The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and EA (Executive Assessment) are unique tests with several differing aspects. In general, the quantitative ability section is tougher on the GMAT. The quant section of EA is on a similar level except for the fact that geometry questions are absent, whereas, even though GRE quant is relatively less challenging, it contains a plethora of geometry questions which most test takers find cumbersome to deal with. There are other major differences, and some subtle ones, which we are going to try and highlight.
The first step is to decide which test to take. The GMAT is geared towards business school admissions whereas GRE is more widely accepted across different graduate programs. If you are sure about business school though, GMAT is the test you should prefer (Although in recent years, the GRE has gained significant traction among MBA aspirants and schools). The EA is an alternative to the GMAT, but it is to be taken by candidates with long-term work experience (8+ Years). The idea behind the EA was to create a test that would be well suited to the needs of experienced candidates while also having a standardized methodology of testing their academic propensity and assimilating elements that refer to real-world experience and application. Unlike the GMAT which is more of an aptitude test, which means essentially, the higher you score the better; the EA was designed to be a ‘readiness assessment’ test, designed to test whether you are equipped to undertake the academic rigor of an MBA program after a long professional track record. You do not need an extremely high score to be considered to be qualified for undertaking the program.
The key structural differences between the GMAT and GRE are as follow;
- GMAT is an adaptive test on a question-by-question basis, whereas the GRE is adaptive by section.
- GMAT requires more critical reasoning.
- GRE verbal puts a significant amount of emphasis on vocabulary, whereas GMAT mostly tests grammar and critical reasoning skills.
- GMAT does not allow you to course correct whereas the GRE does, i.e., one can go back to previous questions in the currently active section, and change the marked answer.
- GRE allows calculator use (only in IR).
- GMAT is a 3 hours and 7 minutes long test, whereas GRE lasts for 3 hours and 45 minutes.
The structural differences between the GMAT and EA are as follow;
- The integrated reasoning section IS counted in the scoring methodology of the EA.
- The AWA section is absent in the EA.
- In the EA, there are no optional breaks in between sections. Every minute is precious.
- Geometry is absent in the Quant section of the EA.
- While the EA is still an adaptive test, in contrast to the GMAT, it is multi-stage adaptive design. While the GMAT gets easier or tougher after every single question, the EA adapts after a block of questions. Each section of the exam comes in two panels. The first panel is almost always of medium difficulty (you can skip around questions in that specific panel). After the first panel is submitted, the next set of questions are easier or tougher based on how bad or good you performed in the previous set of questions. This translates across sections, meaning your second panel of IR decides the difficulty of the first verbal panel, and the second verbal panel decides the difficulty of the first Quantitative Aptitude panel.
- GMAT is a 3 hours and 7 minutes long test, whereas the EA lasts for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
The Scoring Methodologies for the tests are as follows;
- GMAT: The scores from the verbal and quant sections are combined to give a composite score ranging from 200-800. Anything above 680 is a good score, however, 720 is the threshold that every candidate should be looking to cross (GMAT scores are often used as a shortlisting criterion by employers). The score range for Analytical Writing is 0-6, in half-point increments, and the score range for the Integrated Reasoning section is 1-8, in one-point increments (the AWA and IR sections do not impact the composite score).
- The EA Test: At the end, you will receive 4 scores. The raw score of each section (Verbal, Quant, IR) individually (0-20), and the total score on a scoring scale of 100-200. The highest practical score for each section appears to be 18(Getting all questions correct on official EA practice tests). The scores of the 3 sections are then combined and added to 120, to obtain your official final score. The practical final score range is approximately between 120 (all incorrect + 120) and 174 (all correct + 120). A score of 150+ is generally regarded as a good score across institutes. There are no official percentiles or average acceptance scores of schools that are released. So unlike GMAT, when you cross the initial threshold in EA, you should be good to go and the thumb rule ‘The higher you score the better’ does not really apply per se.
- GRE: Scores range from 130-170 in one-point increments for verbal and quant sections. scores range from 0-6 in the Analytical Writing section. The three section scores are reported separately and not combined into a single composite score. The total score ranges between 260-340.
Ultimately, which test you choose to take depends on your background and strengths. If you are undecided on what course to pursue, or you have a very strong vocabulary but weak Quant, take the GRE. If you are absolutely sure about joining an MBA course, or you have a very strong Quant, we suggest you to take the GMAT Test. If you are a professional with north of 8 years of experience, take the EA. These are just a few examples of how your background and strengths would play a role in the selection of the test, and by no means is this an exhaustive list of cases. Analyse the pros and cons well, and make an informed decision. All the best!
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