A Comparison of the EA and the GMAT

EA and GMAT Consideration at Business Schools

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in 1954 to test the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in business school. This exam is currently taken by more than 200,000 people around the world seeking admission to business schools every year. The Executive Assessment (EA) was created by the GMAC in 2016, also for the purpose of demonstrating the critical thinking skills necessary for succeeding in a business program. While this test as not as well-known as the GMAT, it is growing in both popularity and acceptance. The EA is currently accepted at more than 100 part-time, full-time, hybrid, and Executive MBA (EMBA) programs around the world, and more institutions of higher education are accepting this test every semester.

EA and GMAT Waivers

Though standardized testing is required for admission to most business schools, some institutions have programs that do not mandate the EA or GMAT, and others grant waivers for students who meet certain prerequisites. The Executive MBA program at New York University's Stern School of Business, for example, stopped requiring the GMAT in 2011, and the Rutgers University School of Business will consider GMAT waivers for applicants with either a terminal degree or eight years of management-level work experience. Other business programs that do not require standardized test scores include MIT Sloan, University of Washington Foster School of Business, George Washington University, Babson College Olin, and American University Kogod School of Business. The University of Texas McCombs will grant waivers for the EA or the GMAT provided certain merit-based prerequisites are met. While most prospective students submit a standardized score even if it is not required, we encourage students to reach out to the business schools they plan to apply to and gather the most up-to-date information on standardized testing and waiver requirements.

Differences between the EA and GMAT

The EA and the GMAT assess many of the same skills, but the two tests differ in structure, content emphasis, administration, and scoring. While both exams are computer adaptive and can be taken at home or at a testing center, there are other important differences to be aware of.

The GMAT consists of 80 questions and test takers are given three hours and seven minutes (or 187 minutes) to complete the exam; with the inclusion of breaks, the exam takes 3 ½ hours to complete. The GMAT is broken into four sections: Verbal Reasoning (36 questions), Quantitative Reasoning (31 questions), Integrated Reasoning (12 questions), and Analytical Writing Assessment (1 questions). The test is scored on a range between 200 (lowest) to 800 (highest), and higher scores are always better. Taking the GMAT at home costs $300 and taking it a test center costs $275, and there are fees for canceling or rescheduling your testing appointment.

The EA consists of 40 questions and test takers are given 90 minutes to complete the exam. There are no scheduled breaks included in the EA, and if you take an approved break, the assessment clock will continue to run. The EA is broken into three sections: Integrated Reasoning (12 questions), Verbal Reasoning (14 questions), and Quantitative Reasoning (14 questions). There is no essay on the EA. The test is scored on a range between 100 to 200. Each of the three sections receives a score ranging from 0 (low) to 20 (high). In addition to these three scores, you also receive a total score, which is calculated by combining the scores from each section and adding 120. If you received a score of 10 on Integrated Reasoning, 8 on Verbal Reasoning, and 12 on Quantitative Reasoning, you would have a combined section score of 30 and with the addition of 120, your total score would be 150. The EA was created as a threshold indicator, meaning if you score above the threshold of the business program you hope to attend, they can be confident you are ready for the academic rigor of their program. Taking the EA at home or at a test center costs $350, and there are fees associated with canceling or rescheduling your testing appointment.

Average EA and GMAT Scores of Graduate Business Students

It is relatively easy to identify the GMAT scores associated with the most prestigious business schools, and even a cursory internet search will yield useful information. Below are the average GMAT scores for some of the most selective business programs in the United States:

  • Columbia University: 727

  • Cornell Johnson College of Business: 696

  • Harvard Business School: 730

  • Wharton School: 732

  • Yale School of Management: 720

On the GMAT, higher scores are always better, but we encourage prospective students to reach out to the business programs they intend to apply to and gather the most current information about preferred GMAT scores and ranges.

Given the relative newness of the EA, one would expect limited information about scores to be available, but this is compounded by the fact that business programs do not regularly publish the average EA scores of incoming students. While 150 is considered an average EA score, such a designation may have more to do with statistics (the average score in a range of 100 to 200 is 150) than what business school applicants are most frequently scoring on the exam. Given that individual programs do not generally report EA scores, whether they are averages or percentiles, there is very little publicly available about "standard" or "typical" EA scores at a given business program. A few programs have published some data:

  • The Wharton 2024 EMBA incoming class had a median EA score of 156.

  • Since 2020, Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia has reported an average EA score of 153.

  • The University of Chicago Booth School of Business reported a 2021 EA average score of 154.

  • Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management reported an average EA score of 151.

New York University’s Stern School of Business noted that, "While a specific [EA] average is not available for the class, historically most admitted part-time MBA students score between a 147-162 on the exam." Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley notes that while applicants are typically required to submit GMAT or GRE scores, applicants with seven or more years of work experience as of the start of the fall semester may take the EA instead. While it seems that an EA score in the low-to-mid 150s is a good benchmark for being considered a competitive applicant, as always, we recommend contacting the specific MBA programs you plan on applying to and learning about their expectations regarding EA scores.

Choosing the Right Test

Business school applicants can decide between the EA and GMAT simply by taking practice versions of both tests and opting for the assessment that best matches their academic strengths. Those test takers with a background in business, who have some experience actually working in the field, may prefer taking the EA, as it is shorter, purports to relate more directly to "real world" business experience, and does not require as long to prepare for as the GMAT.

That being said, the GMAT is still viewed as the preferred standardized admission test by many business programs, so the first thing to know is what test is accepted or preferred by the business programs you wish to apply to. If the programs only accept the GMAT, that answers the question of which test to take. If both tests are accepted, an aspiring graduate business student should ultimately choose the test that allows him or her to receive the highest possible score.