If you’re an experienced business professional who is interested in Executive MBA programs, you may be considering taking the Executive Assessment (EA). An increasing number of business schools around the world accept Executive Assessment scores for admission to not only their EMBA programs, but also select part-time MBA and specialized master’s programs. So, if you think this exam may be right for you, this is your primer on the Executive Assessment format — everything from how the test is administered to how the test sections and various question types are structured.
First let’s discuss the two ways the Executive Assessment is administered: in person and online.
- Executive Assessment Test Administration
- Executive Assessment Test Format
- Executive Assessment Question Formats
Executive Assessment Test Administration
The Executive Assessment is a computer-administered, standardized test designed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the same organization that designs that other widely used test for business program admissions, the GMAT.
EA test-takers have two options for how they can sit for the exam. They can take the exam at one of the 600 test centers around the world where the EA is administered year-round or they can take the exam at home. (Note that because of local regulations, the online test is not available in Mainland China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, and South Sudan.)
Whether you take the in-person exam or the online version, the Executive Assessment test format is the same. So, both versions feature the same sections, topics, question types, number of questions per section, and section times. Additionally, they both use the exact same scoring algorithm and score scales. Thus, EA Online scores and in-person EA scores should be considered no differently by business schools, since the two tests are identical in structure, content, and scoring.
The format, question types, and scoring of the Executive Assessment is the same regardless of whether you sit for the exam at a test center or at home.
Of course, if you take your exam at home, your proctor will oversee your exam remotely and you will complete a virtual check-in instead of an in-person one. The only other difference between the online and in-person formats is the note-taking implements permitted. Let’s quickly review those before we dive into the structure of the exam.
Note-Taking During the Exam
If you sit for your exam at a test center, the exam proctor will provide you with a noteboard and marker for note-taking during your exam.
If you take the EA online, you’ll have the option to take notes using a virtual whiteboard on your computer, a physical whiteboard that you must purchase, or both. The physical whiteboard must be an erasable whiteboard no larger than 12 inches by 20 inches, and you can use 1 dry-erase marker and 1 eraser with it.
One thing to keep in mind is that although you don’t have to purchase your own note-taking implements for the in-person exam, it’s important to practice your note-taking techniques in a realistic way before test day. For instance, when you take practice Executive Assessment tests, you should use note-taking implements that are just like the ones you’ll use on test day.
Trust me, you don’t want the actual exam clock ticking while you’re getting the hang of quickly and neatly taking notes with a marker. So, regardless of whether you sit for the EA at home or at a test center, purchase the appropriate note-taking implements beforehand, so you can get your technique down. Luckily, you can find these supplies easily through retailers such as Staples and Amazon.
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Regardless of whether you sit for the EA at home or at a test center, purchase the appropriate note-taking supplies well before test day, so you can practice quickly and neatly taking notes.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of how the exam is administered, let’s delve into the Executive Assessment format, starting with the overall test structure.
Executive Assessment Test Format
Compared to other entrance exams, the Executive Assessment is relatively short, featuring only 40 questions and taking just 90 minutes to complete. However, since the EA is a relatively quick exam, there are no optional breaks. So, if for some reason you need to leave your desk during the exam, the exam clock will keep ticking!
The Executive Assessment features just 40 questions and takes just 90 minutes to complete.
Now, let’s take a look at how your time will be divided on the exam.
The 40 questions on the EA are divided into three 30-minute sections: Integrated Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning, appearing in that order. Each section is divided into 2 successive subsections, or “modules,” containing an equal number of questions, for a total of 6 modules on the exam.
Check out the table below for a detailed look at the section structure of the exam.
As you can see, although you have the same amount of time to complete each section, there are 2 fewer questions in the IR section. So, you have slightly more time to complete IR questions than you have for Quant and Verbal questions. You also have access to an on-screen calculator during the IR section — a feature you cannot access for the Quant section.
Another key aspect of the section structure is that the modules for each section are not separately timed. In other words, the 30 minutes you have for a section can be divvied up however you like among the 2 modules in that section. So, if you want to spend 20 minutes on the first Quant module and 10 minutes on the second, you can. Or if you want to divide your time evenly, spending 15 minutes on each module, go for it. The point is, although you will see the same number of questions in each module of a particular section, you do not have to spend the same amount of time on each module of the section.
The modules for each section are not separately timed; you can divide the 30 minutes you have for a section however you like among the section’s 2 modules.
So, you’re probably wondering, what exactly is the purpose of the module structure? Well, there are a couple of ways that the module structure affects the exam. Let’s explore.
The Review Screen
One potential benefit to the module structure of the EA is that at the end of each module, you see a review screen from which you can return to specific questions to check or change your answers.
So, let’s take Quant as an example. You are presented with 7 questions in the first Quant module and 7 questions in the second Quant module. After completing the 7 questions that make up the first Quant module, before you move on to the second module, you’re presented with a review screen. From that review screen, you can return to any question within the module, including questions you have not yet selected answers to. After you complete the second Quant module, you’ll again see a review screen, this time for the final 7 Quant questions.
