement?

Many graduate business programs, particularly executive MBA programs, have experience requirements. Executive MBA programs tend to be designed for professionals with 10 to 15 years of experience, and at least some of that experience in management. Research the eligibility requirements with the schools and programs you're intending to apply to before you sign up for your entrance exam.

How to prepare for the Executive Assessment

Although the Executive Assessment is shorter than the other graduate entrance exams and designed for professionals who can’t dedicate as much time to preparation, you still need to spend some time studying for the test. In fact, most people who sit for the executive assessment spend an average of 21 to 30 hours preparing, according to GMAC [3]. 

How can you best prepare? Here are four suggestions to help get you started: 

  • Review the EA questions sampler: This free resource from GMAC empowers you by offering sample questions similar to what you'll see on the Executive Assessment. By taking this nine-question sample test, which gives you an instant score and feedback, you can become more familiar with the structure and nature of the questions you might see on the day of your test. 

  • Take a prep course: Because many of the EA sections overlap with the GMAT, you can take prep courses designed to help strengthen your skills in key areas. The Math for MBA and GMAT Prep, available on Coursera, can help you strengthen your math skills so you’re prepared to succeed on the quantitative reasoning section.

  • Listen to Inside the GMAT podcast: If you want insights into what the EA is and how it can benefit you, the makers of the GMAT have a podcast resource worth listening to. 

  • Talk to current MBA students or alumni: If you can connect with others who have taken the EA, you'll glean valuable tips for preparing and approaching test day. You might also get some firsthand knowledge that'll help you better prepare for your MBA experience.

Explore further

You can find graduate business degree programs available on Coursera from a number of top-ranked university programs. In the meantime, enroll in an open course from the University of Illinois or Macquarie University to see whether an MBA is right for you.

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Article Sources

1. Wharton Executive MBA. “Difference between the GMAT, GRE, & EA Tests, https://executivemba.wharton.upenn.edu/differences-between-gmat-vs-gre-vs-ea-for-executive-mba.." Accessed March 1, 2022.

2. Duke University. “Application Instructions | Duke's Fuqua School of Business, https://www.fuqua.duke.edu/programs/daytime-mba/application-instructions."  Accessed March 1, 2022.

3. MBA.com. “5 Resources to Prepare You for the Executive Assessment, https://www.mba.com/exams-and-exam-prep/executive-assessment/5-resources-to-help-you-prepare-for-executive-assessment." Accessed March 1, 2022.

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