Admissions, Executive MBA

An Interview on The Executive Assessment with Manish Dharia of GMAC

By Susannah Fuller-

Darden’s Executive MBA Program is one of 18 top programs around the world that accept the Executive Assessment (EA). We recently sat down with Manish Dharia at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) to further discuss the test and its fit for executive format applicants.

For our executive format applicants who are less familiar with the Executive Assessment (EA), how would you describe the test?
The Executive Assessment is a short, 90 minute assessment that offers the opportunity for candidates to quickly assess their business school readiness.

We are big fans of the EA at Darden, and it’s our recommended test for our executive format applicants. What’s your pitch to potential test takers? Why EA?
The Executive Assessment was designed specifically for busy, mid-to-late career professionals. By objectively evaluating your career experience, Executive MBA (EMBA) programs will better understand your program readiness. Because you are busy juggling the demands of work and home, the assessment is easy to schedule, short in duration, and requires modest preparation. During the assessment, you will be measured on the skills that are critical both at work and in an EMBA program, such as higher-order reasoning, critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving. Based on your results, you can work to sharpen your skills before your EMBA program begins. Designed in partnership with selective business schools from around the world, the Executive Assessment ensures your business school experience will be shared with high caliber peers.

Why did GMAC develop the EA?
We developed the EA in direct response to what we were hearing from EMBA programs and candidates. Busy professionals who had already achieved a great deal of success in their lives were often reluctant or unwilling to take the GMAT – it was too high a barrier. We decided to develop an alternative that was more convenient, offered greater flexibility and relevance, and maintained a high level of quality for these candidates.

How are things going? It seems like the EA is really gaining traction with test takers. And the list of accepting Executive MBA programs seems to be growing by the day.
After an exciting launch in March of 2016 with six top tier schools from around the world, we used the next 12 months to ensure that the EA provided the highest levels of validity and to collect feedback on how to improve the candidate experience. Ultimately we learned that the EA is an excellent predictor of EMBA classroom performance and that schools and candidates are highly appreciative of the tailor-made assessment for EMBA admissions. We currently have 18 schools officially accepting the EA for their executive format candidates, and it seems a new school joins every month.

How do you recommend someone prepare for the EA?
Significant preparation is not needed for the Executive Assessment, but we do recommend that test takers re-familiarize themselves with the various questions types on the EA and do some practice questions to shake the rust off. We offer 300 official practice questions with detailed answer explanations for candidates to work through and we will be launching two official EA practice assessments early next year that will simulate the actual EA testing experience.

When speaking with prospective students, we often stress the difference in preparation time for the EA as compared to the GMAT. In our experience, the EA is much more in line with most executive format applicants’ schedules. What have you learned from test takers over the past couple years about average prep time and preparation for the test generally?
We have spoken to a lot executive format candidates who have already taken the Executive Assessment to get their perspective on prep time. We ask them how many hours of prep they would recommend to a friend or co-worker who was preparing to take the EA. While the responses were varied, we did hear the caveat that it depends on the individual’s background and experience, e.g., a Head of Marketing might be more rusty on the quantitative side than a CFO and should certainly budget additional time to get ready. However, for the typical candidate, our previous test takers most often recommended about 15-20 hours of prep time.

How can someone learn more about the Executive Assessment?
Go to the EA website: