EMBA: How Business Schools Assess Your Aptitude for Success

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Are you apt to immerse in an EMBA

Business professionals who want to hone a competitive edge, build their network, and generally up their game professionally by attending an Executive MBA programme need to meet a host of admission requirements. One of them is the entrance exam, which seeks to ensure that they have the skills to be successful in a challenging academic environment.

Depending on the school they target, experienced business professionals typically face three options when it comes to aptitude exams: GMAT/GRE/Executive Assessment, an in-house exam or no exam at all.

Exam requirements and the specific conditions attached to them vary widely across programmes. Most often, applicants can choose between the GMAT and Executive Assessment. Some schools also throw the GRE into the mix. Others generally require a score from an aptitude test but point out that exemptions may be available for some highly experienced aspirants. Some aspirants are asked to sit a test only if their prior academic work does not show distinction or clear evidence of strong quantitative and logical reasoning skills. There are also schools that ask applicants to take an Executive Assessment or other exam only if they do not hold a first higher degree. And there are also a host of business schools that have their own in-house exams, which are often shorter and case-oriented.

Below, the Access MBA Guide offers you an overview of the main assessment options available to EMBA aspirants.

Aptitude tests

At first sight, you may feel that it is a little unfair for a business school to ask you to sit exams as demanding as the GMAT or the GRE General Test. Supposing that you are a mid-career, senior leader in your company, you may well have thought that your test-taking days were long past. You encounter countless challenges every day; you solve problems that very few people can solve; and you have significant experience and skills that are highly valued in the real business world. You may feel that an aptitude test will not be able to capture the vast array of skills and abilities you have honed for many years and be concerned that a low score could compromise your chances of gaining admission to an EMBA programme.

And yet many schools such as the Yale School of Management (US), the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (US), and London Business School (UK) list the GMAT and GRE in their admissions requirements sections. They do this for a good reason. Yes, they know that experienced professionals have been away from the classroom for a while and their test-taking skills may have gone rusty. However, Executive MBA programmes are academically rigorous and business schools want to ensure that admitted students have the aptitude and motivation to do well in a dynamic learning environment.

Typically, there is no minimum score requirement for admission to EMBA programmes, as schools point out that scores represent just one of several criteria they use to make an admissions decision. Admissions committees interpret scores in the context of the overall application and the applicant’s profile.

Executive Assessment

The Executive Assessment test has been developed specifically for Executive MBA applicants by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organisation that administers the GMAT. GMAC partnered with six leading Executive MBA programmes to pioneer the exam. It was only launched several years ago but is already being used for admission to more than 200 programmes.

The creators of the exam maintain that it is an assessment that is designed to feel less like a hurdle and more as an opportunity to confirm readiness. Vineet Chhabra, who leads the team that oversees the planning and delivery of the GMAT, says about the Executive Assessment:

“We are really looking at more of a readiness assessment versus a selectivity assessment.”

Although its structure is similar to the GMAT’s, the Executive Assessment is just 90 minutes long and, unlike the GMAT, it does not have an Analytical Writing Assessment section. Preparation also takes much less time. According to GMAC, about 75% of test takers spend less than six weeks preparing for the exam. Executive Assessment classes are rare. Bob Stanton, a tutor at EAS Milan, says his prep centre does not receive requests for the exam, adding that:

“If somebody wants to prepare for the Executive Assessment, that would be on a private-lesson basis.”

In-house tests

In addition to the GMAT, GRE, and Executive Assessment, some business schools offer their own in-house tests. These tests are designed to evaluate the analytical abilities and critical thinking of busy senior-level professionals. Although similar to the GMAT, these exams may test many areas that the GMAT does not, and vice versa.

INSEAD (France) is one of those schools that have their own exam. It is called INSEAD Assessment Day and the school encourages aspirants to prepare by practising actual GMAT questions with a focus on data analysis, data interpretation, communication analysis, and critical thinking. Like the Executive Assessment, the exam is not meant to be used for selectivity purposes. INSEAD says:

“You should not feel like you have to hit a particular target. The class will be balanced by people of different strengths; the test simply aids the admissions committee to understand your profile better.”

Filipe Teodosio sat the in-house tests of HEC Paris (France) and INSEAD, eventually gaining admission to HEC. He chose the schools’ own exams because they are specifically geared towards experienced professionals and require solving real business or corporate problems. “I was more motivated to prepare for the in-house tests because they represent real issues and take less time to prepare compared to the GMAT.” Time is a key factor for busy professionals like Filipe, who works 12 hours a day and sometimes during weekends.

It took him a total of 10 days to prepare. He has held many positions, including managerial ones at French aerospace and defence electronics group Thales, and this experience helped him a lot with the exams.

“The less professional experience you have, the longer you need to prepare,” he says.

He also took the GMAT a few years ago, which also helped him do well in the in-house tests.

No tests

Some schools do not require any aptitude exams, but this does not mean that admission to their programmes is easy. Applicants still have to show a strong career record with solid professional experience, including managerial experience. They also need to provide evidence of senior leadership potential, intercultural competence, teamwork skills, etc. Programmes have many ways to assess your suitability and potential.

Exams are often viewed as a nuisance or a hurdle, but they are also a tool to check if you have what it takes to thrive in an academic environment. And EMBA entrance exams in particular can act as a reliable indicator of your potential to do well in school after many few years away from the classroom. It is a hurdle worth jumping.

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