Executive Assessment Vs GMAT Vs GRE: Which Test Is Best For Your EMBA Application?

Find out which admissions test you should take when applying for an Executive MBA

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs are for more experienced professionals looking to earn an MBA without taking significant time off from work.

Many EMBA programs require admission test results, but there are some top programs that do not.

The EMBA program at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, for example, only requires the traditional MBA resume, application, and letters of recommendation.

For those that do, prospective EMBA students have a choice of three tests—the GMAT, the GRE, and the Executive Assessment (EA). 

Here, we explore which test you should take by evaluating each of these three exams, and we walk through a process you can use to determine which is best for you.

How does the EA compare to the GMAT?


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Let’s first note that the Executive Assessment exam is very new. It was developed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the same organization that administers the GMAT, in partnership with many business schools.

The main thinking was to create an exam that would support the needs of experienced professional candidates, while measuring academic readiness and incorporating aspects which refer to real-world experience and knowledge.

Key points of comparison and difference include:

Length. The EA is shorter. It takes approximately 90 minutes, while the GMAT takes approximately 180. This is achieved by halving the number of questions and time required for verbal and quant and removing the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section.

The reason for this is that the EA is specially formulated to focus on what is considered most important in the EMBA classroom. The questions are based on relevant, real-world skills that closely match the work business professionals do every day.

Content. On the quant side, there is no geometry in the EA. Otherwise, the content is fundamentally the same as what candidates will find on the GMAT.

The GMAT and the EA are both computer adaptive tests (as you answer questions, they become harder or easier based on if you get the question right or wrong). The difference is that the GMAT gets harder or easier after every single question, while the EA changes after a block of questions. The GMAT is item-adaptive, while the EA is section-adaptive.

As the EA measures readiness and the fact it is also shorter, some candidates might think that it's easier than the GMAT. In reality, the content is fundamentally the same.

Preparation time. Given all of the above, it should take less time to prepare for the EA than the GMAT.

The EA is like the GMAT with regard to overall content, yet one which I personally found to be shorter and easier. The EA puts more emphasis on the Integrated Reasoning section (i.e. higher percentage of time allocated to this on the EA relative to GMAT).

READ MORE: What's The Best Way You Can Prepare For Your GMAT?


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How does the GMAT compare to the GRE?

There are a few simple things to keep in mind when comparing the GRE to the GMAT:

Quantitative difficulty. In my opinion, GMAT math is a bit harder than GRE math. The concepts covered are a bit broader and you can’t use a calculator. Also, the GMAT quant section asks you to apply math concepts in what can seem like tricky ways to test your logic and critical thinking. On the GRE, an understanding of direct math theory is usually enough to get the right answer.

Verbal difficulty. GRE verbal appears harder to some students than GMAT verbal. 

Why? While both tests measure comprehension and critical reasoning, the emphasis is more on vocabulary on the GRE and more on grammar on the GMAT. You can learn grammar rules somewhat quickly, but understanding what words mean or figuring out what they mean in context are skills best developed over long periods of time and lots of reading and writing.

Integrated reasoning. Both the GRE and the GMAT have an essay section. The GRE has two essays. The GMAT has one essay and one section on integrated reasoning, which tests your ability to interpret and make inferences from charts and graphs of data.

Notably, the GMAT is accepted primarily at business schools (for full-time MBA programs, EMBA programs, and some PhD programs) while the GRE is now accepted at many business programs, almost all graduate school programs, and even some law schools. 

Which is the right test for me?


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It’s great to learn about the differences between the exams, but how do you decide what to take? Here are some points to keep in mind.

If you’d prefer not to spend time studying for an exam and only consider EMBA programs that don’t require it, or have a target school that doesn’t require one, you may be in the clear.

Many of the more selective programs, however, do want you to take an exam, and some will state a preference. For example, Booth School of Business' EMBA program at University of Chicago prefers the EA exam, while Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania prefers the GMAT. If a preference is stated by the school, it's best to take it into account. 

If you are considering both regular full-time MBA programs and EMBA options, you should take the GMAT, as this leaves options open. If you are also considering other types of graduate school outside of business, then the GRE is a good choice.

If the schools you are targeting have no preference, given its length and angle towards EMBA applicants, GMAC suggest that you should strongly consider the EA.

About the Author 

Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a provider of online EA exam tutoring which helps students build customized study plans and focuses on a mix of core concepts and skills development. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.

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