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What should you expect from the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning (IR) section? What kinds of questions will you face, and what competencies are being measured?
Like the rest of the exam, IR questions are designed to test skills you’ll need during your MBA and throughout your business career.
IR problems are a natural extension of the concepts you will study for the Quant and Verbal sections. In other words, you will need to integrate and apply those critical reasoning, reading comprehension, and quantitative skills to analyze data and solve complex problems.
In this post, we focus on 5 things test-takers should know about the IR section, and how these questions relate to practical workplace skills.
1. Structure, length, and score value of the IR section
Students have 30 minutes to complete the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT. The section consists of 12 questions, and is non-adaptive—meaning the difficulty level of the questions will not change according to your performance.
The top score for IR is an eight, and is tallied separately from the rest of the exam. So, you will have an overall GMAT score for the Quant and Verbal sections (out of a possible 800), and separate scores for Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning.
We’ll talk more about how your IR score could impact your B-school application a bit later in the post.
2. There are 4 kinds of IR questions on the GMAT
The 12 IR questions on the GMAT break down into four main question-types. Each one asks you to sift through and interpret data in different ways, using different kinds of sources:
You’ll need to analyze information presented in a graph or chart, and answer two questions using a drop-down menu. There are usually three possible answer choices for each dropdown menu.
The types of graphics you may encounter include venn diagrams, pie charts, scatterplots, line graphs, and bar charts.
You’ll be presented with a spreadsheet-type table, and will need to sort and analyze its contents in order to answer a series of questions. Each question will have two possible answers (for example, yes/no, true/false, inferable/not inferable).
You’ll navigate between three tabs, each containing different information on a subject. You must sort through the information and determine which data is needed to answer the questions. Multi-source reasoning may draw on both critical reasoning and quantitative skills.
You’ll be presented with two columns, and will need to select an answer from each column to solve a problem with a two part solution. Two-part analysis questions may be quant or verbal-oriented, and often account for four of the 12 IR questions you’ll encounter on the GMAT.
3. IR answer formats and rules
The way answers are displayed in the IR section is a little different from the Quant and Verbal format. Answers may appear in drop-down menus, and most questions require several responses.
It’s important to note that no partial credit is awarded for IR problems. If a single question requires several answers, you must get all of them correct to receive full marks.
Also, you’ll need to submit answers to all parts of each question before you can move on to the next screen. And once you’ve entered your answers and moved on, you won’t be allowed to go back and make changes.
4. IR questions focus on skills considered crucial in business
While some of the Quant and Verbal problems you’ll drill during GMAT prep may seem a bit abstract, the IR section is often considered the most “realistic” part of the exam.
Integrated reasoning is something you’ll do every day at business school and on-the-job, as you sort through information, make sense of multiple streams of data, and extrapolate outcomes.
Now that we’ve moved into the era of “big data”, where virtually everything is tracked and measured, the ability to work with and make sense of all that data has become paramount in business. This is what’s being tested on the IR section of the GMAT.
5. Your IR score is increasingly important for B-school admissions
When the Integrated Reasoning section was added to the GMAT back in June, 2012, B-schools weren’t quite sure how the scores would impact admissions decisions.
But now that several years have passed, and more data has been accumulated on how IR performance correlates with business success, schools have begun placing more emphasis on your IR score.
A 2015 survey of 200 admission officers in the US and UK revealed that 59% consider the separate IR score “an important part of their evaluation of a prospective student’s overall GMAT score.” That’s up from 41% just one year before.
Of course, the degree of emphasis varies by school—but it’s safe to say that your IR result matters much more now than it did five years ago. The score may not “make or break” your application, but it can be a key factor in positioning yourself as a competitive, well-rounded candidate.
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