MBA - About the MBA

Have You Heard About the Executive Assessment?

Article sponsored by UVA Darden School of Business

As an Executive MBA admissions officer, I am asked one question more often than any other: Do I have to take the GMAT to apply to your program?

There is little doubt that standardized tests conjure a complex swirl of emotions for many Executive MBA applicants, and the GMAT, with its 3+ hour testing experience and 65+ hours of prep time (average for domestic US takers) is particularly stress-inducing.

However, for many Executive MBA plus part-time MBA and executive masters program applicants there is an alternative: The Executive Assessment (EA).

Chances are, like many candidates considering an Executive MBA, you are less familiar with this test. Much of this is due to the EA’s relative recency. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) launched the EA in 2016. By comparison, the GMAT arrived in 1953, and the GRE dates from 1936.

But, while GMAC and graduate programs may still be working to spread the word about the EA, you should not be deterred by the test’s comparative youth. The EA is quickly gaining traction with a number of schools, and at the time of this post, it is accepted by over 130 programs at 65 graduate business schools, including a number of top Executive MBA programs.

At UVA Darden, we are big fans of the Executive Assessment. In fact, it is our recommended test for Executive MBA applicants considering Darden. Of course, we also accept the GMAT, GRE, LSAT and MCAT and offer test waivers in certain circumstances. But, after several years of EA scores and increasing numbers of applicants choosing this test over available alternatives, we believe the Executive Assessment is the right test for this population.

The EA is a 40-question, 90-minute test and requires, on average, around 20 hours of preparation. In addition, the EA is a test of readiness, not aptitude, and it was created expressly with candidates like you in mind. GMAC worked closely with several top Executive MBA programs to design the test. Their goal? Measuring the skills and knowledge of experienced professionals.

If you are considering an Executive MBA, you will notice a wide range of testing requirements. Some schools require no standardized test. Others require a test but also offer test waivers, while others require a standardized test with no exceptions. Others still have an expressed preference for certain tests depending upon a candidate’s career stage. What’s an applicant to do?

At UVA Darden, we recognize that “no test” is an easier path than having to take a test, and we do offer test waivers in certain instances such as candidates with an advanced degree in an analytical discipline or a select professional certifications like a CPA or CFA. However, there is value in taking a test as part of your Executive MBA application process, and here’s why.

First, taking a test is a good gauge of your commitment to this next step in your career. If you can’t seem to find the time or muster the energy to study for a test, you should reflect on your motivations for pursuing an MBA. Any MBA for working professionals is going to ask a lot of you, and you will need to juggle life and work and school for typically a two to three year period. To be successful, it is critical that you be fully committed to pursuing this degree and confident that it is the right path for you.

In addition, at around 20 hours of prep time, studying for the EA is a fair approximation of the amount of work a student in an Executive MBA program will manage during a busier week. Wondering how you might be able to balance your many commitments and school? Try studying for a standardized test. This will allow you to dip a toe in the water of school-related time management, and, on a micro-scale, help the other people in your life understand what participating in an Executive MBA program might look like for you (and them).

Also, if you’re like many applicants, it may have been a while since you last studied for a test. Some of these muscles may have atrophied, and a standardized test is a good opportunity to get back in the habit of studying for and taking tests.

From an admissions standpoint, a test score can help establish a useful baseline for a diverse applicant pool. At UVA Darden, our Executive MBA class ranges from five years to 30+ years of work experience, and our students typically represent 25+ industries and a wide array of educational backgrounds. A test score provides constructive commonality in the face of all this valuable difference. But remember: it is only one piece of information in a much broader holistic review.

So, talk to your target schools. Understand their test requirements. Do your research and find the test that best aligns with your application plans and career goals. And then study hard and do as well as you can.

Want to learn more the EA? Here are two great ways to further explore this test:

  • Check out our podcast with Manish Dharia, Director of Product Development with GMAC). This conversation charts the history of the test and its current use by graduate programs.
  • Watch our recent a webinar all about the Executive Assessment with GMAC’s Eric Chambers. This session is a helpful overview for those curious about the test’s structure, design and prep options.

Brett Twitty is the Director Admissions for the executive formats of the Darden MBA. Darden currently offers two executive formats – Executive MBA (EMBA) and a Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) – and both are based out of Sands Family Grounds, Darden’s new, state-of-the-art facility in the Washington, DC area.

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