If you’re wondering how to begin your Executive Assessment (EA) preparation, you’re surely aware that getting off to a good start can help you achieve test-day success and earn your target EA score.
In this article, I’ll outline 5 Executive Assessment strategies that every student should follow to get started on the path to success – and avoid getting lost along the way.
Here are the topics we’ll cover:
- Executive Assessment Key Facts
- Step 1: Understand What Is Tested and How It Is Tested
- Integrated Reasoning (IR)
- The Verbal Reasoning Section
- The Quantitative Reasoning Section
- Step 2: Experiment with a Few Practice Questions
- Step 3: Determine Your Starting Point
- Step 4: Choose Appropriate Study Materials
- Step 5: Create a “Foolproof” Study Schedule
- How Long Does It Take to Prepare for the EA?
- In Conclusion
- What’s Next?
Let’s get started with some key facts about the test.
Executive Assessment Key Facts
As you may be aware, the EA assesses critical thinking, data analysis, and logical reasoning, as well as fundamental arithmetic and English skills. All of these are required for success in business school and the workplace. Here are some important facts concerning the EA that every new student should be aware of:
Approximately 90 minutes, with no optional breaks. This goes for both the in-person and online EA. Also, you can expect to spend around 15 minutes checking in for either exam.
There are three sections on the exam: Integrated Reasoning (IR) with 12 questions, Verbal Reasoning with 14 questions, and Quantitative Reasoning with 14 questions.
Integrated Reasoning: 30 minutes, 12 questions
Quantitative and Verbal concepts are tested in IR questions. There are 4 different question types in the IR section: Multi-Source Reasoning, Two-Part Analysis, Table Analysis, and Graphics Interpretation.
It is important to understand that your IR score is, in many ways, the driver for the remainder of the test. The IR section is presented first. Your performance on the IR section will determine the degree of difficulty of both the Verbal and Quantitative sections to follow.
For example, if you score well on IR, then your next section, Verbal Reasoning, will present more difficult questions than it would if you didn’t perform well on IR. The same situation will exist for the Quantitative Reasoning section, which always follows the Verbal section.
Verbal Reasoning: 30 minutes, 14 questions
Sentence Correction (SC), Critical Reasoning (CR), and Reading Comprehension (RC) are the 3 types of verbal questions. Three or 4 multiple-choice questions may be related to a single RC passage.
Quantitative Reasoning: 30 minutes, 14 questions
Problem Solving (PS) and Data Sufficiency (DS) are the 2 types of questions in the Quant section. Each of these could cover a wide range of topics (Number Properties, Rates, Percents, Statistics, etc.).
Now that you have a general idea of the structure and content of the exam, let’s discuss the 5 steps that will get you started with your EA studies.
Step 1: Understand What Is Tested and How It Is Tested
You should have a good idea of the general format and structure of the EA before starting your prep. Having this foundation will provide you with just enough knowledge to get your baseline score. To get that score, you will take an official EA practice exam. So, let’s start by looking at the topics and concepts tested, as well as the question styles you’ll see, in each section of the EA.
Integrated Reasoning (IR)
IR questions assess your ability to analyze data provided in standard formats, such as graphs and chart. IR questions also necessitate the use of both Quant and Verbal skills. IR questions can be divided into 4 types: multi-source reasoning, two-part analysis, table analysis, and graphics interpretation.
Multi-Source Reasoning (MSR) Questions
Multi-Source Reasoning (MSR) questions require that you analyze material offered in several formats, including charts, tables, and passages of text. For each MSR question, you will see various sources of information displayed on distinct tabs. Your job is to access and integrate the needed information from one or more of the tabbed locations. Here’s an example of a Multi-Source Reasoning question.
Two-Part Analysis (TPA) Questions
Two-Part Analysis (TPA) questions present you with a scenario about which 2 questions are asked. You are provided 2 columns of options to choose from. To answer the question, you must choose 1 option from each column (a total of 2 options). Here’s an example of a Two-Part Analysis question.
Table Analysis Questions
Table Analysis questions require you to sort and analyze data presented in a spreadsheet, in order to assess 3 claims about it. The key to answering this type of question quickly is to use the “sort by” function. This function allows you to sort the data by any column in the table, just like you would in an Excel spreadsheet. Here’s an example of a Table Analysis question. Make use of the sort function, which is accessible above the table.
Graphics Interpretation Questions
In Graphics Interpretation questions, you must evaluate a graph or diagram in order to fill in the blanks in 2 sentences. Each statement has 1 blank for which a drop-down menu with 3 or 4 answer options is provided. You must choose 1 response for each blank, for a total of 2 choices per question. Here is an example of a question about Graphics Interpretation.
The important thing to remember about the IR section is that if you are thoroughly prepared for the Quant and Verbal sections, you will have a strong foundation for addressing IR questions.
Your IR preparation will center on getting comfortable with the various question types and developing your tactics for sorting through data efficiently, rather than learning and mastering new skills.
Integrated Reasoning questions assess your ability to understand data presented in graphs, charts, tables, and text passages, and may include both Quantitative and Verbal concepts.
The Verbal Reasoning Section
The Verbal portion, as previously stated, consists of multiple-choice questions of 3 types: Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.
A Sentence Correction (SC) question presents a sentence, all or part of which is underlined. Your task is to select the proper version of the underlined area from a list of 5 options (answer choice A is always the version in the question stem).
These questions will test your understanding of grammatical principles, sentence structure, and word choice, as well as your ability to spot illogical, confusing, or redundant interpretations in sentences. Making sure to read each variation of the statement in the context of the non-underlined portion is a crucial aspect of correctly answering SC questions. Otherwise, it’s quite easy to choose an answer option that appears (or is) grammatically accurate but makes no sense or contains faults when combined with the rest of the sentence. Here is an example of an SC question.
Sentence Correction questions assess your ability to recognize illogical, unclear, or repetitive meanings, as well as your knowledge of syntax, sentence structure, and word choice.
A Critical Reasoning (CR) question consists of a short paragraph that presents an argument or set of claims and asks you to evaluate one or more of its aspects. For example, CR questions may ask what assumptions the argument makes in order to arrive at its conclusion, or which assertion must be true if all of the statements in the paragraph are true. You must choose 1 of 5 response options for each CR question. Here is an example of a CR question.
CR questions require you to examine arguments, claims, and conclusions.
Reading Comprehension (RC) questions ask you to answer 2 or 3 questions based on a passage. You’ll choose 1 of 5 response options for each question. The purpose of RC questions is to ascertain how carefully you read a passage, how well you understand it, and whether you can accurately interpret the information and establish relationships between the ideas offered in the passage. Because the topics and tone of RC passages are comparable to those addressed in magazines like The Economist, Smithsonian magazine, and The New York Times, reading these publications can help you prepare for RC questions. Here is an example of a Reading Comprehension question.
The topics and tone of the RC passages are similar to those found in The Economist, Smithsonian magazine, and The New York Times.
The Quantitative Reasoning Section
Most business schools believe quantitative skills to be critical for their students. As a result, when evaluating EA scores, business schools may place a strong emphasis on Quant performance. You may be initially thrown off by the complex appearance of EA Quant questions. But try to stay calm! The good news is that most questions on the exam are designed to be solved in under 2 minutes without the use of a calculator.
In other words, the EA is not a “number-crunching” exam. EA Quant does not intend to assess your ability to execute lengthy calculations by hand with impossibly large numbers. Rather, it tests high school arithmetic and algebra fundamentals and the capacity to distinguish which topic is being assessed in questions, as well as your application of logic.
EA Quant questions assess your ability to employ reasoning to apply your understanding of arithmetic and algebra rules and concepts efficiently, rather than your ability to complete lengthy, difficult computations by hand.
Let’s look at the 2 EA Quant question categories: Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving.
Data Sufficiency Questions
Data Sufficiency (DS) questions ask a question, and then follow it up with 2 statements that may or may not provide sufficient information to enable the question to be answered definitively.
For example, a DS question asking “What is the value of x?” would be followed by 2 statements providing information that could or could not assist you in determining the value of x. In these types of questions, your goal is to determine if one or both statements alone, or both statements together, are sufficient to answer the question, or whether both statements together don’t provide enough information. Here is an example of a Data Sufficiency Question.
Problem Solving Questions
The content of problem solving (PS) questions are similar to DS questions. They can cover any EA Quant topic, including Number Properties, Ratios, Linear Equations, or Probability, to mention a few. However, in PS problems, you must choose an answer from 5 choices provided.
The distinction between a DS question and a PS question is this: a DS question does not ask you to identify the value of x, but rather whether you could do so given the information provided. A Problem Solving question, on the other hand, would give you 5 different x values and ask you to choose the correct one. Here is an example of a Problem Solving question.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the EA’s content and question types, the next step is to try your hand at some EA practice questions.
Step 2: Experiment with a Few Practice Questions
As we move into step 2 of your EA study plan, I want to make one thing clear: this is not the time to start practicing dozens of random questions from any book you can get your hands on. Remember, you haven’t yet created your EA study plan; is it really a good idea to begin studying without one?
I can almost guarantee that if you jump right into doing a slew of random practice problems without first learning the concepts on which those questions are based, you will struggle to learn EA Quant and Verbal. So, at this stage, just practice around 10 to 20 EA Quant and Verbal questions, just to get your feet wet.
In total, you should spend no more than a few days familiarizing yourself with the EA and practicing some questions (i.e., completing steps 1 and 2). You can find some free official practice questions at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) website.
TTP PRO TIP:
Doing lots of EA practice problems without first learning EA concepts or having a solid study strategy is not a good approach to starting your preparation.
Now, let’s discuss how to determine your starting point by taking a practice exam.
Step 3: Determine Your Starting Point
So, now you are ready to take your first EA practice test. I’m sure that you may be thinking that you are not ready! However, don’t be nervous. The purpose of taking this practice exam is just to get your baseline score, and nothing more.
Taking an initial practice test helps to provide information about your current level of EA readiness, or your starting point. If you are wondering why this is so important, consider this: you’re at the bottom of “Mount EA.” You need to know how high the peak is, so you don’t start climbing only to learn halfway up that you don’t have all the equipment or time you’ll need to reach the summit. Perhaps your Mount EA isn’t as high as you thought, or perhaps it’s much higher than you ever imagined.
In either case, without your baseline score, you won’t know whether you’re 10 points or 30 points short of your score goal. Without that score it wil be difficult to determine how long you’ll need to study. Thus, taking an initial practice exam is an important aspect of developing a successful EA study strategy.
TTP PRO TIP:
Taking an initial practice exam is an important aspect of developing a successful EA study strategy.
Taking Your First Practice Exam
GMAC offers 4 EA practice exams, so you can take one of those to get your baseline score. The results will provide you with a good idea of the test-taking experience as well as how close you are to your target score.
Since it’s important to get an accurate score, try to replicate EA testing conditions. Take the exam in a quiet location. If you’re taking the online EA, take your exam in the same place you’ll take the real EA. Also, complete the exam in just one sitting and don’t take any breaks.
It’s also critical to remember that, while you should put forth your best effort on your first practice test, you shouldn’t go into the exam “expecting” a specific result. To learn EA content and to perfect test-taking skills, the great majority of EA test-takers require months of study and practice.
Although it’s reasonable to strive for a good score on your first practice test, it’s generally unrealistic to expect to “hit the bull’s-eye” on your first attempt. Furthermore, a high level of expectation puts an excessive amount of pressure on any test-taker. So what if you’re 20 or 30 points from your score goal? Don’t beat yourself up! This is why you are going to follow an awesome study plan and a realistic study timeline.
The most important thing is that you have the information you need to design a strategic, efficient, and practical EA study plan that will get you to the finish line. Of course, without the correct EA study resources, crossing the finish line is far more difficult (if not impossible). Let’s discuss that now.
TTP PRO TIP:
Take your first full-length practice exam under realistic test-day settings to help you achieve the most accurate baseline EA score possible.
Step 4: Choose Appropriate Study Materials
When studying for the EA, one of the most common mistakes students make is bouncing around between different study tools. Doing so provides little direction for how they’re learning EA Quant, Verbal, and IR. This style of haphazard EA preparation can make students feel as if they’re covering all the bases, but in reality it is hampering the study process.
So, when students prepare using many study materials, they eventually become quite disorganized and frustrated because they do not have a clear picture of what to study each day. This frustration can lead to just giving up on EA prep altogether.
You’ll probably waste a lot of time on EA materials that don’t truly work for you if you just pick up whatever study materials you come across instead of investigating what would work best for you. So, with all this in mind, let’s discuss how to select the best EA prep materials.
TTP PRO TIP:
Switching between several EA study resources usually results in disorganized, ineffective studying, knowledge gaps, and stagnation.
What to Look for When Selecting Your EA Prep Materials
Keep in mind that EA questions cover a wide range of topics, and you have no way of knowing which ones will be thrown at you on test day. Thus, to put yourself in the best position to succeed, you must be prepared for anything. A good prep course will pay huge dividends, so it is critical to find one that has the following 4 features.
Feature #1: A Topical Approach
We recommend taking a topic-by-topic approach to your EA preparation. Find a prep resource that has you learn one topic at a time, and then practice a large number of questions on that topic to achieve mastery. After you’ve completed that practice, you’ll review your incorrect questions from that topic You’ll also go back to your notes to fill in any knowledge gaps. Once you have completed and reviewed all of those questions, you would move to the next Quant, Verbal, or IR topic.
The advantages of linear, topical learning cannot be overstated. Indeed, we’ve structured the Target Test Prep EA course this way because it’s a study strategy that works for students of all levels.
This method of learning allows you to begin with simpler concepts and progress to more complex ones. Thus, you enhance your knowledge regardless of your starting level. Also, by looking at just one topic at a time, you won’t waste time on problem sets that contain topics you have yet to learn.
TTP PRO TIP:
Because there is so much to learn for the EA, the best way to ensure that you master each EA topic is to take a linear, topical approach to your prep.
Feature #2: A Study Plan
When deciding which EA course to select, look for one that includes a study plan, This plan should provide a road map of what must be accomplished from the beginning to the end of your EA prep. The TTP EA Course, for example, provides a personalized study plan.
The TTP study plan guides users through the study process and keeps track of their progress. Every time they sit down to study, our students know exactly what to do, when to do it, and how long it should take. Thus, students don’t waste time attempting to figure out what they need to learn next, and they are always on track toward their score goals. This type of study plan has led thousands of TTP students to EA success.
TTP PRO TIP:
Look for a course that includes a study plan that provides a detailed road map of what must be accomplished from the beginning to the end of your EA prep.
Feature #3: Analytics
A great EA self-study course should have analytics that track your progress and performance in detail. Analytics will allow you to see how you are performing and provide a detailed view of your strengths and weaknesses.
TTP users, for example, get access to an online dashboard that displays statistics such as accuracy for each topic, accuracy by question type, average time per question, strongest and weakest topics, and percentage of the course completed.
TTP PRO TIP:
ALook for an EA self-study course that provides you with detailed analytics that track your progress and pinpoint your weaknesses.
Feature #4: An Error Tracker
An effective self-study course should track the types of errors you make when answering practice questions. The TTP error tracker, for example, keeps track of all the questions you get wrong, why you got them wrong, and how often you make each type of error. So, if, for example, you chose the wrong answer 25% of the time because you fell for a trap answer and 18% because you ran out of time, you’ll have the information you need to proactively alter those issues and become a better test-taker.
TTP PRO TIP:
Look for an EA self-study course that provides you with an error tracker to help you identify your most common errors.
So, now that you know some characteristics to look out for in a self-study course, do a bit of research and sign up for a few low-cost trials to test drive some courses. In fact, why not start with a $1 full-access TTP trial?
Now, let’s discuss the final step in starting your EA studies: creating your study schedule.
Step 5: Create a “Foolproof” Study Schedule
When I tell students to aim for 18+ hours of EA prep each week, they are often surprised. Although that seems to be a high number of study hours, there is so much to learn to be successful on the EA. Thus, students must be prepared to devote a significant amount of time to their preparation.
