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NYU Stern's Rabia Ahmed on the Decision to Accept Executive Assessment

Eric Allen

NYU recently announced they are accepting GMAC's Executive Assessment (EA) for part-time and full-time MBA applications, shaking up the world of MBA admissions.  Stern now accepts the GMAT, GRE, and EA. Stern, which prides itself on being innovative, notes that this addition will add even greater flexibility to its MBA application process. The EA has historically been used as an assessment tool for Executive MBAs, so we’re taking a closer look at why Stern made the change and what the effect on applicants might be. Click here to skip right to our interview with Rabia Ahmed, Executive Director of MBA Admissions for NYU Stern School of Business.

About the Executive Assessment

Before we dive into what makes the Executive Assessment (EA) different, let’s talk about what hasn’t changed. The EA is made by the same people who invented the GMAT: the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). For that reason, you’ll see plenty of high-level overlap. The only section the GMAT has that the EA lacks is the Analytical Writing Assessment. Both exams have Integrated Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning sections.

While these two tests may look nearly identical on the surface, there’s a big difference in content between them. The GMAT is more focused on skills you learned and used in school like grammar, algebra, and geometry. In contrast, the EA was made to measure your real-world business skills. However, don’t think you can get away without a little math refresher on the EA. The EA will evaluate your ability to do things like interpret graphs and tables, evaluate if there is enough data to answer a given question, and problem-solve. Both tests cover critical reading and thinking skills.

If you’re thinking about taking the EA, here are a few key differences you’ll notice:

It’s Way Shorter

This is one of the biggest differences between these exams. While the GMAT is a hefty 3.5 hours long, the EA is just 90 minutes. While this may seem like a bonus, time management is the most commonly reported challenge for EA takers. Answer practice questions under time pressure if you want your test-day performance to match.

You Can Only Take it Twice

Unlike the GMAT, which has a generous retake policy (you can take it up to 5 times in a year and 8 times in total), you can only take the EA twice. As in, twice ever. You need to be highly strategic about how you study for and take this exam or risk losing your shot.

It’s Up and Coming

While it’s certainly not as ubiquitous as the GMAT, the EA is used by 65+ schools worldwide. However, most schools accept the EA in lieu of the GMAT only for their Executive MBA programs due to its emphasis on real-world experience. That’s why this announcement is such a huge deal! Stern isn’t the first school to adopt the test, but it is one of the few that is endorsing it for non-executive MBA applicants.

There’s No Minimum Experience Requirement

The EA was designed to accommodate the busy schedules of seasoned business people while leveraging the wealth of experience they have to offer. GMAC itself has not set a minimum work experience requirement for those taking or submitting the test, leaving that up to individual schools (Stern has opted against a minimum work experience requirement). That being said, we’d only recommend it for those with at least a moderate level of experience.

Now, without further ado, here is what Rabia Ahmed, Executive Director of MBA Admissions for NYU Stern School of Business, had to say to Admit.me President, Eric Allen, about this development:


[Admit.me]: What was the reason behind using the EA as an evaluative tool for full-time MBA programs, specifically your traditional 2-year program, when other schools require the GMAT and the EA was historically used for candidates with extensive work experience?

[Rabia]: Stern is a school on the move and has always been an early adopter. We were among the first programs to accept the GRE as a second choice to the GMAT, and now we are excited to also accept the EA. As one of three standardized test options available to students, the EA provides a valid predictor of graduate school academic readiness. It's been created specifically to measure the skills and knowledge of professionals. It is also designed to require modest preparation and is shorter in length at 90 minutes.

[Admit.me]: The guidance provided on your website states that the EA is a "valid predictor" of academic readiness. Are you basing that on data from your current MBA cohorts or using broader EA data? If using your own data, do you think the cohorts are meaningfully similar enough to make the assumption that a "valid predictor" of academic readiness for one program is a valid predictor of academic readiness in another program?

[Rabia]: The standardized test is just one piece of the application. Our admissions process is holistic, we review the entire application before making a decision, and every candidate we admit is invited for an interview. Accepting the EA allows another option for students to choose from in addition to the GMAT or GRE exam. Administered by our trusted industry partner, GMAC, the EA is accepted by almost 70 schools around the world, including Executive, Part-time and Full-time MBA programs.

[Admit.me]: How, if at all, will this change how NYU is ranked?

[Rabia]: We often hear that one of the most daunting parts of the application process is taking the standardized test. This is why we wanted to expand the options available to prospective students, so they can choose from either the GMAT, GRE or EA. The EA was specifically designed to be easy to schedule, shorter in duration, and require only a modest time commitment to prepare.

[Admit.me]: There is guidance that the committee has no preference of GRE, GMAT or EA, however, can we assume that an applicant with less work experience to show on their profile has more to "prove" in a holistic application evaluation and therefore should strongly consider the more lengthy GMAT / GRE formats? 

[Rabia]: We have no preference for any test over another and will consider the test with the highest overall score. There is also no minimum work experience required to apply to Stern. We consider all aspects of an applicant’s candidacy before making a decision, which includes their academic ability, professional work experience and EQ endorsements as well as personal characteristics.

Executive Assessment Rabia Ahmed NYU EA NYU Stern GMAT GMAC

Eric Allen

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Eric Allen

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