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Executive Assessment Course for MBA Program Applications: Exam and Preparation overview

Executive Assessment Course for MBA Program Applications: Exam and Preparation overview

This article gives an overview of all the things you need to know for your preparation for the Executive Assessment exam. The course is tailored exclusively to this unique executive assessment. This article analyses how this exam is structured, what the scoring looks like, and what you need to achieve in these exams to meet your business school entry requirements.   

Exam Structure and Policies

In-person Executive Assessment

The exam is proctored at over 600 Pearson locations globally. If you are in a major metropolitan area, you are more likely to get a test date with less advance notice. If you are in a remote location, it may be advisable to look for a test date a little more in advance. 

The exam takes 90 minutes with no breaks. There are three static 30-minute sections. The three sections, integrated reasoning, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning sections always follow each other in that exact order. You cannot change the order of these sections.

You will be provided with a five-page dry-erase spiral laminate notepad to use for scratch work. If you run out of room in your notepad, you just have to raise your hand and ask for more. If you find yourself running out of room on your notepad, it is best to ask for another notepad in between sections to avoid wasting time within sections waiting for your proctor to come around and give you a new notepad.

Your Executive Assessment official score will be given to you immediately upon completion of your exam. At most locations, you will get a printout for you to take with you. This score is going to be valid for up to five years after your test date and will be available to report from the GMAC for up to 10 years. This Executive Assessment exam is one you potentially get done with once and for all in your EMBA or MBA admissions process.

There is a maximum of two-lifetime attempts, therefore, do not go sit for the exam unless you are absolutely ready because you might end up wasting a good attempt. You can schedule your second attempt within 24 hours of your first attempt if you are ready or if you need to.  These attempts do not count towards your online EA attempts.

No score cancellation is allowed.  Whatever your score is, it is going to count unless there was some technical difficulty that made you unable to complete the exam as originally intended. 

Visit the GMAC website for the most current in-person policies and information. You can do this as part of your registration process because you have to visit to register for the exam. 

Online Executive Assessment

It is remotely proctored over a video screen by Pearson VUE. you will have someone watching you over the video screen to make sure you are not doing anything to compromise the integrity of the exam. Just like in the in-person exam, you will have 90 minutes to complete the exam with no breaks. There are three static 30-minute sections; integrated reasoning, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. 

You have two whiteboard note-taking options. There is the online digital whiteboard in which you can type notes out if you would like to, and the physical erasable whiteboard of roughly 20cm by 15cm (this could change) that you use and erase as you go.

Your official score will be posted to your account within seven days. This is the main difference between online and in-person exams. While you get your results immediately if you take your exam in person, it could take up to seven days to vet your exam recording to ensure that you didn’t cheat or in any other way jeopardize the integrity of the exam. Only then will your score be released to your online account.

You get two- lifetime attempts independent of the in-person attempts. This means that in total, you have four lifetime attempts, two online and two in-person. You can schedule your second attempt within 24 hours of your first attempt, even though it may not be practical in this case since you have to wait up to seven days for your score to be available. 

No cancellation of the score is allowed.

You should visit the GMAC website for the most current online EA policies and information. From a reporting standpoint, there is no difference between the online and in-person EA examination results; whichever you prefer or may be available to you, the GMC will simply report it as the EA examination results.    

What is Executive Assessment Adaptivity?

Unlike the GMAT exam, the EA exam is adaptive within a section. That is, it has section variability.  Your performance in the first half of any given section dictates the difficulty level of the second half of the same section.  For instance, how you perform on the first half of the integrated reasoning section, which has 12 questions, will determine how difficult the second half of the section will be.  This implies that you can only skip and return to questions within a given half of a section, but after you move to the next half, you can’t return to the prior half. There is a review that appears before prompting you to move to the second half, but you need to remember that once you pass this point, you won’t be able to return to any questions that were in the first half. Similarly, you won’t be able to skip to the second half without completing the first half. 

Strategic Implications

Second-half questions are likely to be harder than the first-half questions, so plan to spend more time on the second half of every section. You need to be deliberate in the first half but have shorter targets in terms of how much time you are going to spend on each question because you want to have some time left over to spend on what is expected to be a harder second half.

