How To Study and Prepare for the GMAT, GRE, and EA

Wharton requires a very high academic caliber of students in the MBA Program for Executives to ensure parity between the full-time MBA and executive MBA program. Having the same performance for both programs has been a bedrock principle since the EMBA program’s inception more than 45 years ago.

The Wharton MBA Program for Executives requires applicants to take the GMAT or GRE – or the Executive Assessment (EA)  for those with at least eight years of full-time work experience) – which are diagnostic of intellectual aptitude, as well as preparation in the analytical disciplines. Applicants’ willingness to undertake the preparation for these tests is an important signal to the Admissions Committee. The tests are also an indicator for the applicant of what to expect in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives. 

If you are uncertain about which test to take, check out the guide below for study tips from alumni.

How to Study for the GMAT, GRE, and EA

Step 1: Understand your capabilities

The first step is to consider how you learn. How much structure do you need? Will taking practice tests be sufficient? Do you need an online course, or will an in-person instructor or private tutor keep you more focused?

Kristina: At first, I wasn’t too worried about the GMAT because I usually test well. However, after attending a GMAT review session at Wharton San Francisco, I realized that a review course would be very helpful. I was traveling a lot for my job and have a young family, so I decided a course would help structure my study time. I signed up for an online course that ran on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7-10 am to keep me focused and hold me accountable. Leading up to the test, I took several official GMAT practice exams.

Lizzie: I started working with a tutor. It was like having a personal trainer … My tutor taught me timing strategies. I learned when to abandon a problem and to pay attention to the clock.

Step 2: Choose a test: GMAT, GRE or EA

David: The Admissions Committee does not have a preference for which exam applicants take. Since I have more than eight years of full time work experience, I had my choice of GMAT, GRE or EA, so I did my homework on all three exams and decided that the Executive Assessment would be the best fit for me. I chose the EA because it’s a shorter exam overall and it caters to my busy lifestyle. 

Step 3: Choose a study strategy

Determine whether you will self study, complete an online course, attend an in-person class, or hire a tutor. Depending on your progress and personal study habits, you can utilize any of these options to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.

David: I wanted to jump into a practice exam to see where my weaknesses were. I took several practice exams on the GMAC website and was able to see which questions I was getting wrong, which let me know which areas I needed to spend more time on. The benefit of taking practice exams through GMAC is that the practice exams are structured exactly how the real EA is structured. It helps you get familiar with the format of the exam so that you don’t have to worry about it the day of the exam. 

Step 4: Decide when you will be studying

Think about when you will study. What time can you carve out of a day or week. If you have children, can you study after they go to bed? Do you have commuting time on a train or a longer lunch break to study? If you take an in-person course or hire a tutor, when will that fit into your schedule? Come up with a study plan that works for you.

Lizzie: When I was studying, I was pregnant and had a young son who was a great sleeper. So I would come home from work and spend time with my family. After he went to bed, I would study from 7:30-9:30 pm and then wake up at 5:30 am to study more. It required planning and communication with my husband to carve out that time, but it was great practice for the studying I did when enrolled in the program.

Kristina: I have two young boys (they were 8 and 5), and at first it was difficult to find time to study. My family lives in the area and they were very supportive. They took turns taking my boys out when I was doing my course on weekend mornings or for an afternoon so I could study. Also, I travel a lot and thought I could study while traveling. But there isn’t that much room on a plane for your text book, papers, and calculator. Think through how and where you’ll study.

Step 5: Decide when you will start studying

While the time required to prepare for a test differs among students, two to three months seems to be the average recommendation from current students and alumni. The time depends on an applicant’s quantitative background and comfort with the principles on the test.

Step 6: Create a study schedule

When you decide to start preparing for the test, make sure you have enough time to take the test again (if needed) before the admissions deadline. All applicants must submit standardized test results by the application deadline to be considered for admission.

Kristina: Make sure you carve out enough time to take the test. Don’t try to squeeze it into your schedule; you want to be in the zone when you take it. Also, leave enough time in case you want to take the test again before the admissions deadline. I was planning to apply in Round 1, so I took the exam in November. Unfortunately, I tried to cram it in between business trips when I had 12 hours on the ground in San Francisco – that was a big mistake. I did OK, but didn’t perform like I felt like I should have. So I took it again when I could dedicate more time to the test and made sure I was really focused, which added 50 points to my score.

Step 7: Take the GMAT, GRE, or EA

The Wharton MBA Program accepts scores from both at-home tests and tests taken at a testing center. If you decide to take the exam at a testing center, make sure you know where it’s located and how long it takes to get there. Pack snacks to keep your energy up. If you decide to take the test at home, ensure you can find a private, quiet space to take the exam with minimal distractions.

David: I took the EA in a testing center because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I find that when I’m in an environment I’m not as familiar with, I tend to concentrate more and focus on the task at hand. At home there are lots of distractions that could take my mind off the exam. At the testing center, you have your own designated workspace, and the only distraction is the noise from other test-takers’ keyboards. I put on headphones for zero distractions.  

Step 8: Chat with an Admissions Advisor (optional)

If you would like feedback on your test score, schedule a conversation with an admissions advisor. They can discuss your application and whether additional tests would be helpful.

Lizzie: I was a good student and I work in finance, so I didn’t think the GMAT would be that hard. I did some self-study and then took the test during my first trimester of pregnancy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling so great that day and wasn’t at the top of my game. Needless to say, I didn’t do that well. Afterward, I had a conversation with an Admissions Committee member who suggested that I take the test again. I started working with a tutor … That did the trick and I improved my score by 70 points when I took the test again.

Step 9: Retake the test (if needed)

David: I ran out of time when I first took the EA. I think that as a high achiever, I can be a bit of a perfectionist. When I was taking the exam, I really wanted to answer every question, so I fixated on some problems which slowed me down. I did well my first time, but I knew I could do better if I took it a second time. The second time around, I managed my time more efficiently by skipping hard problems and only coming back to them at the end when I had time left over. I improved my score by several points with this tactic.

Step 10: Submit your application

Applicants self-report their test scores within the application, so it’s important that they have taken the exam and received their preliminary test score report prior to submitting the application. When an applicant is accepted, the admissions team will pull their official test scores directly from the testing organization. Information regarding school codes is below:

GMAT

The GMAT codes for the Wharton MBA Program for Executives are:
Philadelphia: G56-97-36
San Francisco: G56-97-14
Global: G56-97-44
For GMAT information and registration, visit: http://www.mba.com

GRE

The GRE code for the Wharton MBA Program for Executives is 6802.
For GRE information and registration, visit:  http://www.ets.org/gre/

EA
(Wharton requires applicants to have eight years of full-time work experience to take the EA)
The EA codes for the Wharton MBA Program for Executives are:
Philadelphia: G56-97-36 
San Francisco: G56-97-14
Global: G56-97-44
For EA information and registration, visit:  http://www.gmac.com/ea

Lizzie Tammaro, WG’18

Lizzie Tammaro

Current Role
Department Head at Vanguard in Malvern, PA

David Miller, WG’21

Current Role
Vice President & General Manager, Tactical Systems at Intellisense Systems, Inc.

Kristina Best, WG’18

Kristina-Best-299x400

Current Role
Chief of Staff, Access and Channel Management at Genetech in San Francisco

View Lizzie and Kristina’s full article here.