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. Today, let’s dive more deeply into the question types and content areas for the Integrated Reasoning and Verbal sections of the Executive Assessment (EA).
Integrated Reasoning (IR)
When talking about the GMAT, I’d normally leave Integrated Reasoning to the last, since this section doesn’t matter as much on the GMAT. On the EA, however, the IR score is incorporated into your Total score (along with Quant and Verbal), so you do have to be well-prepared for IR.
As on the GMAT, you will answer 12 IR problems in 30 minutes and you will have access to an on-screen calculator. On the EA, though, you will complete the problems in 2 separate panels of 6 problems each. Within one panel, you can do the problems in any order you like. Some people like to go through first and answer just the ones that seem easy to them, then do a second pass to try the harder ones.
You’ll also need to keep track of your timing. At approximately the halfway mark, you’ll want to submit the first panel and start working on the second one; once you do this, you can’t go back to the first panel, so there’s a psychological factor to take into account. So let’s talk about an important concept for any standardized test: the “bail” problem.
A “bail” problem is one that you just don’t want to do. (Okay…that’s true for all of them. But it’s one that you actually are not going to do.) Assume that you’re going to bail on one problem per panel—you’re literally just going to guess in 10 seconds and reallocate that time to other problems in the section.
Why? Unless you’re trying to get everything right so you can teach for us…you don’t need to get everything right. And standardized tests are notorious for not giving us enough time to answer all the questions to the best of our ability. So rather than spreading 30 minutes across 12 problems, spread that 30 minutes across 10 problems and give yourself a better chance of actually answering a majority of those 10 correctly. So plant in your brain right now the idea that you are *not* going to try to do it all.
There are four IR problem types. If you manipulate and analyze data at your job already, then at least two of these problem types will feel not-too-weird to you: Tables and Graphs. Multi-Source Reasoning (MSR) problems can be a little more complicated, but they are primarily about synthesizing data and information from multiple sources—presumably you already do this on a daily basis at work. The fourth IR type, Two-Part, is a pretty classic “standardized-test” type of problem: You’re asked a multiple-choice problem and have to solve for or find the answer (the twist, as the name Two-Part implies: You have to find two answers for each problem).
The more verbal- or analytical-reasoning questions do not require any outside factual knowledge, but you will need some factual knowledge for the more quant-focused questions. The released official IR questions test the following quantitative concepts:
- Arithmetic, including such concepts as PEMDAS and unit conversion, as well as manipulations involving fractions, percents (including interest rate), and ratios.
- Algebra, including linear equations and formulas / functions / sequences. The latter can sometimes be quite advanced—those are good “bail” questions (guess and move on).
- Applied (story) problems, including a lot of statistics (average, weighted average, median, and correlation), as well as some rates & work and general applied story problems (translate and solve).
- Geometry includes some very basic “common sense” geometry (e.g., knowing that the square footage of a room can be found by multiplying the length and width). You don’t need to know any “real” geometry formulas / concepts for IR.
Want to try one? GMAC has posted some official sample EA problems on its website. (Note: You have to create a free account in order to access the problems.)
I mentioned earlier that our Integrated Reasoning & Essay guide says GMAT on the front cover but actually fully includes EA strategy as well as GMAT strategy in the guide itself. Every time we talk overall strategy, the book will have two sections: one for EA and one for GMAT. If you use this guide, read the EA part and skip the GMAT part.
The Verbal section will consist of the same three problem types that appear on the Verbal section of the GMAT, but you’ll only have to answer 14 problems. You’ll have 30 minutes or approximately 2 minutes and 8 seconds per problem (on average), and you’ll answer in two panels of 7 problems each.
If you sign up for a free account on the official site, you can also try some sample Verbal problems.
Sentence Correction (SC)
SC problems are grammar problems. You’ll be given a sentence and 5 answer choices, representing variations on that sentence. You have to say which version of the sentence is the best one—logical, unambiguous, and without any grammar errors. Plan to study all major rules and areas for SC: meaning, sentence structure, modifiers, parallelism & comparisons, and so on.
If you’ve never had a solid grounding in grammar (including how to recognize different parts of speech), then you may want to start with something like our Foundations of Verbal strategy guide and work your way up to the regular Sentence Correction unit in our All the Verbal strategy guide. In that second book, learn the main lessons for the major grammar topics and ignore anything that the book says is more advanced or more rarely tested (especially in the advanced chapters found in the All the Verbal Companion ebook that comes with the physical book).
Critical Reasoning (CR)
CR problems provide you with a short argument or plan and ask you to critique it in some way. You might be asked to do something with the conclusion (strengthen it, weaken it, identify an assumption underlying it). You might be asked to give a conclusion (inference) or fix a problem (explain a discrepancy).
The official EA CR questions cover the full range of GMAT CR question types, with an emphasis towards Inference and Strengthen questions. There are also a decent number of Weaken, Find the Assumption, and Discrepancy questions.
We can’t necessarily assume that the official test will follow these same trends. The GMAT tends to emphasize Find the Assumption and Weaken at about the same rate as Strengthen and Inference, so I would expect something similar to hold true for the EA. If you use the CR unit of our All the Verbal strategy guide, study the whole unit but prioritize Strengthen, Weaken, Find the Assumption, and Inference. The Companion ebook that comes with this strategy guide includes an extra chapter on wrong answer analysis for CR that you might find useful.
Reading Comprehension (RC)
This is a classic standardized test problem type: You read several paragraphs of information and then answer several questions about that same passage. So far, our teachers taking the real exam have all been given one RC passage with 4 related questions. We’re assuming that this is the standard pattern and most people will see this.
The passages and question types in the EA official tool run the gamut—Science, Social Science, and Business topics, and all of the usual question types. As on the GMAT, Specific Detail and Inference questions are by far the most common, with a smattering of Primary Purpose / Main Idea and various minor question types.
As with the rest of verbal, study the entire RC unit in our All the Verbal Strategy guide. In short: You can use everything in the All the Verbal Strategy guide.
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.
Best guess, you’ll see either no 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.
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:
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.)
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
– For an extra-high quant score: Digits and decimals
Unit 2: Algebra
– Linear equations and combos
– The basics of inequalities and max/min
– For an extra-high quant score: Quadratics and formulas
Unit 3: Word Problems
– Statistics (average, median, weighted average)
– 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 don’t do more geometry than that!)
The All the Quant guide comes with an accompanying ebook containing advanced math topics—no need to study any of them.
Good luck and happy studying!
Stacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, EA, 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.