A Comparison of the EA and the GRE

EA and GRE Consideration at Business Schools

More than 1300 business schools and programs around the world currently accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as an admissions test, including some of the most highly ranked programs in the United States. While the GRE has been an established part of applying to graduate programs since 1936, the test was not intentionally designed to assess the skills and aptitude needed to be successful in a business program, although the exam is intended to assess abstract thinking across the areas of analytical writing, mathematics, and vocabulary.

In comparison, the Executive Assessment (EA) was developed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) specifically to assess the problem-solving and critical thinking skills needed to do well in a graduate business program. While the EA is not as established as the GRE, it is quickly growing in popularity among test takers and is currently accepted at more than 100 part-time, full-time, hybrid, and Executive MBA (EMBA) programs around the world, with more institutions of higher education accepting this test every semester.

EA and GRE Waivers

Though standardized testing is required for admission to most business schools, some institutions have programs that do not mandate the EA or GRE, 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 and GRE 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 GRE 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 GMAT and GRE

While the EA and the GRE assess many of the same skills, the two tests differ in structure, content emphasis, administration, and scoring.

The GRE requires roughly 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete, including breaks, and assesses verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. The GRE consists of six sections, and there is a 10-minute break after the third section. The structure of the exam is as follows:

  • Analytical writing: one section with two separately timed tasks, including one "Analyze an Issue" task and one "Analyze an Argument" task. Test takers have one hour to complete this section, or 30 minutes per task.

  • Verbal reasoning: There are two verbal reasoning sections, with 20 questions per section, and test takers have 30 minutes to complete each section.

  • Quantitative reasoning: There are two quantitative reasoning sections, with 20 questions per section, and test takers have 30 minutes to complete each section.

  • Unscored or research section: The number of questions on this section varies, as does the amount of time a test taker is given to complete it.

There are 82 total scored questions, although test takers may answer 102 or more questions depending on the number of questions contained in an unscored or research section. The GRE is scored on a scale of 130 to 170 in the verbal and quantitative sections, and higher scores are always better. The writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments. The total GRE score ranges from 260 to 340, with a "good" score typically being around the 75th percentile and a "great" score being around the 90th percentile or higher. The GRE can be taken at home or at a test center and costs $205 in most countries, although prices do vary. There are fees associated with canceling or rescheduling a test 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 GRE Scores of Graduate Business Students

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

  • Stanford GSB: 330

  • Chicago Booth: 325

  • Wharton: 324

  • Northwestern Kellogg: 327

  • Harvard Business School: 326

  • MIT Sloan: 325

  • Dartmouth Tuck: 324

  • UC Berkeley Haas: 323

On the GRE, 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 GRE 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.

Validity Study of the GRE

Very little research has been done on the GRE as a predictor of business school success, but a doctoral dissertation that deals with the subject was written by Charles Blake Bedsole at the University of Georgia in 2013. Bedsole studied data from 749 students at three institutions, and concluded that the GRE was a "significant predictor of final MBA GPA" and "accounted for slightly more variance" than the GMAT.

Over the past decade or so, however, there have been calls to retire the GRE. In 2014, professors from Vanderbilt University and the University of South Florida published a column in Nature denouncing the GRE as a predictor of academic success because it negatively affects student diversity by reducing the number of women, minorities, and economically disadvantaged students with high academic potential but low GRE scores. According to a 2016 article in The Atlantic by Victoria Clayton, research from Stanford University, the University of South Florida, New York University, the University of Missouri, and Educational Testing Service (ETS; the creator of the GRE) has demonstrated that the GRE underpredicts the success of minority students.

Choosing the Right Test

Business school applicants can decide between the EA and GRE 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 GRE.

That being said, those with less hands-on business experience or who are not that many years out from completing their undergraduate degree may prefer or feel more comfortable with the GRE. The best place to start is by researching the business schools you intend to apply to and identifying which standardized tests they accept. If they accept only the EA or the GRE, you will obviously want to take whichever test is accepted. If they accept both tests, an aspiring graduate business student should ultimately choose the test that allows him or her to receive the highest possible score.

Students whose verbal skills outpace their quantitative abilities may wish to consider the GRE due to its greater emphasis on essay writing and its lack of multi-step integrated reasoning problems. Most admissions consultants believe the GMAT is a better option for the majority of business school applicants, but students who struggle with the GMAT may gain an advantage by taking the GRE. As noted above, the average GRE scores of accepted students are not currently linked to business school rankings, but there is no evidence to suggest that institutions are accepting lower-scoring GRE students in large numbers. An aspiring graduate business student should ultimately choose the test that allows him or her to receive the highest possible score.

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