The only Integrated Reasoning question type on the GMAT with more than one question that pertains to a set of data is the multi-source reasoning question. For this question type, the GMAT presents different kinds of information in a series of two or three tabs. Each tab conveys a relevant aspect of a set of circumstances. The topics of the scenarios vary greatly.

You may have information concerning a certain scientific phenomenon, such as black holes or plant photosynthesis, or you may be asked to apply data that relates to business situations, such as hiring decisions or event planning.

At least one of the tabs in the set contains several paragraphs of written information on a subject. Others may contain additional paragraphs or data contained in tables, charts, or graphs. You use the resources in all tabs to answer several questions, most of which have several parts.

For example, this figure shows you the first tab for a sample multi-source reasoning scenario regarding guest reservations for a hotel’s wedding block. The email in this tab sets up the situation and provides you with the guidelines for the reservation.

Sample multi-source reasoning format, background tab. Sample multi-source reasoning format, background tab

The following figure shows what you find when you click on the second tab: language from the contract between the Pearson family and the resort.

Sample multi-source reasoning format, contract tab. Sample multi-source reasoning format, contract tab

When you click on the final tab, you may see a table with relevant data, such as the one in the following figure, which shows the wedding guest list and their reservation status.

Sample multi-source reasoning format, guest list tab. Sample multi-source reasoning format, guest list tab

The multi-source reasoning questions appear in one of two formats: three-part table (similar to table analysis questions) or standard five-answer multiple-choice. Keep in mind that you have to answer all three parts of the first format to get credit for the one question.

The multiple-choice format may be one of the easiest questions to answer in the IR section. You can use the process of elimination to narrow the answers, and you have to choose only one correct answer to get full credit for the question.

The trickiest aspect of answering multi-source reasoning questions is sifting through the plethora of information to discover what’s relevant. Depending on the scenario, you may have to juggle information in tables, diagrams, articles, and so on to come up with correct answers.

Here are some pointers to help you with the task:

  • Summarize each tab. As you read through the information in each tab for the first time, record pertinent points to help you remember which tab holds what type of data. That way you don’t have to continually flip back and forth between screens as you answer questions. For example, summarize the contract details in the figure on your noteboard with quick notations such as 9/7, 8, & 9 = $135/night; < 3 nights = $150/night; before/after 9/7 or 9/9 = $175/night.
  • Make connections. After you’ve seen the information in each tab, synthesize facts and figures from one tab with correlative data from another. Keep track of your findings on your noteboard. For example, you should notice as you read the information in the figures that you can correlate the data in the table in the final tab with the room-charge specifications in the second tab to figure out how much each guest will pay for resort rooms.
  • Rely on what the test gives you. Some of the topics in multi-source reasoning scenarios may be familiar to you. Although familiarity may make the information more accessible to you, it may also influence you to answer questions based on what you know instead of what the exam tells you. For example, you shouldn’t answer any questions about the Pearson wedding sample scenario based on what you know about hotel booking from your own experience as a front-desk manager.

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