Strategy for the EA Quantitative Reasoning Section

EA Quantitative Reasoning Section: Developing an Approach

The Quantitative Reasoning section of the EA utilizes math skills to test your reasoning and critical thinking skills. This may be an intimidating prospect, but the good news is that the math you are expected to know is generally at a high school level. While this should be encouraging, be advised that this section is harder than it may seem. The math itself may be simple, but sometimes the format of the questions can throw test takers off. It is essential to have a plan to attack the Quant section so that on exam day, you can really demonstrate your critical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as your math skills.

The goal of the EA Quantitative Reasoning Section is to measure your ability to reason quantitatively, interpret graphic information, analyze and implement data given in a problem, and solve quantitative problems. For this section, you will need to not only have a good grasp of basic math concepts, you will also need to understand when to use which concepts. These questions can sometimes seem deceptively simple because the math itself is not difficult, but it takes close and focused reading to comprehend exactly what you should be calculating.

The key to feeling confident about taking the EA is preparation. If you have an organized approach to the Quantitative Reasoning section, you will be able to showcase your problem solving and critical reasoning skills for the MBA programs you are interested in.

Read the Questions Carefully

While the Quant Section of the EA will utilize the math you have learned in school, it will not always present the questions in the way you are used to. We are generally trained to solve a problem for a variable, but the EA is not always asking you to solve for x. Read the question carefully so that you are sure of what you are being asked to do…otherwise, you could easily sink six minutes into a problem that does not even help you obtain the correct answer! For example, remember that when you are presented with Data Sufficiency questions, you are not even solving a problem—the aim is to show whether you know when you have enough information to solve it. While this might seem like a very slight difference, it is also the difference between receiving credit for a correct answer and receiving no credit for an incorrect answer.

Pace Yourself

You will have 30 minutes to complete 14 questions on the Quantitative Reasoning section. While this averages to just over 2 minutes per question, you should not expect each question to take you the same amount of time. Often times, the questions with the most text utilize the simplest math, so do not be discouraged…rather than taking time to form an opinion about a question, simply evaluate the problem, identify what type of problem it is, select an approach, and apply the approach.

Pacing yourself is also important because your score is based on an algorithm which is computer adaptive. This means the test is evaluating you as you go, rather than evaluating you at the end of the test. If you are not able to finish all of the questions, it can throw off the algorithm and negatively affect your final score. Spend a reasonable amount of time trying to solve the problem, but be ready to move on if needed. This is where applying techniques such as process-of-elimination and making informed guesses can be especially helpful, as you do not want to become stuck or overwhelmed and miss the chance to complete problems you are more than capable of finding solutions to.

All Roads Lead to Practice

While there is no secret formula for removing all anxiety related to taking the EA, there are things you can do to increase your familiarity with the exam, which can help reduce your anxiety, even if it is not entirely alleviated. As with most things in life, practice is a key component to EA success. In order to feel reasonably prepared and comfortable taking the EA, it is important to complete practice tests that expose you to the types of problems you will be asked to solve. Practice tests also help you learn to work under a time pressure, and this is truly the best way to learn how to pace yourself when working your way through questions.

First things first…you'll want to brush up on your basic math skills so that you are prepared for the Quantitative Reasoning Section of the EA. You are expected to have competence in basic algebra and arithmetic; unlike the GMAT, there is no geometry on the EA. You are not allowed to use a calculator on the Quantitative Reasoning section, so you will need to refresh yourself on performing basic calculations which you may be out of practice doing if you are used to relying on a calculator.

In order to efficiently use the time allotted (which is only 30 minutes), you will need be able to approach the questions with flexibility. For some questions, it will make most sense to solve them using a traditional method; however, sometimes simply plugging in the possible answers is a faster way to approach the question. It is important that you feel comfortable implementing different methods, but it is even more important that you know when to use different strategies.

Through practice, you will gain increased familiarity with the types of questions you will see on the day of your exam, which is important, as you will need to be able to quickly assess the fastest way to solve the problem at hand. We also strongly advise that, in addition to completing practice questions, you sit down for at least one full practice test. The closer you are able to simulate a real test setting, the more beneficial your practice experience will be. It is important to practice early in your business school application process to pinpoint your areas of weakness, but practice continues to be important throughout the entire preparation process, particularly as a way to help refresh math skills you might not have used in a while.

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