Although the Executive Assessment (EA) is similar to the GMAT in many respects, Executive Assessment scores look very different from their GMAT counterparts and are calculated using a method that is unique to the Executive Assessment test.
In this article, I’ll explain how the Executive Assessment is scored, including what the EA score scale is, how section adaptivity affects your score, how you receive and send EA scores, and what we know about Executive Assessment score percentiles. I’ll also give you some tips on determining what EA score you may need for your desired programs and a few strategies for maximizing your score potential.
Before we jump into any EA score specifics, it’s important to review the basic structure of the exam. Let’s take a look.
- Executive Assessment Test Structure
- EA Section Adaptivity: Why It Matters
- Executive Assessment Score Scales
- How Are EA Scores Calculated?
- How Do I Receive and Send My EA Scores?
- Executive Assessment Percentile Rankings
- What Is a Good Executive Assessment Score?
Executive Assessment Test Structure
The Executive Assessment is made up of three sections: Integrated Reasoning (IR), Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning, appearing in that order. Each section is divided into 2 “modules” of equal size, and you have a total of 30 minutes to complete the section. In other words, although the sections are broken in half, you can allocate your total section time of 30 minutes in any way you like. Check out the chart below for a closer look at the test structure.
It’s important to note that the modules for a given section always appear in successive order. So, you won’t see the first IR module followed by the first Quant module followed by the second IR module.
Now, let’s talk about why this module structure is important to your score.
The Executive Assessment is made up of three sections: Integrated Reasoning (IR), Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning, appearing in that order.
EA Section Adaptivity: Why It Matters
One thing that makes the Executive Assessment test unique is its module structure. This structure allows the EA to be computer-adaptive not at a question level like the GMAT, or at a section level like the GRE, but at the module level. In other words, the Executive Assessment adapts its difficulty from one section module to the next, based on your performance.
Interestingly, although all 3 exam sections are divided into 2 modules each, only the Verbal and Quant modules are computer-adaptive. The IR modules are not adaptive. Furthermore, the adaptability of the modules is contained within each section; there is no “cross-pollination” between Quant and Verbal. So, your performance on the Quant modules does not affect the difficulty level you see in the Verbal modules, and vice versa.
Although all 3 exam sections are divided into 2 modules each, only the Verbal and Quant modules are computer-adaptive.
So, what exactly does it mean that the Executive Assessment is adaptive at a module level? Well, every EA test-taker begins the Quant and Verbal sections seeing questions that the test rates as “medium” difficulty. Your performance on Quant module 1 (i.e., those medium-level questions) influences the difficulty level of the questions you see in Quant module 2. Likewise, your performance on Verbal module 1 influences the difficulty level of the questions you see in Verbal module 2.
So, if for example you perform well on Quant module 1, the questions you see in Quant module 2 should be more difficult overall than those you saw in Quant module 1. There will still be some “easier” questions, which are needed for calibration, so not every single question will be harder in module 2, but taken as a whole, module 2 will be more difficult than module 1. On the other hand, let’s say your performance isn’t so great on Verbal module 1. In that case, the questions you see in Verbal module 2 should be a bit less difficult overall than those you saw in Verbal module 1.
Your performance on the Quant modules does not affect the difficulty level you see on the Verbal modules, and vice versa.
The upshot for your score is that if you perform well in the first module of the Quant or Verbal section, you’ll have more opportunities to drive up your score in the second module, because you’ll see more of the questions that are considered “hard” level, and thus are high-value. If you underperform on the initial modules, you won’t have as many opportunities to drive up your score, because you won’t see as many high-value questions in the second modules of the sections.
We’ll delve a little deeper into the intricacies of how the Executive Assessment is scored later on, but for now, let’s take a look at another important aspect of the module structure: the review screens.
Module Review Screens: A Blessing and a Curse
One perk of the Executive Assessment’s unique section structure is that test-takers are given the opportunity to review and edit their work at the end of each module. So, let’s take the Verbal section as an example. You are presented with 7 questions in the first Verbal module and 7 questions in the second Verbal module. After completing the 7 questions that make up the first Verbal module, you’re presented with a review screen from which you can check and change your responses or return to any questions that you may have skipped within the module.
Of course, the review option isn’t all wine and roses. For one, once you move on from the first review screen to the second module, you can no longer go back and edit or add any answers in the first module, even though you’re still technically in the same section. (And, you certainly can’t return to a previous section once you’ve moved on to the next one.)
Furthermore, the clock doesn’t stop when you’re on a review screen. So, any time you spend reviewing answers in module 1 of a section will take away from the time you have to work on and review your answers in module 2. Keep in mind that if you perform well in module 1, you’ll probably need a bit more time to accurately answer the questions in module 2 than you needed to answer the module 1 questions, because you’ll be seeing more difficult questions.
