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How to Prepare for the INSEAD EMBA Assessment - Study Tips + Resources

admissions ea emba gmat Apr 25, 2024
How to apply to INSEAD - INSEAD Assessment

INSEAD's Global Executive MBA is one of the top graduate business programs in the world, and it's very competitive to get accepted. As part of the application process, they have a mandatory testing requirement. One of your options is to take INSEAD's in-house exam called the INSEAD EMBA Assessment. In this article, we'll show you exactly what's on it and equip you with practical tips for how to prepare for the INSEAD Assessment so that you can get a great score and wow the admissions officers. 

Note: If you're the type who prefers to get your information via video, here's an in-depth look at the INSEAD Exam, sample practice questions, and recommended resources for preparing for it:

What's on the INSEAD EMBA Assessment?

The INSEAD Assessment is a standardized test designed and administered by INSEAD to gauge your readiness for their rigorous EMBA classrooms. It consists of two components:

  1. Written Component - Four 30-minute sections of 15 multiple choice questions each.
  2. Oral Component - 30 minutes of preparation + 40 minutes to present a business case study presentation

The written component tests math, reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and data interpretation. The four sections of the written component of the INSEAD Assessment are:

Section 1: Communication Analysis. Think of this as traditional reading comprehension. You will be given a passage of 300-400 words and asked to answer five multiple-choice questions based on the information in that passage. It's pretty straightforward. To prepare, increase the amount that you're reading between now and test day.

Section 2: Critical Thinking. These are logic-based questions. You will be given a short logical argument and answer a multiple-choice question about that argument. Often you are asked how to strengthen/weaken the argument, though you might also have to identify the author's assumption, draw a logical conclusion, or provide a missing premise. You may be able to answer some of these questions using intuition, though a basic primer on introductory logic will be helpful for most students.

Section 3: Data Interpretation. These questions are all about teasing out relevant information from data sources and answering questions based on that analysis. Some questions require you to interpret graphs and charts and answer questions about the information gleaned from those visual data sources. Other questions, called Data Sufficiency, provide a set of quantitative facts and ask you to determine whether or not the given information is sufficient to answer a particular question. Data Sufficiency questions are often foreign to most students and require a unique way of thinking about math. While not overly difficult, it will likely take you some time to get up to speed on how they work and fully understand what the answer choices mean.

Section 4: Data Analysis. These are your run-of-the-mill math problems. You will be presented with multiple-choice math questions or word problems and have to use your understanding of arithmetic, algebra, statistics, and data analysis to answer them. It may be time for you to brush off your "math cobwebs" if it's been a while since you've seen this type of math!

If you want to see sample questions for each of the sections of the INSEAD Assessment, click here. Give them a try and see how you do.Then watch our detailed video solutions for each of the questions for valuable content review and to learn test-taking strategies that will help you get similar questions right on test day.

How Should You Study for the INSEAD Assessment?

The best way to prepare for the INSEAD EMBA Assessment is to study for either the GMAT Exam or the GMAC's Executive Assessment (EA).

Let me explain.

The questions on each of the sections of the INSEAD Assessment are very similar to the questions on corresponding sections of the EA and GMAT. This makes sense because the core competencies necessary to do well in business school should necessarily be tested on any standardized test for admission. By way of a quick history lesson, the GMAT was designed over 70 years ago as the premier entrance exam for MBA programs and the Executive Assessment was spun off by the same parent organization, the GMAC, to offer a similar but more targeted exam for Executive MBA programs. INSEAD modeled its exam off of these two GMAC tests and tailored it to the school's Global Executive MBA program.

All of that said, the GMAT Exam and EA have a long history with robust official practice materials and are thus useful for preparing for the INSEAD Assessment because the content and question types are so similar.

Here's a breakdown of which sections to target on the Executive Assessment or GMAT that will translate to the four sections of the INSEAD EMBA Assessment.

I. Communication Analysis

Executive Assessment: The EA calls its comparable section "Reading Comprehension"
GMAT Exam: The GMAT calls its comparable section "Reading Comprehension"

II. Critical Thinking

Executive Assessment: The EA calls its comparable section "Critical Reasoning"
GMAT Exam: The GMAT calls its comparable section "Critical Reasoning"

III. Data Interpretation

Executive Assessment: The elements of Data Interpretation are tested in two different sections of the EA. The graphs/charts questions are in a section called "Integrated Reasoning" while the Data Sufficiency questions are part of the "Quantitative Reasoning" section.
GMAT Exam: The GMAT calls its comparable section "Data Insights"

IV. Data Analysis

Executive Assessment: The EA calls these question types "Problem Solving" and includes them in the "Quantitative Reasoning" section
GMAT Exam: The GMAT calls its comparable section "Quantitative Reasoning"

One more important note about studying for the INSEAD Assessment. The key to doing well on any standardized test -- and really anything in life that you're trying to master -- comes down to a combination of three core elements, what we call the "Success Triad." They are:

  1. Content Mastery
  2. Strategy
  3. Practice

Here's a visual representation of what I'm talking about.

As you start preparing for the INSEAD Assessment, keep this image in mind. Your goal should be to find that sweet spot right in the middle where your study sessions include preparation in each of these three core areas.

Content Review

This is where you need to make sure you're up to speed on the necessary math skills (especially algebra) and logical reasoning concepts that you'll see throughout the exam. If you don't work with charts and graphs in your current job, you might want to brush up on things like bar/line graphs and pie charts. It will also serve you well to increase the amount that you're reading between now and test day.

Taking a comprehensive prep course for the GMAT Exam or Executive Assessment is a great way to learn all of the foundational concepts that are tested on the INSEAD EMBA Assessment.


Strategy is what separates great test takers from merely good test takers. At the end of the day, exams like the INSEAD Assessment don't just test what you know, they test how well you take tests! That's where strategy comes in. Strategy includes things like time management, a valuable skill that can be honed through practice. Strategy also includes certain non-standard math strategies that will enable you to get right answers on hard math questions even if you don't know how to do the algebra. I teach one such strategy in the explanation video for the Data Analysis practice questions in our free INSEAD Assessment primer.


As previously discussed, the best way to practice for the INSEAD EMBA Assessment is to use official practice materials for the GMAT Exam or Executive Assessment. Both can be found on the official website. INSEAD also provides a PDF with practice questions for each section of the INSEAD Assessment on its Global Executive MBA page.

Which Exam Should You Take When Applying to INSEAD?

INSEAD accepts three different exams for its Global Executive MBA program: the INSEAD EMBA Assessment, the GMAC's Executive Assessment (EA), and the GMAT Exam. We've talked about using the GMAT or Executive Assessment to prepare for the INSEAD Assessment. But you can actually take one of those tests itself and use it when applying. So that begs the question... which exam should you take?

The answer to that question boils down to what other schools you're applying to and what their application requirements are. There's no reason to take more than one test, so you should choose the exam that's common to all of the schools you're applying to. Let's look at three different scenarios to see how this works.

Scenario 1: You're only applying to INSEAD. In this case, take the INSEAD Assessment. The one thing we haven't mentioned yet is that you have to be invited by INSEAD to sit for the INSEAD Assessment. In other words, you submit your application first and then if they view you as a strong candidate, they will invite you to complete your application by taking their exam. The benefit of this -- and the reason you should go this route if you're only applying to INSEAD -- is that you won't waste time or money studying for a test that you may not have to take. If you're invited to take the INSEAD Assessment, then you know INSEAD likes what you bring to the table and it will be worth fully investing in preparing for their exam.

Scenario 2: You're applying to INSEAD + two other schools that both require the Executive Assessment. In this case, take the Executive Assessment. Since INSEAD also accepts the EA, your one EA score will be useful for you everywhere you apply. By the way, this is the most common situation for most aspiring EMBA students. A majority of Executive MBA programs around the world only accept the Executive Assessment, since it was the exam designed by the GMAC specifically for EMBA programs. It's likely that preparing for and taking the Executive Assessment will be the best course of action for you.

Scenario 3: You're applying to INSEAD + one school that requires the Executive Assessment and one school that accepts either the GMAT or Executive Assessment. In this case, take the GMAT Exam. The reason is that the GMAT is most similar to the INSEAD Assessment because it contains all of the same question types as what's on the INSEAD Assessment without any superfluous question types that are found on the Executive Assessment but not the other two exams (namely, Sentence Correction). Note that very few schools currently accept the GMAT for their executive programs, so this is the least likely scenario.

Whichever exam you choose to take, we've got you covered with comprehensive prep courses for the Executive Assessment and GMAT exams. Still have questions about which exam is right for you or how to get accepted to INSEAD's Global Executive MBA Program? Contact us. We're here to help!


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