I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken with an EA student, whether here at Target Test Prep or on the forums, trying to answer the question about how to get faster at Executive Assessment quant questions. Many are looking for a quick solution, but there is no simple answer. This article will discuss why there is no quick fix to getting faster at EA math. It also will provide some tips on how to get faster while maintaining accuracy.
Here are the topics we’ll cover:
- The Format of the EA Quant Section
- The Major Issue with Rushing Through EA Quant Questions
- How to Move Through the EA Quant Section: Use the Navy SEAL Motto
- Tip 1: When Starting Out, Don’t Worry About Timing
- Tip 2: Know EA Quant Cold to Gain Speed
- Tip 3: Follow a Topical and Linear Study Plan
- Tip 4: Memorize Quant Facts, Formulas, and Equations
- Tip 5: Use Quant Flashcards to Master Key Formulas and Concepts
- Tip 6: Become Comfortable with Question Variety
- Key Takeaways
- What’s Next?
To start, let’s discuss the format of the EA quant section.
The Format of the EA Quant Section
The EA quant section consists of 14 questions, divided into two “stages” of 7 questions each. The overall time allotted for EA quant is 30 minutes. So, doing the math, you have about 2 minutes and 8 seconds per quant question. However, keep in mind that this is just an average. In other words, you do not have to solve all questions in 2 minutes and 8 seconds. Some questions may take 30 seconds, while others may take three minutes.
You have an average of 2 minutes and 8 seconds to answer each EA quant question.
Another key component of the EA quant section is that you can skip questions within a stage. Additionally, you can return to them before you proceed to the next stage. So, if you are ever struggling with a particular question, you can always move on from it and come back later if time allows.
Let’s now discuss a common pitfall of rushing on EA quant questions.
The Major Issue with Rushing Through EA Quant Questions
Consider anything you do in life — everyday tasks such as driving, editing a document, or even doing laundry. Would you say that more mistakes happen when you’re rushing or when you’re taking your time? I think the answer is always when you’re rushing!
The same goes for the Executive Assessment. Whenever I am working with a student, and she races through a question, the result is often a wrong answer. This is a dangerous game! When rushing, you teach your brain to function carelessly. Rushing is clearly detrimental to your EA score. The EA will catch and penalize people who are simply reacting without thinking.
TTP PRO TIP:
It should be no shock that rushing through EA quant leads to wrong answers.
How to Move Through the EA Quant Section: Use the Navy SEAL Motto
Here is what we have established: The “point and click” approach to moving through EA quant will not help your score. The EA is not just a race to see who can get to the end the quickest. Rather, it’s about finishing before time runs out while correctly answering as many questions as possible.
So, to get there, it’s always helpful to use the Navy SEAL motto as your mantra: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” In other words, going slowly will result in fewer errors.
Now, when I say “slowly,” I don’t mean at a snail’s pace. Move systematically and deliberately on each EA quant question. You will then move through the section efficiently and effectively. This is how you avoid careless errors while keeping up a nice pace.
TTP PRO TIP:
When thinking about speed on EA quant, use the Navy SEAL motto: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”
Now, let’s discuss some ways to get faster at EA quant while maintaining a high level of accuracy.
Tip 1: When Starting Out, Don’t Worry About Timing
Students should prioritize understanding the material thoroughly early on in their studies, rather than attempt to complete each question in 2 minutes and 8 seconds. In fact, when you’re practicing questions from any newly learned topic, don’t worry about timing at all. Just focus on accuracy!
Working at breakneck speed will result in careless errors, scattered thinking, and loss of focus. You’re almost guaranteed to answer questions incorrectly when your brain is working at a faster-than-optimal rate. Therefore, it makes sense to work at a slower pace, one that allows you to process new material comfortably and answer questions correctly.
Going slowly will result in your developing precision, which will ultimately help you become faster at EA quant organically. After all, taking precise, logical steps is the most efficient way to arrive at correct answers to EA quant questions.
When first practicing Executive Assessment questions, focus on accuracy over speed.
Tip 2: Know EA Quant Cold to Gain Speed
It should be no surprise that the better you know the material, the quicker and more accurate you’ll be. Too often, students want to flip a switch and “become faster.” However, they ignore that they are not fast because they do not have mastery of the content!
So, let’s next discuss a great way to learn EA quant to develop mastery.
TTP PRO TIP:
If you know EA quant cold, then you will become faster.
Tip 3: Follow a Topical and Linear Study Plan
If you’ve been studying for the EA, you likely are aware that there is a ton to learn for EA quant. So, a great way to learn so much content is to learn one topic at a time.