So, on the one hand, you may want to check all of your work to make sure you have as many correct answers as possible in module 1, so you have the opportunity to see higher-value questions in module 2. However, on the other hand, you won’t want to overinvest section time on the review screen for module 1, because doing so will chip away at the time you have remaining to answer potentially tougher, more time-consuming questions in module 2. You didn’t expect the exam to make things too easy for you, did you?
You can review and change your answers at the end of each module, but once you move on to the next module, answers in the previous module cannot be changed.
Of course, if you are well-prepared for the Executive Assessment test, then hopefully you’ll be able to get through module 1 Quant and Verbal questions relatively efficiently, and you’ll naturally need less time to complete those easier-level questions that you would need to complete hard-level ones. Moreover, you’ll hopefully have less need to return to unanswered questions or review answers you were unsure about. In that case, you’ll naturally leave yourself a slightly larger proportion of your 30-minute section time to work on the second module. But, as you can see, making use of the review screens is a bit of a balancing act, so you’ll want to have some sort of strategy for how to prioritize your work.
For example, say you get to the review screen of the second Verbal module and see that you left 3 of the 7 questions blank. Which question do you return to first? Are you going to choose at random? You have a limited amount of time left in the section — was there one question that you felt like you might be able to answer, while the other two seemed like questions you would have a very low probability of answering correctly? It would be very helpful to jot down that question number on your whiteboard as you’re going through the test, so when you get to the review screen, you know exactly which question is the priority to return to with your remaining time.
Or let’s say you’ve selected answers to all of the questions in the module, but you weren’t 100% sure about 2 of those answers. Did you jot down those question numbers as you went? If you have time to return to those 2 questions and double-check your selections, now is your chance. Another reason to jot down the question numbers for answers you were unsure of is because you don’t want to find yourself in a panic at the end of a module, second-guessing all of your answers and changing answers that really don’t need to be changed.
You also need to keep in mind that it will be easier to prioritize what (if anything) to review at the end of a section’s second module, because when the clock runs out for that section, you’ll have no choice but to move on. However, when you get to the review screen of a section’s first module, you’ll need to weigh the amount of time you have remaining to complete the second module against the number of blank or guessed answers in module 1. Perhaps you’ll determine that you don’t have any time to spare to return to questions in module 1, and you’ll simply have to move on to module 2. Or maybe you’ll determine that, although you probably could spend another minute or two on module 1, the guesses you initially made were your best guesses, or the question you left blank was one you truly did not know how to answer, so it would be more strategic for you to move on to module 2 with that extra cushion of time.
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward calculation for how to use the review screens. In some cases, you may just have to go with your gut. The important thing is not to panic, to work through each section, each module, and each question methodically, and to have some basic parameters in mind for how you want to allocate your time and energy as you work through the exam. When you reach the review screen, you should have a good sense of which questions you want to take a second look at or make another attempt on.
Note also that although the Integrated Reasoning section does not adapt from one module to the next, you will see the review screen at the end of each IR module, so you can still check your work or return to unanswered questions in IR.
TTP PRO TIP:
As you move through a module, jot down the question numbers of any high-priority questions to return to if you have time, so that you’re not trying to decide what to work on when you reach the review screen.
Now that we understand the basic structure and adaptive nature of the exam, let’s get into how the Executive Assessment is scored.
Executive Assessment Score Scales
When you take an Executive Assessment test, you receive an individual score for each section and a total score. The 3 exam sections are all scored using the scale of 0 to 20. The total score is given on a scale of 100 to 200. Have a look at the chart below.
As you can see, the score scales for the section scores don’t correspond to the number of questions in each section, nor does the score scale for the total score correspond to the total of 40 questions on the exam. In other words, we’re not looking at a “1 point per question” situation. So, how are EA scores calculated? Let’s discuss.
How Are EA Scores Calculated?
Unsurprisingly, GMAC does not make the ins and outs of the Executive Assessment scoring algorithm public knowledge. After all, why would the test-maker give people information they might be able to use to “game the system”?
There are, however, a few important things we know about the EA algorithm. First, we know that your total score is calculated based on your performance in each of the 3 exam sections and that all 3 sections are weighed equally in calculating your total score. So, for the purposes of calculating your total score, your Verbal score is no less important than your IR score, your IR score is no less important than your Quant score, etc.
Second, we know that your scores for each section are calculated entirely separately from each other. The score you’re given on one section has absolutely no effect on the score you’re given on any other section.
