The GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) section is seldom a priority for test takers who are predominantly focused on improving in the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections. However, there is enough evidence suggesting that the IR section is becoming an increasingly important assessment for MBA admission.
In fact, when you study for the quant and verbal sections, you are indirectly preparing for the IR section, which tests both verbal and quantitative skills. However, to do well on the IR section, you need to become familiar with new question formats and know how to separate information you need from information you do not need.
What is Integrated Reasoning?
The IR section, introduced in 2012, measures test takers’ ability to analyze data and evaluate information presented in multiple formats and from multiple sources. The main purpose of the section is to test the skills that are considered vital for a 21st-century business professional, specifically the ability to take in large amounts of information and make sound decisions. Test takers are asked to analyze data in the form of words, charts, graphs and tables.
Check out: GMAT Tutorials: Integrated Reasoning Part I
There are four types of questions in the Integrated Reasoning Section—Multi-Source Reasoning, Table Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, and Two-Part Analysis. The questions aim to test your quantitative and verbal reasoning, either separately or in combination. The section takes 30 minutes to complete.
The questions are given in a random order and are not computer adaptive. The total GMAT score, which ranges from 200 to 800, does not include the IR score, which is separate and ranges from 1 to 8.
IR measures important skills for business decision-makers
Guided by the conviction that making sound decisions in business is arguably the most important skill for the global business leader, business schools asked GMAC, the organization that administers the GMAT exam, to create a section that tests these key skills. The skills being tested were identified by a 2009 survey of 740 management faculty worldwide.
Shortly before the introduction of the section, Christine Poon, dean of The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business (US), said:
This has been called the era of big data, and it is increasingly evident that the future will be claimed by those able to see the critical patterns among overwhelming complexity.
All involved parties agreed that business professionals need to be able to make decision and choices on a daily basis even though they have incomplete information. While GMAT’s Quantitative and Verbal sections are a good indicator, predicting how students will perform in business school, they do little to test their ability to make sound decisions using various sources of information. So, against the background of changing management program curricula and business practices, the IR section was created.
Schools are looking at the IR section
It took the newly introduced section some time to take off, but it was not long before admissions officers started viewing it as a key yardstick of essential skills. Kaplan Test Prep’s 2015 survey of admissions officers at over 200 business schools across the United States and the United Kingdom found that almost 60% consider the separate score on the IR section to be an important part of the overall GMAT score evaluation.
Check out: GMAT Tutorials: Integrated Reasoning Part II
Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep, said:
As more and more applicants submit scores from the current GMAT over the next couple of years, Integrated Reasoning performance might continue to increase in importance, which is why we strongly advise MBA applicants to prepare for and do well on this section. Remember that Integrated Reasoning receives its own special score, so doing well on it can distinguish you in a positive way if your performance on other sections of the exam like Quantitative, Verbal or Analytical Writing Assessment is lacking. A high score on IR can give you that competitive edge. On the flip side, a low score can hurt you.
Yet another indication that schools tend to take notice of the IR section comes from PrepAdviser’s regular exchanges with admissions officers. Most of them claim that they take into account all GMAT sections, but more importantly, they point out that they have a holistic approach. While a good GMAT score will give you a solid base with which to start your MBA application, the other components of the application such as essays and interviews are equally important.
Former admissions officer, currently head of Admissions Consulting at Advent Group, lliana Bobova explains that the scores on the different sections of the GMAT are also evaluated against the academic and professional background of the applicants. Admissions officers are always looking for evidence that prospective MBA student have the essential skill set for success in graduate business school. This evidence comes from different parts of the application and test scores. An unbalanced score is always a red flag for an admission officer.
Since its introduction in 2012, IR has been the subject of many different opinions about its importance. Some say that a high IR score will not make a big impression on business schools, while others believe that a low score would raise eyebrows. The truth is, however, that you need to take the section seriously because it tests skills that are essential for your success both in the classroom and later on as a business leader.