For example, would your learning be efficient if you were to jump from ratios to rates to probability? Of course not! Each topic requires time, care, and concentration to learn and master. So, stick with one topic until you have achieved mastery.
To learn a topic, first learn the concepts and strategies involved in that topic, and then practice just that topic until you have achieved mastery. Studying this way will help you thoroughly learn each topic. Additionally, it will put you in a position to quickly and accurately answer questions.
Imagine doing eight problems about units digit patterns. Initially, you may spend a lot of time writing out each pattern. However, with more practice, you’ll be able to recall the various patterns with very little work. This is the beauty of topical studying. You do problems from the same topic to the point that their solutions become automatic.
TTP PRO TIP:
A great way to learn EA quant is with a topical study method.
Topical Learning Leads to Quick Recognition and Execution
We’ve discussed how topical learning is a great way to master EA quant. Let’s now see how that type of learning relates to solving problems faster.
When you engage in topical learning, the goal is to become a machine in the topic you are focused on. In other words, you learn to recognize and then quickly execute when dealing with problems on that particular topic.
For example, how good do you think you’ll get at units digit pattern questions by learning about the various patterns associated with that question type and then practicing 30+ questions on just that topic? Or what about rate/time/distance questions? There are so many different rate questions that you must recall. However, if you can spot the specific type of rate question when it appears on the screen and then properly attack it, imagine how quickly you will get through those problems!
TTP PRO TIP:
Rapid recognition and efficient execution are key to getting faster at solving EA questions.
Let’s practice with a couple of examples.
Traveling at a constant rate of 75 mph, a train leaves city A and arrives at city B after 2 hours. After staying in city B for 1 hour, the train leaves city B and travels to city C at a constant rate of 94 mph. If it took 3 hours for the train to reach city C after it left city B, what is the average rate of the train for the entire journey, including the one-hour break?
- 60 mph
- 72 mph
- 80 mph
- 85 mph
- 96 mph
Recognition: If you have rates down cold, you should be able to quickly recognize that you are dealing with an average rate question.
Execution: Once you recognize that you have to find an average rate, you execute by filling in the necessary information for the average rate formula.
Now, let’s discuss how to solve the above problem.
We have an average rate problem in which we use the following formula:
average rate = (total distance)/(total time)
We know that, between cities A and B, the train travels at a constant rate of 75 mph for 2 hours, meaning that the distance between city A and city B is 75 ⨉ 2 = 150 miles.
Similarly, between city B and city C, the train travels at a constant rate of 94 mph for 3 hours. So, the distance between these two cities is 94 ⨉ 3 = 282 miles.
Thus, the total distance is 150 + 282 = 432 miles.
To find the total time, we add the amount of time it took for the train to travel from city A to city B, the amount of time the train spent in city B, and the amount of time it took for the train to travel from city B to city C. Thus, the total time is 2 + 1 + 3 = 6 hours.
Now that we know that the total distance is 432 miles and the total time is 6 hours, we can conclude that the average rate of the train for the entire journey is 432/6 = 72 mph.
What is the units digit of 751?
Recognition: If you have units digit patterns down cold, you should be able to quickly recognize that you are dealing with a units digit patterns question with a base that is a repeating pattern of 4.
Execution: Once you recognize that you have a unit digit patterns question, you execute by following a specific process for any base with a repeating pattern of 4.
Now, let’s discuss how to solve the above problem.
Remember that the units digits of powers of 7 follow the four-number pattern of 7-9-3-1. In this pattern, every power with an exponent that is a multiple of 4 will have a units digit of 1.
Since 48 is a multiple of 4, 748 has a units digit of 1. Thus, the units digit of 749 must be the next number in the pattern, which is 7.
The units digit of 750 will be the next number in the pattern, which is 9.
Finally, the units digit of 751 will be the number in the pattern that follows 9. So, the units digit of 751 is 3.
Alternatively, we could note that, since 52 is a multiple of 4, the units digit of 752 is 1. Thus, the units digit of 751 is the number that precedes 1 in the pattern, namely 3.
Topical Learning: The TTP Way
Let’s take a look at a topical study plan from TTP. For example, mission 4 of the TTP study plan contains the quant chapter Linear and Quadratic Equations. Within that chapter, we encounter lessons such as two-variable equations, foiling quadratics, quadratic identities, and factoring by grouping. Each lesson also contains 3 to 4 example questions that test us on the concept just learned.