Third, we know that the difficulty of the questions you answer correctly (and incorrectly) plays a part in how your scores are calculated. So, you can’t simply look at the raw number of questions you got correct in the IR section, for example, and expect that to translate directly to a numerical section score. In other words, you can’t assume that because there are 12 questions in the IR section, and the section is scored on a scale of 0 to 20, each question you see is worth 1.66 points. Based on test-taker data that GMAC collects when beta testing new questions, some of those questions may be considered harder questions and some may be considered easier, and some will be somewhere in between.
Similarly, you can’t look at your total score and expect it to correspond to a certain number or percentage of questions correct on the exam. For example, let’s say two test-takers both got 36 out of the 40 questions on the exam correct, so they both answered 90% of the exam questions correctly. Those two test-takers can’t expect to receive the same total score. Perhaps Test-Taker A answered 4 easy questions incorrectly, and Test-Taker B answered 4 hard questions incorrectly. In that case, Test-Taker B will probably have a higher total score than Test-Taker A does (and their section scores likely would vary as well, depending on how those questions are distributed). How much higher is a question that only the test algorithm can answer; the point is, your EA scores are more nuanced than simply “number of questions correct.”
Your total score is calculated based on your performance in each of the 3 exam sections, and all 3 sections are weighed equally in that calculation.
Now that we have a better sense of how EA scores are calculated, let’s look at how you’ll receive and send your test scores.
How Do I Receive and Send My EA Scores?
One great thing about taking the Executive Assessment is that you don’t have to wait long to see your scores or to send them to schools.
When you take the Executive Assessment at a test center, you see your official scores for that exam on your computer screen immediately after completing your exam. You also receive a printout of your EA scores for that exam before you leave the test center. Furthermore, your scores are available in your online account within 24 hours of your test appointment, and any schools you previously selected to receive your scores will also get them within 24 hours.
There is a slightly longer wait for test-takers who sit for the Executive Assessment at home. In that case, you will not see your EA scores on your computer immediately after you finish your exam. Instead, your scores for that exam will be viewable in your online account within 7 days of your test date and sent at that time to any score recipients you’ve selected.
Keep in mind that the scores you see at the test center are, in fact, the same scores that will be posted to your account and sent to your designated schools. There are no “unofficial” scores for the Executive Assessment; the scores you see at the test center will not change.
The EA scores you see at the test center immediately after completing the in-person exam are the exact same scores that will be sent to any score recipients you select.
So, exactly when and how do you select your score recipients? Let’s take a look.
Selecting Score Recipients
Sending your EA scores to schools is free and easy, and there are a couple of ways you can do it. When you register for your Executive Assessment test, you will be given the option to select programs to send your EA scores to, but you can also select score recipients through your mba.com account after your exam, if you prefer.
Additionally, if you select score recipients during the exam registration process but later would like to change your selections, you can do so in your online account any time prior to your scheduled test appointment. Furthermore, if you decide after your exam that there are additional schools to which you’d like to send your scores, you can log into your account anytime and select additional recipients for free.
The one catch is that after your exam, you can’t change score recipients you selected before your exam; you can only select additional recipients. So, if you plan to select score recipients prior to your exam, just make sure you’re 100% happy with your selections before test day rolls around. Of course, if you have any doubts in your mind, you won’t lose anything by waiting until after test day to select your score recipients (provided you’re not racing to meet a deadline). Also, keep in mind that EA scores are valid for 5 years from your test date, so if you sit for the Executive Assessment before you’ve finalized your list of programs you’d like to attend, you’ll have plenty of time to make those decisions.
Executive Assessment scores are valid for 5 years from your test date.
It’s important to note that when you elect to send your scores to schools, only the scores from the specific exam you select are sent. So, if you register for a retake and select score recipients at that time, GMAC will send only the scores from your retake to schools, not the scores from your first attempt as well. If you’ve taken the EA more than once and log into your account to send scores, you don’t have to send all of the scores in your history. You can select one (or multiple) test sitting, and then the scores associated with just that exam. Of course, you can’t mix and match scores from different test sittings. So, for example, you can’t send just your Quant score from one exam, and then everything but your Quant score from another exam.
The fact that you have full control over which test scores you send to schools is particularly notable because you do not have the ability to cancel EA test scores. However, since you can keep the scores from whichever exams you want private, there really is no harm in not being able to cancel an EA score.
If you take the Executive Assessment more than once, you can choose to send your scores from just one exam sitting, or from more than one exam. GMAC will send only the exams you select.
Now, you may be wondering whether percentile rankings will be included in your score reports. As it turns out, the answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” Let’s discuss.