Target to spend 12 minutes on the first half of any given section, but allow yourself a maximum of 15 minutes. To do this, consider immediately guessing and marking long questions on your first pass through any given half. You can always return to them if you have any time left over at the end of the half. However, if you hit 15 minutes and say you had a blind guess for question number 5, you may just have to live with that blind guess and move on to the next section.

Allow yourself up to two guesses on any section, these could even be within a single half depending on your target score, but you ultimately have to aim to get at least more than half of the questions correct on every half. So you can guess strategically to make sure that you complete the sections, especially in integrated reasoning, where you can very frequently run out of time. You have to make sure that you are finishing and possibly spending more time on the second half because of the unique adaptivity feature of this exam.

Order of the Exam and Recommended Pacing

Integrated Reasoning

You will have 12 questions to complete in 30 minutes. Your first half target will be 12 minutes with a 15 minutes maximum time allowed. This means you are going to spend 2-2.5 minutes on average per question. Remember it is possible to miss up to two questions and still get a 10+ score on the Integrated Reasoning section. So if possible look for opportunities to guess, but do so strategically.

If you don’t have a multi-source reasoning set in any section you are in, pace up and leave more time. The  Multi-Source Reasoning set is like reading comprehension in integrated reasoning. It has two to three tabs of information, might have a table or a figure and has three questions attached to it. It has a lot of information and will take some time. So if you have your  Multi-Source Reasoning set on the first half of your integrated reasoning section, be prepared to spend more time, closer to 15 minutes, on that first half. However, if you don’t see the  Multi-Source Reasoning set in the first half, your target will need to be closer to 12 minutes since you know you will need to spend more time on the second half because the  Multi-Source Reasoning set will be there. 

The second half should take 15-18 minutes in total. Each question should take 2-3 minutes on average. Work through the full half completing your easier questions first. So if you see a question that you are not ready to do, just guess, skip and return to it at the end.

Verbal Reasoning

This section comes up immediately without a break. It has 14 questions you must complete in 30 minutes. It is a little bit more fast-paced than the IR, but you will have roughly the same section targets.

For the first half, the target is to spend 12 minutes, allowing a maximum of 15 minutes. You will be spending an average of  2-2.5 minutes on each question, but this depends on the types of questions. Sentence corrections will likely take the least time for all the question types in this section.

It is possible to miss up to two questions and still be in the 10+ scale score for this section. Again, remember to leave more time for the second half of this section. Usually, there is reading comprehension in both halves of this section, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. So if there is no reading comprehension passage in the first half, leave more time for the second half because there most definitely will be one there. Generally, if there is no reading comprehension passage on any half of the section, recognize that you will need to go pretty fast through that section.

For the second half, you will have 15-18 minutes in total. You will have roughly 2-3 minutes on average for each question. If you happen to be behind pace, seek longer critical reasoning questions to sacrifice. Critical reasoning questions are longer questions; usually, arguments or there may be inferences to be made. But unlike reading comprehension questions, they usually affect only one question. So you cannot sacrifice reading comprehension, which usually has two, three, four and on rare occasions, even five questions, but you want to seek longer long critical reasoning questions that you can guess, skip and move forward to ensure that you finish your verbal reasoning section. 

Quantitative Reasoning

Much like the verbal reasoning section, you have 30 minutes to complete 14 questions in this section.

For the first half, the target is to spend 12 minutes, allowing a maximum of 15 minutes. You will be spending an average of  2-2.5 minutes on each question. Similar to the first two sections, it is possible to miss up to two questions in this half and still get the 10+ scale score for this section, which is usually the target for most candidates. So if you get stuck on something, don’t spend more valuable time on it at the expense of other questions that you might be able to complete more easily.

Seek out opportunities for logical estimation and alternative tactics. This will allow you to save some time to spend on the harder questions of the second half. 

For the second half, you will have 15-18 minutes in total. You will have roughly 2-3 minutes on average for each question. Work through the full half completing “easier” questions first. “Easier” is a relative term; simply answer the questions you are better at first, then come back to the “harder” questions in the section.

Remember to always ask, “Am I making progress toward a solution?” If not, immediately move to the next question because otherwise, you are wasting time, which is a very important factor in this test. Do, however, allow a calm reread, recalculation, or a tactical reset before you guess and move on. Often, you may just have made a technical math error or misread something. So if you are confident in your approach and your solution is not in the answer choices, allow a single reread just to make sure that you get all the questions you are confident about before you go back to the harder questions.

