When Darden Admissions announced a standardized test waiver pilot for the full-time MBA Class of 2023 application, we also shared a new test option to our already robust lineup. New for this year, we are accepting Executive Assessment (EA) test scores from full-time MBA applicants! The EA is the most popular standardized test option among our Executive MBA applicants — and we have broken down some of the most commonly asked questions from full-time applicants about how the EA may fit into their application plans. 

As we note in our Standardized Test FAQs, we view all of the standardized tests we accept equivalently, and we encourage you to choose the test that best aligns with your strengths and plans. Even though we now accept the EA, we still anticipate that most full-time MBA applicants will apply with a GMAT or GRE score. However there are some instances in which the EA may make sense for a full-time MBA candidate. Let’s discuss!

What is the Executive Assessment? 

The Executive Assessment was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), and it is a 40-question, 90-minute exam designed in consultation with top Executive MBA programs. It is a test of readiness (not an aptitude test), and it was created to give both candidates as well as Admissions Committees a sense of a candidate’s readiness for business school.  

Most Executive MBA candidates report spending around 20 to 30 hours preparing for the EA, however, this figure has increased over the past couple years as there are now more study materials available and more full-time and part-time students taking the test. Students will typically prepare using the materials that are available through the EA website, but there is at least one prep course available that a handful of candidates have reported using. 

Like the GMAT, the EA is currently available online in most countries, but candidates can take the online EA a total of two times. 

How is the Test Formatted?

The test consists of three sections: quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning and integrated reasoning, and it is graded on a scale of 100 to 200. GMAC has noted that the highest EA score currently attainable is around the mid-170s (even though the test is scored on a 100 to 200 scale). As with the GMAT and GRE, Darden does not have a minimum or qualifying EA score, so, if you plan to take this test, we encourage you to focus on doing as well as you can, but to also remember that a test score is just one piece of information within a much broader, holistic review.  

What is the typical score range? 

Because the EA is a test of readiness, candidates will not receive percentile information with their overall score or score breakdown. Reach out to your target schools directly to better understand how your test score aligns with the school’s applicant pool. 

This is the first year we have accepted the EA as part of our Full-Time application process, but our Executive MBA scores provide some guidance for Darden applicants seeking to contextualize their test performance. In our Executive MBA program, students have EA scores ranging from the low 140s to the high 160s. The average score has been 153 for the past three years.

We look forward to sharing EA score metrics about our full-time applicants once we have completed the current admissions cycle! 

Who should consider taking the Executive Assessment? 

We encourage candidates to choose the standardized test that best aligns with their strengths and plans. However, if you are considering taking the EA, here are a few things to reflect upon before finalizing your test plans:

  • Because the Executive Assessment was designed in consultation with top Executive MBA programs, this test is recommended as an option for candidates with five or more years of work experience. 
  • Consider career interests as when evaluating test options. While our Career Center believes employer perspectives on tests are evolving, it is important for you to know that industries like investment banking and management consulting will ask for a GMAT or GRE score. While it’s slightly possible these employers may have some awareness of the EA, their preference will be for the GMAT or GRE.

Poet vs. Quant

While the testing topics are similar, the EA has fewer quantitative topics than the GMAT. In addition, in the test design, EA takers will answer a total of 14 quantitative reasoning questions versus 31 on the GMAT and 40 on the GRE. 

Darden has a required core curriculum that includes quantitative courses (Accounting, Finance, Decision Analysis, Global Economics, etc.), and our Admissions Committee, wants to make sure we are putting you in a position to be successful. 

With all of this in mind, the EA may make sense for a more experienced full-time MBA candidate with a fair amount of quantitative exposure in their academic and/or professional background(s). Candidates who are earlier in their career and/or who have less quantitative experience may want to consider taking the GMAT or GRE. 

If I already took another standardized test, could I potentially benefit from taking the EA too? 

Maybe! There are many ways to demonstrate academic readiness in our application:  undergraduate and graduate coursework, standardized test scores, additional non-degree-related courses (Coursera, Harvard’s CORe Program, MBA Math, etc.), professional certifications, work responsibilities and more. 

If you’ve already taken the GMAT or GRE, the EA could be a way of providing the Admissions Committee with another objective data point regarding your preparation for Darden. However, when building this case, we encourage candidates to choose a course of action that makes the most sense for them. The choice is yours!

Have more questions about Darden’s standardized test recommendations and test waiver policy? Check out our blog post and recent webinar for even more information.

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