There is no getting around that most test-takers must put in a lot of study time to achieve a high score on the Executive Assessment (EA).
Thus, EA students seek ways to reduce their overall study time. One such strategy is focusing on “high-value” EA topics. I can’t tell you how often students ask me the most common topics covered on the executive assessment exam.
This article will discuss which Quant, Verbal, and IR topics you can expect to see on any given EA. We also will discuss why there is no straightforward answer to the question of which topics appear the most. Finally, we’ll discuss why attempting to determine the answer to that question is not a great use of your time.
Here is what we’ll cover:
- The Three Sections of the EA
- The Topics You Will See on Test Day Are Random
- In Conclusion: You Can’t Game the EA by Studying Only Common Topics
- What’s Next?
First, let’s review the topics tested in the Quant, Verbal, and IR sections of the EA.
The Three Sections of the EA
The Executive Assessment consists of three sections: Quant (14 questions), Verbal (14 questions), and Integrated Reasoning (12 questions).
The EA is broken into three sections: Quant, Verbal, and IR.
First, let’s dive into the types of questions and topics you can expect to see in each section.
The EA Quant Section
The Quant section of the EA consists of 14 questions. Within the section, you can expect to see two types of questions: problem-solving and data sufficiency.
Problem-solving questions are typical 5-answer, multiple-choice questions.
Data sufficiency questions also have five answer choices. However, the purpose of a data sufficiency question is to determine whether you have enough information to get a definitive answer. You can get a feel for these questions by practicing some sample questions.
The Quant section of the EA has two question types: problem-solving and data sufficiency.
You can see many topics despite only 14 questions in the Quant section of the EA. These topics are listed below:
- Basic Arithmetic
- Linear and Quadratic Equations
- Number Properties
- Absolute Value
- General Word Problems
- Work Problems
- Unit Conversions
- Overlapping Sets
- Combinations and Permutations
- Coordinate Geometry
As you may notice, there are many Quant topics you may see on any EA exam. In fact, there are almost as many topics tested as on the GMAT. Geometry is the only topic tested on the GMAT but not the EA. All other topics are fair game.
Geometry is the only Quant topic tested on the GMAT but not the EA.
Let’s now take a look at the Verbal section.
The EA Verbal Section
Sentence Correction (SC), Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension (RC) are the three question types you will encounter in EA Verbal.
The three question types in the Verbal section are Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.
Let’s look at the three Verbal question types in detail.
1) Sentence Correction questions test your knowledge of basic grammar rules and idioms. You will use core grammar rules and logical reasoning skills when answering SC questions to arrive at the correct answer.
The most common grammar topics that you will encounter on Sentence Correction questions are:
- Sentence Structure
- Subject-Verb Agreement
- Pronouns and Antecedents
- Verb Tense, Mood, and Voice
- Logical Comparisons
2) Critical Reasoning questions present short arguments or scenarios to test your logical reasoning and critical thinking skills. For example, questions may ask you to analyze an author’s premises, spot contradictions, pick out evidence that supports or refutes an author’s claims, and detect errors in an author’s reasoning.
3) Reading Comprehension questions test your ability to read and comprehend passages similar to the material you’ll encounter in business school. Of course, you must understand the meanings of words and statements. However, you also need to comprehend how paragraphs work together and fit into the overall structure of a passage. You must paraphrase the text, infer what is not explicitly stated, draw conclusions from given information, and more.
The EA Integrated Reasoning Section
Integrated Reasoning (IR) is the first section presented on the EA, but the concepts tested in IR blend what you will encounter in EA Quant and Verbal. However, those concepts are presented slightly differently in various charts, graphs, and texts.
The four Integrated Reasoning questions types are as follows:
- Graphic Interpretation questions ask you to assess data presented in graph or chart form. Then you need to make inferences or decisions based on that information. The graphs can take the form of intricate bar charts, scatterplots, flowcharts, or other graph types.
- Table Analysis questions ask a series of yes/no or true/false questions about data presented in a table. The table’s columns can be sorted in various ways, an important feature for efficiently answering Table Analysis questions.
- In a Two-Part Analysis question, you must pick two correct responses from a list of options in a table. The two solutions, based on a Quant topic or a scenario, are connected in some way. Two-Part Analysis questions may be Verbal or Quantitative, and while they may seem straightforward at first, you might find upon further inspection that they are not.
- Multi-Source Reasoning questions present data from various texts on the same topic and pose inquiries based on that data. These questions are comparable to Critical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension questions.
The Integrated Reasoning section contains four question types. Also, the skills tested in those questions are based on EA Quant and Verbal concepts.
The Topics You Will See on Test Day Are Random
One thing is certain about the EA: There are hundreds upon hundreds of possible topics from Quant, Verbal, and IR that can show up on any given exam. Thus, there is no way to predict exactly which of those topics will appear on your exam. So, creating a study plan based on what you deem “most popular” or have seen most in your practice tests is a risky game.
You can’t accurately predict which topics you will encounter on test day.