Then, once we have completed the chapter, we complete a series of easy, medium, and hard chapter tests before moving on to the next item in the mission. Thus, when students complete a particular chapter, they feel confident that they have achieved mastery. This is possible, in part, because we have our students focus on just one major topic at a time!
Next, let’s discuss how memorizing even the most seemingly insignificant formulas can help improve your EA quant speed.
Tip 4: Memorize Quant Facts, Formulas, and Equations
I can’t tell you how often I’ve worked with an EA student and shown them a quant fact or formula that seems so obscure that they cannot imagine using that formula on the EA. However, those seemingly insignificant formulas or concepts show up on the EA! Furthermore, knowing them like the back of your hand will help you answer questions quickly. So, let’s practice a few questions, so you can see how memorizing formulas and concepts will help you answer EA quant questions with blazing speed.
What is the value of 11! ?
What You Should Memorize: The units digit of any factorial greater than 4 will end in a zero. Knowing that fact will allow you to answer the question within seconds!
Now, let’s move to the solution:
Remember that the units digit of every factorial greater than 4 is 0. We know this because every factorial greater than 4 has factors of 5 and 2. Thus, those factorials must end in zero.
Since the only answer choice containing an integer with a units digit of 0 is E, that must be the correct answer.
What is p ⨉ q?
(1) GCF(p, q) = 12
(2) LCM(p, q) = 72
- Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient but statement (2) alone is not sufficient.
- Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient but statement (1) alone is not sufficient.
- BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.
- EACH statement ALONE is sufficient.
- Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.
What You Should Memorize: The product of the GCF and LCM of two numbers is equal to the product of those two numbers. Knowing that fact will allow you to answer this question within seconds!
Now, let’s move to the solution:
We need to determine the value of p ⨉ q. This problem may be impossible to answer if we have not memorized the formula that ties the greatest common factor (GCF) and the least common multiple (LCM), which is GCF(p, q) ⨉ LCM(p, q) = p ⨉ q.
Statement (1) Alone:
⇒ GCF(p, q) = 12
Knowing only the GCF of the two numbers is not sufficient to determine the product of those numbers.
For instance, if p = 12 and q = 24, then GCF(p, q) = 12. In this case, p ⨉ q = 12 ⨉ 24 = 288.
If, on the other hand, p = 24 and q = 36, then again GCF(p, q) = 12. However, in this case, p ⨉ q = 24 ⨉ 36 = 864.
Since there is more than one possibility for p ⨉ q, statement (1) alone is not sufficient to determine a unique value for p ⨉ q.
Eliminate answer choices A and D.
Statement (2) Alone:
⇒ LCM(p, q) = 72
Knowing only the LCM of p and q is not sufficient to determine p ⨉ q. Many pairs of numbers with an LCM of 72 with different products exist.
For instance, if p = 12 and q = 72, then LCM(p, q) = 72. In this case, p ⨉ q = 864.
If, on the other hand, p = 8 and q = 9, then again LCM(p, q) = 72. However, in this scenario, p ⨉ q = 72.
Since there is more than one possibility for p ⨉ q, statement (2) alone is not sufficient to determine p ⨉ q.
Eliminate answer choice B.
Statements (1) and (2) Together:
Remember that the product of the GCF and the LCM of two numbers is equal to the product of those numbers. In other words, GCF(p, q) ⨉ LCM(p, q) = p ⨉ q. Since we know GCF(p, q) = 12 and LCM(p, q) = 72, we can conclude that p ⨉ q = GCF(p, q) ⨉ LCM(p, q) = 12 ⨉ 72 = 864.
Statements (1) and (2) together are sufficient to answer the question.
Which of the following numbers is not a perfect square?
What You Should Memorize: Perfect squares have units digits of only 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, and 9. If you know that fact, you can answer this question within seconds!
Now, let’s move to the solution:
The key to answering this question quickly is knowing a basic fact about perfect squares.
While we may want to calculate the square roots of the given numbers, doing will be tedious and take a lot of time. Instead, remember that a perfect square can end only in 0, 1, 4, 5, 6, or 9. Put another way, any integer ending in 2, 3, 7, or 8 cannot be a perfect square. Since the number in answer choice D ends in a 2, that number cannot be a perfect square.
Note: The numbers in the remaining answer choices are squares of 1,234, 1,242, 1,273, and 1,281, respectively.
Tip 5: Use Quant Flashcards to Master Key Formulas and Concepts
At this point, I think we can agree that what is going to make you faster when solving EA quant problems is mastery of the material. In addition to topical learning and practice, creating and using flashcards will be a game-changer for aiding your mastery of the material. The fact is, there are so many little facts and formulas that must be learned, and there is no better way than to use flashcards to drill them into your brain.
