Integrated Reasoning questions are designed to resemble problems you will encounter in business school and in your career. The Integrated Reasoning section is the only section of the GMAT that gives you access to an onscreen calculator — but don’t be tempted to over-rely on the calculator; IR questions are designed to test complex reasoning far more than simple computation.
- Time: 30 minutes
- Format: 12 questions, some with multiple parts
- Tests ability to solve complex problems using data from multiple sources
Your IR score does not count toward your 200–800 total score. You receive a separate IR score from 1 to 8. The Integrated Reasoning section consists of four different question types:
Graphics Interpretation questions test your ability to interpret and analyze data presented visually in graphs or graphical images. For each question, you will see a graph with accompanying text and two questions.
As with a Reading Comprehension passage, you do not need to absorb every bit of information on the graph to answer the questions. What you do need to do is get the gist of the graph and what it contains so that you can efficiently find the information you need. You will then read the question stem, view the answer choices, and use the information in the graph to select the correct answer.
Graphics Interpretation questions feature many different types of graphs, including line graphs, scatter plots, Venn diagrams, and even geological timelines.
As its name suggests, Multi-Source Reasoning tests your ability to take information from multiple sources and synthesize it to answer questions. The information will be presented on two to three tabbed pages. You will have to click through the tabs to find the information you need. The data can be in the form of text, charts, or tables and may be presented in a combination of all three.
The information on the tabs may seem overwhelming, so you’ll need to approach it similarly to how you approach Reading Comprehension. Get the gist of what the tabs contain and take brief notes highlighting the main points of each tab. Don’t try to absorb all of the information at first, but make sure you scan all of the information on each tab so that you’ll know where to find it when you answer the questions.
The tabbed pages are on the left side of the screen, and the questions are on the right. There may be more than one page of questions associated with a prompt, in which case you must click on the Next button to advance to the next page of questions. You can get hands-on experience with tabbed pages in your online resources. Take a few minutes to become familiar with the navigation of this section. Doing so will save you valuable time when answering the questions.
Some of the questions about the tabbed information will be in the standard multiple-choice format that you’re familiar with from the Verbal and Quantitative sections. Others, called multiple–dichotomous choice questions, will require you to evaluate multiple statements individually; you may be required to figure out whether statements are true or whether certain expenditures are within a given budget. Each of these yes/no or true/false questions will require you to evaluate three separate statements.
Table Analysis questions measure your ability to interpret and analyze information presented in a sortable table similar to a spreadsheet. You will see a table, a paragraph of text that describes it, and one set of the same three-part multiple–dichotomous choice questions you saw for Multi-Source Reasoning (i.e., yes/no, true/false, etc.).
Directly above the table, you will see a Sort button that, when clicked, opens a drop-down menu of options that correspond to the column headers in the table. When you select a category from the drop-down menu, the entire chart will be sorted in order based on the category you select. If the information in that column is numerical, it will be sorted from lowest to highest. If the information in that column is text, it will be sorted in alphabetical order. In this book, a working Sort button is obviously not an option, so use the column headings to determine how the tables can be sorted. While working through the questions in this book, decide how you would sort the information before answering each question. To gain experience sorting tables in the test interface, use the questions in your online resources.
The key to understanding the table is the paragraph of text that accompanies it. Read this first to get a general overview of the table’s content. Then look at the table itself, paying special attention to the table headings and the drop-down menu.
Simply put, Two-Part Analysis questions have solutions in two parts. Two-Part Analysis questions consist of a few lines of text and instructions to select choices in a table based on the given information. These questions may test quantitative or verbal skills.
Solving an algebraic Two-Part Analysis usually necessitates setting up an algebraic equation with two variables. You’ll want to begin by first reading the text and identifying the two unknowns, which may be provided or may need to be assigned variables. Then, you’ll create one or more equations that relate the two values or variables. Once you’ve set up your equations, you can simplify them and look for a match (if the answer choices are algebraic equations or expressions) or start plugging in answer choices from the table until you find two corresponding values that work together.
Verbal Two-Part Analysis questions draw on many of the same logical reasoning skills, such as drawing supported inferences and finding assumptions, that you use on the Verbal section of the GMAT. For example, after reading about a type of dwelling used by a certain species of animal, you might identify from among the choices a characteristic that must be true of all dwellings of that type and a characteristic that can never be true. Alternatively, you might be asked to strengthen and weaken an author’s argument.
How to Prepare for IR
Integrated Reasoning questions measure many of the same skills that you use for the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the test, such as paraphrasing information, finding keywords, determining whether an inference is supported, and using estimation instead of calculation.
IR is one of many opportunities to advance your candidacy. Even if an MBA program does not place any particular emphasis on IR, strong IR results can only help your candidacy. A solid score can boost your admissions chances—and can certainly hurt those chances if you blow it off as inconsequential.
However, that raises another question: if the IR score does not figure as heavily as the Quantitative and Verbal scores do with business schools, how should you prioritize it in your GMAT prep?
GMAT IR is identical to the GMAT Quantitative and Verbal sections in that you use a college-level command of grammar, reasoning, vocabulary, and math to negotiate critical thinking puzzles amidst the constraints of the clock and the online testing scenario. Similarly, IR offers a business-oriented, problem-solving scenario in which you must manipulate spreadsheets and statistical information in order to deduce inferences that answer the questions asked.
Thus, the primary way to grow in IR is to first refresh yourself on the grammar and math you haven’t seen in years to strengthen your cognitive prowess in the Quantitative and Verbal sections. Once you have rehearsed the pattern-recognition, translation, and work-smarter behaviors demanded by the Quantitative and Verbal sections to the point that you are raising your scores in those sections, then apply yourself to the different medium presented by IR. Here’s one great way to approach your GMAT prep:
- Drill yourself back to a daily familiarity with the math and language concepts demanded by the Quantitative and Verbal sections.
- Apply that knowledge to the patterned ways that the Quantitative and Verbal sections require you to use those concepts.
- Practice those applied behaviors until they’re second nature, and your Quantitative and Verbal scores rise.
- Acquaint yourself with the unique medium and format of the Integrated Reasoning section. Get used to the repeated ways in which IR presents information and questions and the patterned methods to efficiently attack the problem solving it demands.
- When you see your IR practice scores rise, take full-length practice tests so that you encounter IR in its “natural habitat.” That way, you’ll then see the continuity between the cognitive behaviors demanded by IR and all the other sections of the GMAT.