The GMAC Executive Assessment: Part 2

GMAT Select Section Order PilotIn our first post, we broke down the new GMAC® Executive Assessment which provides EMBA candidates with an alternative testing option to the GMAT. While on paper, the exam might resemble a “mini-GMAT,” a deeper dive reveals an assessment with GMAT roots, but a distinct personality of its own.

More Business Focus
A look at sample questions from the website suggests that the EA pulls from item pools that are similar, if not identical, to the GMAT. In fact, some questions seem to have more of a “business” feel compared to your traditional GMAT question. (The GMAT has long been touted as an exam that doesn’t reward or punish lack of a traditional business background, as it aims to test critical reasoning and higher order thinking skills that are industry-agnostic.)

This may be a coincidence, but one can’t ignore the fact that most EMBA candidates have significant work experience (10+ years typically) and most likely a stronger sense of business in general compared to their 24-year-old counterparts looking at full-time programs. Regardless, any leaning towards business (whether intentional or not) would likely be attractive to more EMBA candidates.

Integrated Reasoning Grows in Prominence
One other interesting aspect of the EA is the increased proportion of Integrated Reasoning (IR) questions. IR makes up exactly one-third of this assessment and is incorporated into the candidate’s total score. Conversely, IR is a small portion (30 minutes) of the GMAT exam. The GMAT quantitative and verbal sections are each 75 minutes in length, and the GMAT total score represents a combination of the quantitative and verbal sub-scores. GMAT IR scores are reported separately from the total score.

While GMAC has published survey research on the “relevance” of skills tested on IR, the deeper integration of IR into the EA assessment and total score seems to further support the notion that the skills tested are truly relevant and strong indicators of success in a graduate business program. And perhaps these skills are even more important at the EMBA level.

Pilot Program for Now
The Executive Assessment (EA) is currently in a Beta phase that will last at least 18 months (or a full admissions cycle and academic year) to allow for validity studies to be conducted. GMAC has long been committed to developing assessment products that are not only relevant, but valid predictors of success in a graduate management program. The six pilot programs were selected because they were willing to commit the necessary time, energy and resources to see this phase through.

The EA targets a different demographic than the GMAT (older, significant work experience, further removed from the undergrad experience) and the test doesn’t leverage computer-adaptive testing in the way that the current GMAT does. Thus, norms for this assessment will differ, further underscoring the importance of measuring exam outcomes against academic performance in an EMBA program.  At this time, there are no plans to add additional programs until after the Beta phase is complete.

Only “Modest Preparation” Required
One of the biggest differences between the EA and GMAT is the amount of preparation that GMAC is advocating for it. It’s no secret that candidates need to prepare for the GMAT, and GMAC survey research indicates that the average candidate spends between 60 and 90 days preparing for the GMAT.  However, the EA recognizes that candidates are less likely to have the bandwidth for preparation that traditional GMAT candidates might have.  The EA will help schools to differentiate competencies that are a little “rusty” versus those that are “ready” and enable them to prescribe pre-work to ensure all candidates begin their EMBA programs on an even playing field.

That being said, candidates looking to distinguish themselves from other applicants can certainly benefit from preparation. Given the overlap with GMAT content, leveraging current GMAT materials to gain a better understanding of question types is a good starting point.  Pacing, as always, will be paramount, and additional time and focus on IR will be crucial given its more significant role in the exam (and total score).

If you’re interested in learning more about GMAT preparation and customized options for EA preparation, please visit our GMAT Website or attend one of our upcoming free online GMAT seminars. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham