What’s the Difference Between the Executive Assessment and the GMAT?

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Are you an experienced manager who is considering entering an MBA program? You may be able to take the Executive Assessment (EA) rather than the GMAT. But how is the EA different from the GMAT? And how can you make sure it’s the right exam for you?

NOTE: Since this post was originally written, it has become possible to take the Executive Assessment online. This online version of the EA is similar to the online GMAT that was created in 2020.

What is the Executive Assessment?

The Executive Assessment (EA) is an admissions exam designed for executive MBA programs. The test features Quant, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning questions. The EA is similar in structure to the GMAT, and is made by the same company that makes the GMAT.

What is the difference between the Executive Assessment and the GMAT?

The Executive Assessment and the GMAT are both made by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). In spite of this, these two tests have a number of distinct differences.

Most importantly, the EA is designed for applicants to Executive MBA (EMBA) programs. An EMBA is a type of MBA specifically geared toward established, experienced managers who want to advance their careers to even higher levels.

So what does this alternate test for seasoned executives look like, compared to the GMAT? I’ve outlined the key differences in the table below.

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Test structure: Executive Assessment vs. GMAT

Total time90 minutes3 hours and 7 minutes
Verbal section30 minutes, 14 questions65 minutes, 36 questions
Quant section30 minutes, 14 questions62 minutes, 31 questions
Integrated reasoning30 minutes, 12 questions30 minutes, 12 questions
AWANo AWA section30 minutes, 1 question
Adaptive difficulty?NoYes

Other Differences in Content and Difficulty

Most obviously from the table, the Executive Assessment is easier than the GMAT. Note that the EA is shorter and lacks an AWA section.

There is another aspect of the EA that easier too: its math content. On the EA, you see fewer of the harder math topics from the GMAT. For example, probability, statistics, and combinatronics are less common on the Executive Assessment.

The Similarities between EA and GMAT Structure

The range of Quant and Verbal topics on these two B-school admissions tests are largely the same. Although certain challenging math concepts are less frequent on the Executive Assessment, the GMAT and the EA have the same range of Quant concepts. The question formats are the same as well; the tests share a comparable mix of Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency.

And for Verbal, the mix will be exactly the same. Both the EA and the GMAT have comparable proportions of Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension and Sentence Correction questions. Moreover, the IR sections are exactly the same between these two tests.

Ultimately, you can think of the Executive Assessment as “GMAT Lite.” The EA has all the same elements as the GMAT, but stripped down to a more basic, “softer” version.

Who can submit EA scores, and which schools accept them?

While the EMBA is designed for Executive MBA programs, other non-Executive MBA programs sometimes accept the EA from experienced applicants.

To give just one example, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business accepts EA scores for both its EMBA program and its weekend MBA program. As long as you have at least 10 years of experience, you can submit EA scores when applying for either of these degree paths.

Berkeley’s requirements are fairly typical. You will generally need about a decade of managerial experience to be EA-eligible at most B-schools. (The GMAC itself has no minimum experience requirement for EA registration, however.)

The EA is accepted at quite a few schools around the world. For a complete list of universities and programs that use Executive Assessment scores, go to the official EA website.

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How to Study for the Executive Assessment

The Executive Assessment has its own section on the GMAC homepage. This official EA website includes an EA preparation page. On that page, you can access a small selection of free practice questions and purchase additional EA practice materials.

However, you don’t necessarily need to use any official EA prep. GMAT prep materials will also do just fine. If you decide to go that route, I recommend official GMAT practice from MBA.com and practice from Magoosh GMAT.

When using GMAT resources for EA prep, just remember to focus on an EA-like mix of GMAT math questions. For a detailed look at the mix of math on the Executive Assessment, consult the official EA Math Review.

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