How to Study for the Executive Assessment (EA) – Part 3

study for the executive assessment

Are you preparing for the Executive Assessment exam? In part 1 of this series, we talked about the major study materials you’ll want to use and some guidelines for planning the length of your studies. In part 2, we dove more deeply into the question types and content areas for the Integrated Reasoning and Verbal sections of the Executive Assessment (EA). 

Now, we’re going to do the same for the Quant section; we’re also going to talk a bit more about study planning.

Executive Assessment (EA): Quantitative Reasoning

The Quant section will consist of the same two question types (Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency) that appear on the Quant section of the GMAT, but you’ll only have to answer 14 of them. You’ll be given 30 minutes or just over 2 minutes per question; this is about the same as on the GMAT.

The single biggest difference is that geometry* has been removed from the EA. But, yes, I had to add an asterisk there. Did you know that, among mathematicians, coordinate plane is considered algebra, not geometry? (I learned this in high school…but I completely forgot until it came up again for the EA.) So it’s true that geometry is not on the EA…but since coordinate plane is really algebra, it can show up on the EA.

I find that a little annoying, but I was heartened to see that, of the 100 quant questions in the EA official tool, exactly one is a geometry problem. So I went into my EA just assuming that I would ignore any coordinate plane questions I might see—and I didn’t see any at all. (I do, of course, know geometry, since I also teach the GMAT, but I wanted to take the EA in the way that I’m advising my students to take it.) I have had students see a geometry problem, but I haven’t (yet) had anyone tell me that they’ve seen more than one.

So, best guess, you’ll see either 0 or 1 coordinate plane problem…so decide whether that is worth any of your precious study time. I personally would not study it and would just make that one of my bail questions (more about this in part 2). 

If you’ve studied for the GMAT and are familiar with the strategies Choose Smart Numbers, Work Backwards, and Test Cases, you can definitely use these strategies on the EA, too. You also can (and should!) estimate—I found I was able to do this even more than on the GMAT.

As far as the rest of the quant material, the EA appears to test everything else that the GMAT tests. If you’re using our books to study, I would emphasize the following:

GMAT Foundations of Math

Nearly everything! We use this book heavily in our EA live course.

You can skip geometry entirely or look just at coordinate plane, if you want. Otherwise, do learn the rest of this guide. (Although the title says GMAT, everything in this guide applies to the EA with the exception of most of the geometry topics.)

All the Quant

This book is split into 5 units by major content area. Within each unit, there are also strategy chapters—how to do Data Sufficiency, for example, or a series on Arithmetic vs. Algebra. Do all of the strategy chapters in every unit except for geometry.

For math topics, I’ll list the specific areas within each unit that are most likely to show up on the EA.

Unit 1: Fractions, Decimals, Percents, and Ratios

– Fractions
– Percents
– Ratios
– For an extra-high quant score: Digits and decimals

Unit 2: Algebra

– Exponents
– Roots
– Linear equations and combos
– The basics of inequalities and max/min
– For an extra-high quant score: Quadratics and formulas

Unit 3: Word Problems

– Translations
– Statistics (average, median, weighted average)
– Rates
– For an extra-high quant score: Work and overlapping sets

Unit 4: Number Properties

– Divisibility and prime
– Odd, Even, Positive, Negative
– For an extra-high quant score: Probability and/or combinatorics—but only if you like these topics

Unit 5: Geometry

– Nothing, unless you like coordinate plane (but nothing more than that!)

The All the Quant guide comes with an accompanying ebook containing advanced math topics—no need to study any of them.

Setting up your studies

Big picture, most people will need to do more work on quant than on verbal or IR to start—just remember that you are going to have to build those skills, too. I’m going to recommend the same general structure that we use in our courses. 

Begin by gaining a good grounding in the foundational-level material, particularly math topics that you learned when you were 11. Does PEMDAS, aka order of operations, ring a vague bell? Do you remember how to add fractions or solve an equation? It’s deep in your brain somewhere—you just have to remind yourself and do some practice to get the skills back.

Give yourself a couple of weeks for this level. (If you take one of our courses, we do build this into the program—but I would recommend signing up for a course that doesn’t start for ~2-3 weeks and then working through as much of the Foundations of Math material as you can before the course starts.)

When you need a break from the Quant stuff, familiarize yourself with the different verbal and IR question types and how they work. When you feel okay about your ability to do math on paper again (you don’t have to feel great—just okay), start diving in earnest into the three main strategy guides (IR & Essay, All the Quant, and All the Verbal). Use my earlier guidelines to decide what to prioritize and in what order you want to do things.

I don’t recommend doing all of one section of the exam and only then moving on to another section. Your brain actually learns better when you’re moving among topics. (It feels harder that way—but that’s a sign that your brain is actually learning better. It’s like physical activity—you know it was a good workout or game when it actually tires you out a bit.)

Plan to study multiple days a week (ideally 4 to 6 days)—it’s far better to do a little every day than to do nothing all week and then try to cram in 6 hours of study on Sunday. Your brain can only learn so much in a day; then it needs to go to sleep and make good memories of everything you learned before you can start to layer more on top.

Set up a study calendar that goes something like this:

Day 1: Quant (Fractions and Ratios); Verbal (SC)
Day 2: Quant (Data Sufficiency); IR (Tables)
Day 3: Quant (Percents); Verbal (CR)
Day 4: Break
Day 5: Quant (review and practice problems); IR (Tables)
Day 6: IR and Verbal review and practice problems
Day 7: What went well and what needs more work? Set up next week.

Plan out specific study appointments (with assignments / topics) for the upcoming week. Have an idea of what you want to do the week after that, but don’t actually plan out the day-to-day until you see how this week goes. You may have to go back over a certain area again—or you may discover that you’re already good at something and can go faster or reallocate some time to a different area.

After about a week or two, take a practice test (GMAC sells 4 official practice tests). Spend a couple of days analyzing it after. Pay more attention to the areas you’ve already studied—how did they go? What stuck and what needs a review?

For the areas you haven’t studied yet, does your test performance indicate any areas you should prioritize—or de-prioritize? (There are two areas to de-prioritize: The things you’re already good at and the things that you’re really not good at. Don’t spend time learning the hardest material—first, learn the material that’s not as hard for you. You may discover that that gets you to your goal score and you never have to learn the hardest-for-you stuff!)

Then, go set up next week’s study plan taking that practice test analysis into account. As you go, continue to take a practice test every couple of weeks—both to gauge how you’re progressing and to help you diagnose your strengths and weaknesses so you can set up an effective study plan for the coming couple of weeks.

Practice under timed conditions

It’s critically important to do practice problems under test-like conditions, including timing. At heart, the EA is an executive reasoning / decision-making test, even while it tests you on math, logic, and grammar. As you do every day at work, you’re going to have to distinguish between good, mediocre, and bad opportunities and decide how to spend your limited time and mental energy accordingly.

You can study problems as long as you want after you’re done trying them—but when you first try them, time yourself and hold yourself to standard timing conditions. Also use your studies to figure out what you don’t want to do, so you know when to bail on the test.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to dive into next time!

NEXT: How to Study for the Executive Assessment (Part 4)

For information about our Executive Assessment Complete Course click here.



Stacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT  for more than 15 years and is one of the most well-known instructors in the industry. Stacey loves to teach and is absolutely fascinated by standardized tests. Check out Stacey’s upcoming GMAT courses here.

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How to Study for the Executive Assessment (EA) – Part 3