There Are Not Many Opportunities to Shine on the EA
14 Quant, and 12 IR questions, a total of 40 questions. As you can see, those aren’t very many questions! However, considering there are about 50 major Quant and Verbal topics, those quant, and verbal questions can originate from many different topics.
Focusing on a Limited Number of Quant Topics Can Devastate Your Score
Even if you had hard data on the two or three most commonly tested Quant topics, for example, what would that information really do for you? So, for example, even if I told you that roughly 20 percent of the questions in the Quant section (so, about three questions) consist of Number Properties, Statistics, and General Word Problems, would that information help you crack the EA?
Let’s say that, based on that information, you focused 75 percent of your Quant study time on those three main topics. What would happen with your performance on the other 80 percent of the Quant topics? If you do not fully prepare for those, then it does not matter how well you do on the “three main Quant topics,” right?
You Can’t Game the Verbal Section Either
Let’s apply the idea we just discussed to EA Verbal. Six of the 14 Verbal questions on the EA are Sentence Correction (SC), 4 are Critical Reading (CR), and 4 are Reading Comprehension (RC). Most students consider SC questions to be the most straightforward of the Verbal questions because the logic and grammar knowledge required to solve them can be easily studied and prepared for. Thus, if you were to decide to spend the bulk of your study time preparing for SC, you might do very well on the SC part of the Verbal section. But what about the 4 CR and 4 RC questions? Not so well.
The point is that, even with “approximate” information regarding which GRE topics or question types are more prevalent than others, you must be prepared to manage questions on less frequently investigated topics if you want to perform well on the test. Because there are so few questions in the GRE’s Quantitative and Verbal sections, each question has the potential to significantly affect your score.
TTP PRO TIP:
Focusing on a handful of “common” EA Quant and Verbal topics or question types is not a strategy for success on the EA.
The overall point is that, unless you know the exact topics that will show up in your 14 Quant, 14 Verbal, and 12 IR questions, focusing on what you deem to be “commonly tested” topics will leave too many potential knowledge gaps, thus hurting your EA test performance.
Another reason to ensure that you learn all EA Quant and Verbal topics is that many questions test multiple topics simultaneously. Let’s discuss that now.
Multiple Topics Can Be Present in Any Given Question
If each EA question came from just a single topic, the Quant component of the test would be incredibly simple. That is, regrettably, not the case. EA questions, almost as a rule, test multiple topics or concepts in a single question.
For instance, to answer questions on Number Properties, you may need knowledge of Exponents or Word Translations in addition to Number Properties skills. A Statistics question might require familiarity with Percents, Number Properties, and Coordinate Geometry.
Many students believe that all it takes to perform well on Sentence Correction (SC) questions is memorization of massive numbers of grammar rules and obscure idioms. They might be surprised that nearly all SC questions require only basic grammar knowledge. As much as SC questions test grammar and usage, they also test attention to detail and the ability to analyze complex information, make sense of it, and ensure it communicates a coherent thought.
TTP PRO TIP:
Questions on the EA test knowledge from multiple topics. So, if you pick and choose what you study for the EA, you likely will get burned on many questions.
We now have two convincing arguments for why concentrating only on the “most popular” topics will negatively impact your EA total score. However, there is a third factor: the EA is unpredictable!
You Can’t Predict What You Will See on the EA
One of the most common misconceptions about EA, or even test prep in general, is that the types of questions that show up in either official materials (from the test-maker) or on official practice tests represent what you should expect to see on test day. However, using the data from EA practice exams to predict what you will see on the actual EA is not completely logical.
Think about it: Would the EA test creators provide students with official practice exams replicating what test-takers will see on test day? Unless there is some conspiracy that I’m unaware of, the answer is, of course, they would not do that!
While practice tests represent the kinds of questions that students will see, my point is that practice exams are just that — representative. So even if you memorized every question from every practice exam, you might not encounter even one question on your EA resembling any practice questions.
The EA test-makers know that one thing that makes the EA challenging is that they can pull questions from hundreds of topics for any given exam. They will not give up that advantage, meaning that we cannot predict what we might see from one EA exam to the next. In fact, if you are a repeat test-taker, I’m sure you would agree. I’d be willing to bet that the topics on your first EA differed pretty significantly from what you saw on your second exam.
It’s impossible to predict what you will see on your EA exam, even if you base your prediction on previous EA exams or EA practice exams.
In Conclusion: You Can’t Game the EA by Studying Only Common Topics
The moral of the story, which may be difficult to accept, is that you cannot game the test by studying the topics you believe will most likely show up on the EA. So instead, approach your EA preparation assuming you can see any topic on your EA.
In my experience, the EA students who try to “game the system” spend more time and money on their EA prep than those who study the right way. So, don’t be one of the “unlucky” EA test-takers who studied only the most popular topics, yet saw only a few questions on those topics on their EA.
TTP PRO TIP:
Don’t skimp on your EA prep. Follow a thorough study plan that prepares you for anything that might present itself on test day.
Remember, if you’re thorough in your prep, you can’t lose! Nothing you see on test day will surprise you. To get a great start on your studying, check out 5 steps for getting started with your EA preparation.