Always consider logical estimation before completely guessing. Try to eliminate answer choices that you know to be wrong before guessing and moving on. On every question in the quantitative section, you should be able to eliminate at least a couple of options before you have to guess.

Scoring Overview

Overall Score

This particular exam is scored very uniquely. Unlike the GMAT, where the scoring is on a scale of 200-800, the official score for the combined scale is 100-200, but the realistic scale is 130-170. All three sections matter; the integrated reasoning is combined with the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections to create your combined score, unlike in the GMAT, where it is reported separately. This means that integrated reasoning is a lot more important on this test, and you will spend more time on it than you would if it were GMAT.  The 100-200 official score is not attainable. Your realistic score scale will be 130-170.

The percentiles in this test are very closely packed.

  • The 10th percentile = 140
  • The 50th percentile = 150
  • The  90th percentile = 160

It means that 1 point does matter significantly for this test score. So if an admissions department expects a 153 score and you get a 152, there is probably a six or seven percent score difference between those two numbers. So every little change in your score matters for this test.

Section Scoring

The individual score scales are 0-20. This is not tied to the actual number of questions you get correct. For instance, in integrated reasoning, if you get 8 out of 12 correct, you will not get a section score of eight; your score will be higher, probably above 10, because you got more than half correct.

Your realistic score will max out at 18, and the minimum will be 2. Theoretically, you can get a score of 20, but in reality, even if you get everything correct, your score is still going to max out at 18, so don’t worry too much about getting to that 20. This will apply to all three sections. 

Your assumed percentile scores will be as follows:

  • 50th percentile = 10
  • 90th percentile = 14

Notice the huge differentiation with a single change in point. It is important to note that there is a break-even score around the 50th percentile(10), so you are going to need to get there. It is only going to get harder to move up from there, but every point makes a huge difference through to the 90th percentile, from which point it evens out. 

Scoring Strategy

Assuming that you need to reach the harder second half in order to get a score over 10  in a section, then;

  • < 3 misses Harder second half
  • 3-4 missed Average second half
  • 5+ missed Easier second half

If you miss less than three in the first section, you probably are going to have a harder second half. This is unequivocally true for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections. For the integrated reasoning section, it might depend on how everybody else is doing in the section. Therefore there is no need to worry about it too much. But you must understand that for all three sections, you need to get less than three wrong to get to the harder second half. If you missed 3-4 questions, you are likely to get the average second section, and if you miss five or more, you will likely get the easier second half. That will mean you are getting closer to an overall score of 140 as opposed to your target score, which is probably 150 or more.  

Broad Score Targets

Most programs share limited information about their EA requirements for admission, but in general, the minimum acceptable score for consideration in most high-caliber EMBA and part-time MBA is most likely 145. 155 is most likely going to be sufficient, with very few exceptions. 160 is most definitely going to be sufficient in this exam for any admission use you might need.

The Executive Assessment is meant to be a more attainable endeavour than the GMAT. it should take you less time to prepare, it should be easier to deal with considering your background in business. You are largely expected to clear the bar, and there is not too much value in attaining the 90th percentile. In GMAT, on the other hand, there are certain schools that will not even consider you if you do not attain that 90th percentile. Here you just need to get to the 50th percentile or go a little bit above it, and you will be able to work with that for most of your admission needs.

What is your Executive Assessment Target Score?

It is whatever gets you into your program.

Do some research on median scores and ranges at your target school as best as you can. They may not be very forthcoming with information but visit the program website and see if they have the information you are looking for. If they don’t, email the admission departments directly and, most importantly, call the admissions officers. Ask them directly what you need for your EA score so that you know what to target during your preparation. This should inform you when you will be able to take the test. The EA Callender should be closer to a week. It could take longer, but this is something you just need to get out of the way. It is unlike the GMAT, which could be a way for you to differentiate yourself against a subpar undergraduate score or other aspects of your application for which you need to show the GMAT as an asset. The EA is not much of an asset in most cases, but you need to get a score that clears it so that they can look at everything else that you might be bringing to the program.

This is just an overview of the Executive Assessment test. Future articles will delve deeper into the details of all three sections and the skills that you need to address all the questions in the three sections of the EA exams.

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