Executive Assessment Percentile Rankings
First, let’s get one key fact out of the way: official GMAC Executive Assessment score percentiles are not published, nor will you see score percentiles associated with the scores you receive after your exam. However, your score recipients WILL see percentile rankings on the score reports sent to them.
So, it’s not that Executive Assessment percentile rankings are entirely unimportant — after all, they’re provided to schools. But they are somewhat of a mystery to test-takers. The thing is, the Executive Assessment is a relatively new exam — it was introduced in 2016 — so the amount of scoring data available is relatively limited. Remember, the purpose of percentile rankings is to show how your scores stack up against those of your peers. However, if a relatively small number of people have taken the Executive Assessment, then those rankings won’t be quite as meaningful as they are for, say, the GMAT, which has been around for decades and has a sample size of nearly 700,000 test-takers associated with its current percentile rankings.
Your designated schools will see percentile rankings associated with your EA scores, but you will not.
Now, the Executive Assessment has grown considerably in popularity since its early days, and a lot more people are taking the Executive Assessment now than were even just a couple of years ago. So, although GMAC doesn’t currently make percentile rankings publicly available, they may in the future. Apparently, GMAC has already released some piecemeal data for total scores, based on the scores of test-takers who took the Executive Assessment between January 1, 2017 and September 15, 2019. Let’s take a look.
- 75th percentile = a total score of 153
- 50th percentile = a total score of 150
- 25th percentile = a total score of 146
Notice that boosting your score by just a few points bumps up your percentile ranking significantly, and the same concept applies in the other direction. Also, keep in mind that because the number of EA test-takers is growing, those percentiles could look dramatically different in the coming years. But for now, we at least have some sense of how EA test-takers are performing and what might be considered a “good” EA score. Let’s discuss that further next.
What Is a Good Executive Assessment Score?
As we’ve already discussed, the Executive Assessment hasn’t been around for very long, so there is a relatively small sample size of test scores to look at to determine what would be considered a “good” or “bad” score.
If you’ve looked around on online forums at all, you may have seen a lot of talk about 150 being the “magic” EA score that most test-takers need to hit for most schools. However, as we just saw in the percentiles above, a total score of 150 only puts you in the 50th percentile of test-takers, meaning that half of all EA test-takers (in a 3-year period) scored higher than you did. Will that score be good enough for your targeted programs? Maybe.
In truth, what constitutes a good, great, or unimpressive score will depend a lot on which programs you’re applying to and what the rest of your applicant profile looks like. A score of 150 may be perfectly acceptable for many mid-tier business schools, but top-tier Executive MBA programs (and other programs that accept the EA) may want to see scores that put you above that 75th percentile ranking.
If you’re applying to a top-ranked school and you’re worried that your profile is lacking in some areas — perhaps you don’t have a strong background in quant — you may want an outstanding EA score to act as a “gold star” on your application. In that case, you might shoot for a score of 160 or higher. If you have a unique background or a particularly strong profile, a score in the low 150s (or possibly lower) may be fine even for a top school.
You’ll also need to consider your individual section scores. You probably noticed that what little information we have related to percentile rankings does not include any rankings for section scores. However, we do know that, generally speaking, business schools tend to place greater importance on Quant scores than on Verbal scores, because MBA programs tend to be quant-driven. Now, does that mean that top EMBA programs aren’t going to mind a lackluster Verbal score? Not necessarily.
Chances are, competitive programs are going to want to see solid, if not impressive, scores all the way around. Depending on the school, that may mean section scores of at least 11 or 12. But if you’re applying to top programs and really need to impress with your Quant score — say if your profile doesn’t show adequate “quant readiness” in other areas — then you may need to shoot for a Quant section score above 12.
Top EMBA programs may want to see a minimum total score in the low to mid-150s and minimum section scores of 11 or 12.
Aside from evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your applicant profile, one thing you can do in determining the EA score you need is contact admissions offices for your targeted programs. They are generally quite willing to assist applicants with questions and may be able to give you some clarity about the scores you should be shooting for. In fact, reaching out to admissions is probably the best advice I can give to any EA test-taker wondering what types of scores are needed for particular schools.
EA score information for incoming classes is not as readily available on program websites as GMAT and GRE score information is. Furthermore, many programs state on their websites that they don’t have minimum score requirements, but those programs of course still collect information about the average scores of their students. So, you may not be able to do all of your “due diligence” online when researching EMBA programs. Take advantage of the services that admissions offices provide — they’re there to help!
And if you want to learn more about Executive Assessment test content, costs, registration, and rules, check out this complete guide to the EA to get answers to all of the most common questions about the exam.