For example, if you see an even/odd question on the EA, you do not want to spend 15 seconds remembering that even x odd = even, or that odd x odd = odd. Rather you want that info available in your brain for quick recall, so you can really dig into the heart of the question.
TTP PRO TIP:
Using flashcards will help you memorize many key formulas and concepts, so you can quickly attack EA quant questions.
The bottom line is that the more you know EA quant like the back of your hand, the faster you will answer questions. Let’s now discuss how to use flashcards effectively.
How to Effectively Use Flashcards
A big part of what makes flashcards such a great study tool is that you can use them almost everywhere. If you take public transportation to and from work, use that time to review your flashcards. While you’re standing in line at the grocery store, pull out your flashcards and give yourself a two-minute quiz. You may have several chances during the day to fit in “quick-hit” flashcard study sessions, and those study minutes add up! Think about it: If you study for an extra 20 minutes each day when using your flashcards, you will add 140 minutes, or 2 hours and 20 minutes, to your weekly studying!
Keep in mind that the number of flashcards you have will increase as you progress through your EA study plan. So, to maximize the effectiveness of your flashcard study, separate your cards into two piles: one for concepts you understand and one for things you still need to work on. Naturally, you’ll want to check the pile you still need to master more frequently than the pile you’ve mastered. You won’t want to forget what you’ve already learned, though, so be sure to frequently review your “mastered” pile.
TTP PRO TIP:
Use every chance to fit in “quick-hit” flashcard study sessions throughout the day.
If you can use your flashcards regularly throughout your EA study, I have no doubt that you will improve your speed, and thus your score, on test day.
Tip 6: Become Comfortable with Question Variety
While it is critical to follow a topical approach while you’re learning the material, it is important to note that when you take the EA, you will encounter a wide variety of questions from multiple topics. For example, question 1 might be a Problem Solving question about the difference of squares, question 2 might be a Data Sufficiency question about the mean and median of a data set, and question 3 might be a Problem Solving question about exponents. You get the idea.
So, you’ve been focused on one topic at a time, but on the EA, you have to significantly switch gears for every problem. What to do? The answer is to practice ahead of time! Let’s talk about how.
Review Periodically and Practice with Mixed-Problem Sets
You will learn a great deal as you go through your study plan. As a result, any effective study plan should include periodic review sessions of past material. During those review sessions, you should review your notes or flashcards on past topics. You should also work on mixed-topic problem sets. Both of these techniques will help keep you on your toes and keep your pacing optimal as you switch from topic to topic.
Consider a case in which you completed Rate problems and Exponent problems in the previous month. It is a good idea to finish a mixed problem set that focuses on those two areas, thus forcing your brain to switch from a rate question to an exponent question quickly, and vice versa. An added bonus to doing mixed-problem review sets is that you can identify concepts that may have slipped through the cracks over time, and fill in any knowledge gaps before they become gaping holes and slow you down significantly.
As you progress through your study plan, you’ll be able to add more and more topics to your mixed-problem sets, thus increasing both your ease and your speed in dealing with problems from various topics in one sitting.
TTP PRO TIP:
Engage in period review of past topics, including practicing with mixed-topic sets of practice questions.
Take as Many Practice Tests as Possible
Another effective way of dealing with question variety is to take practice tests in the final stage of your EA prep. You can purchase a set of 4 official EA practice tests at mba.com for $125. They will be your means of getting used to changing from one topic to the next, quickly and in succession. If you use one of the practice exams to establish your baseline score at the start of your prep, you will still have 3 exams left that you can use to help you get your pacing down.
Be sure to take each practice exam under realistic test-day conditions. Follow all test-day rules and complete the entire exam in one sitting. Basically, treat your practice tests just as you would the real deal!
You can purchase a set of 4 official EA practice tests at mba.com for $125.
Here is a summary of tips you can use during your Executive Assessment prep in order to answer quant questions faster:
- Make your first priorities understanding and accuracy rather than speed.
- Know the material cold, allowing you to quickly know the correct approach to solve a problem.
- Use a topical study plan, which allows for development of quick recognition and execution skills.
- Memorize facts, formulas, and equations.
- Use flashcards to support your learning and memorization.
- Do a lot of mixed practice sets and practice tests to get used to changing topics from one question to the next.
In this blog, we have focused on getting faster at EA Quant. Of course, this is just one aspect of earning a great EA score. You may also want to read this article about improving your overall EA score.