There is a catch, however. Once you move on from the review screen to the module in a section, you can no longer go back and edit or add any answers to questions in the first module, even though you’re technically still in the same section.
Furthermore, the section timer keeps ticking while you’re on the review screen. So, any time you spend reviewing answers in module 1 will take away from the time you have to work on module 2. And you need to keep in mind that you may want time to review your answers at the end of module 2 as well.
At the end of each module, you’ll see a review screen from which you can return to any question in that module in order to review, change, or add an answer.
So, the module structure gives you opportunities to review your work throughout the exam. The module structure is also important because it plays a part in the questions you see on your exam. Let’s discuss.
Within the Quant and Verbal sections, the Executive Assessment is adaptive from one module to the next. What exactly does that mean? Well, based on your performance on the first Verbal or Quant module, the difficulty level of the questions you see in the second Verbal or Quant module will either increase or decrease.
For example, say 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. If you didn’t do so well on Quant module 1, then the question difficulty in Quant module 2 will not increase, and may decrease somewhat. And the same goes for the Verbal modules.
It’s important to note that the change in difficulty level does not cross over to modules of a different type. In other words, your performance on the Quant modules does not affect the difficulty level you see in the Verbal modules, and vice versa. Furthermore, the IR modules are not adaptive.
Within the Quant and Verbal sections, the Executive Assessment gauges your performance in order to adapt the level of difficulty from one module to the next module of the same type.
So, we’ve covered the nuts and bolts of the Executive Assessment test format. Now let’s take a look at the formats of the various question types you’ll see in each section of the exam.
Executive Assessment Question Formats
Each of the three sections of the Executive Assessment features different question types, all of which appear in different formats. If you’ve taken the GMAT before, you’ll recognize these question formats, as they’re exactly the same on that exam. Let’s start by looking at the question types you’ll see in the first section of the exam, Integrated Reasoning.
The Integrated Reasoning Section
There are 4 different question types of data analysis questions you’ll see in the IR section: Graphics Interpretation, Multi-Source Reasoning, Two-Part Analysis, and Table Analysis. All of those question types have their own format. Let’s review each.
Each question presents a graph or diagram that you must analyze in order to complete 2 statements, each of which contains 1 blank. For each blank, there will be a drop-down menu containing 3 or 4 answer choices. Here is what a Graphics Interpretation question looks like.
Each question presents multiple sources of information displayed on separate tabs. The sources will be in different formats, such as charts, tables, and passages of text. Check out what a Multi-Source Reasoning question looks like.
Each question presents a written scenario and 2 columns of answer choices. You must select 1 choice from each column (2 choices in total) to answer the question. Check out what a Two-Part Analysis question looks like.
Each question presents data in a spreadsheet-like format that you can sort by column, along with 3 statements related to the data that you must evaluate in order to select your answer choices. Here is what a Table Analysis question looks like.
Now let’s take a look at the question formats in the next section, Verbal Reasoning.
The Verbal Reasoning Section
The Verbal section consists of 3 question types: Sentence Correction (SC), Critical Reasoning (CR), and Reading Comprehension (RC). Each question type has a unique format. Let’s discuss.
Each question presents a sentence that is either partially or entirely underlined. You must choose the correct version of the underlined portion out of 5 choices. Answer choice A is always the version in the question stem. Here is what an SC question looks like.
Each question presents a short passage, usually about 100 words or less, followed by a question about the argument made in the passage and 5 answer choices. Here is what a CR question looks like.
Each question presents either a short or long passage and 2 or 3 questions about that passage. For each question related to a passage, you’re given 5 answer choices. You can view a sample Reading Comprehension passage and question at the bottom of this page.
Now let’s look at the format of the questions in the final section of the exam, the Quant section.
The Quantitative Reasoning Section
You’ll see two question types in the Quant section of the EA: Data Sufficiency (DS) and Problem Solving. Each of those question types has its own format. Let’s take a look.
Each question presents a math problem that you must solve and five answer choices from which you’ll select one. Check out this example of a Problem Solving question.
Whereas in Problem Solving questions, you must actually solve the math problem presented, in DS questions, you only need to determine whether you’ve been given enough information to solve the problem.
Each DS question is followed by two statements that provide further information about the question. For instance, a question asking “What is the value of x?” would be followed by two statements providing additional information that may or may not help you determine the value of x. You must choose whether one or both statements alone suffice to answer the question; both statements together are needed to answer the question; or both statements together still don’t provide enough information to answer the question. Here is what a Data Sufficiency question looks like.
If you’ve taken the GMAT in the past, you’ll recognize the Executive Assessment question formats, as they’re the same on both exams.
Now that you understand the Executive Assessment format, you may want to check out our comprehensive guide to the Executive Assessment to learn which topics the Executive Assessment tests, how to register for the exam, and more.