To make sure you can fit in 18+ weekly study hours, create your own daily EA study schedule, either by hand or with an app. A concrete study schedule helps make you accountable to keep on track and not skip study sessions or shorten them. Even if you can study only for an hour a day, schedule it! EA preparation takes time, and you must be consistent to succeed.
So, regardless of the myriad other commitments, events, to-dos, and last-minute changes of plans that spring up and threaten to disrupt your day, EA studying must remain a top priority in your life. You’re more likely to make EA studying a priority if you schedule it just like any meeting or appointment.
A decent schedule for studying 18+ hours per week is to study for 2+ hours on weekdays and 4+ hours each weekend day. Of course, you may find that you need to make changes to your schedule. Changes such as studying more on the weekdays and less on the weekends or vice versa. If you work long days, for example, you might choose to study for 1.5 hours each morning before work and get in lengthier study sessions on weekends.
TTP PRO TIP:
Aim for at least 18 study hours per week.
Let’s look at a few sample schedules for one week of EA study to see how you might manage your study hours.
Sample EA Study Schedules
Schedule A could be for someone who works at a typical office job Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Schedule B could be for someone who gets into work much earlier and leaves work early in the evening, so he or she can study right after work.
During the week, the EA student on Schedule A studies for an hour before work, from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., and another hour during his lunch break, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., so that he is not studying late at night, when he is fatigued.
Depending on how he travels to work — for example, if he takes public transportation — he may be able to squeeze in an extra half-hour of studying or flash card review on his commute. On weekends, he completes a larger study session by lunchtime, and then relaxes and spends time with family and friends for the remainder of the day. He spends roughly 18-20 hours per week studying.
The EA student on Schedule B studies for 2 hours each weekday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and then 4 hours each day Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. This schedule allows for 18 hours of studying each week.
Make Your Study Schedule Fit Your Needs
We looked at just a couple of examples of how an EA student with a busy schedule might fit in a significant amount of study time. Just remember, do what you need to do to make your schedule fit YOUR life.
For example, if you’re a night owl with a lot of spare time during the evenings, you can do most or all of your EA prep then. If you work nights but have free afternoons, you can schedule all of your EA preparation for the middle of the day. Create a study schedule that works for you, and keep in mind that, aside from duties that you can’t avoid (such as job or family), EA preparation should be your top priority.
TTP PRO TIP:
Create a study schedule that works for you.
Now that we’ve covered the 5 steps to getting started with your EA preparation, you may be wondering how long you may need to study to achieve your target score.
How Long Does It Take to Prepare for the EA?
As you might imagine, the prep time you need to succeed on the EA is highly dependent on your initial starting score and your target score. For example, if you are shooting for an EA score of 155 but are currently scoring 135, then you likely need around 4 or 5 months to reach your target score. However, if you are already scoring 150 and have a 155 score goal, you could get your EA prep completed in around 1.5 to 2 months.
In general, the amount of time you should spend studying for the EA is unique to you. Some test-takers may require more than 3 months to achieve their desired score, while others may require just 1 month. Your study time frame will be affected by how far you are from your target score and how many hours you can dedicate to EA study each week. Keep in mind that it’s not unusual for students to require 200 hours or more of study time to achieve their desired results.
The length of time you will need to study for the EA is dependent on your target score and your baseline score.
Remember to take the following 5 steps to get started on the right foot with your preparation for the Executive Assessment:
- Understand What Is Tested and How It Is Tested
- Experiment with a Few Practice Questions
- Determine Your Starting Point
- Choose Appropriate Study Material
- Create a “Foolproof” Study Schedule
If you complete those 5 steps before you start studying for your EA exam, you’ll set yourself up for success!
You now know the basics of preparing for the Executive Assessment. You can learn more about the format, structure, and types of questions asked on the EA with our complete guide to the EA. There, you’ll find answers to questions such as, “What is the Executive Assessment?” and “Is the Executive Assessment hard?”
You can learn some facts about EA scores that might surprise you in our article on what a good Executive Assessment score is.