True to its name, the integrated reasoning section of the GMAT combines the critical reasoning skills tested in the verbal reasoning section with some of the math skills you use to solve quantitative reasoning questions. Therefore, if you’re well prepared for the GMAT’s math and verbal sections, you should do well in the IR section, too.

Skills tested

The most common math computations in the IR section involve these areas:
  • Basic statistics, such as average, median, mode, and range
  • Percentages
  • Rate and distance
  • Functions
  • Geometry formulas
You’ll need to apply these essentials of critical reasoning:
  • Basic elements of logical arguments—premises, conclusions, and assumptions
  • How to strengthen and weaken an argument
  • Argument types—cause and effect, analogy, and statistical

Integrated reasoning question format

The IR section presents you with 12 questions, one question at a time, and you have 30 minutes to answer them. Almost every question has multiple parts. To get credit for answering a question correctly, you have to answer all of its parts correctly. You don’t receive partial credit for getting one part of the question correct. Unlike the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections, the IR section isn’t computer adaptive. So, the order in which you receive questions is preordained and not based on your performance.

Your IR score is based on your answers to four types of questions. On average, you can expect to come across about three of each question type on the GMAT, but the actual number of questions of each type and the order in which they appear may vary. So, count on seeing at least a couple of each of these four question types crop up on your test:

  • Table analysis: This three-part IR question offers you a spreadsheet of values that you can order in different ways by clicking the heading of each column. You use the data to make judgments about three pieces of information; each of your judgments has to be correct to get credit for the question.
  • Two-part analysis: Based on a short, written explanation of a phenomenon, situation, or mathematical problem, you come up with the proper assertions or mathematical expressions that meet the two interrelated criteria presented in the question.
  • Graphics interpretation: A graph or chart gives you all the data you need to complete the two missing pieces of information in one or two statements. You choose from a pull-down menu of several answer options to record your answers.
  • Multi-source reasoning: These properly named questions present you with several sources of information, such as short passages, graphs and charts, and business documents, from which you draw logical conclusions to answer questions in either of two formats: standard five-answer multiple-choice questions and three-part questions that ask you to evaluate statements.
To assist you with the mathematical computations you may need to make for some of the IR questions, the GMAT software provides you with a simple calculator. Whenever you need it, you click the box labeled Calculator and something that looks like the following figure appears. You select its functions by using your mouse. Don’t get too attached to it, though; the calculator is available only for IR questions, so you won’t be able to use it in the quantitative reasoning section.

GMAT calculator The GMAT calculator

Because using a computer calculator can be awkward, you’ll likely answer most IR questions more quickly by using estimation or working out calculations by hand on your noteboard. Save the calculator for only the most complex or precise computations.

How the IR section is scored

Like the score you receive for the analytical writing section, your integrated reasoning score has no influence on your overall GMAT score, which consists of the combination of only your quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning scores. Based on your performance in the IR section, your raw score is converted to a scaled score that ranges in whole numbers from 1 to 8 and is recorded separately from all the other scores.

MBA programs decide how they use your IR score and may choose to disregard it altogether. So, your IR score is unlikely to make much of an impression unless it’s unusually low, in the 1-to-3 score range, or really high, such as the rare 7 or 8. A midrange score of 4, 5, or 6 likely won’t significantly hurt or help your chances of admission.

How to make the most of your time on the IR section

If you’ve already calculated that answering 12 questions in 30 minutes gives you 2.5 minutes to answer each question, you may be celebrating the fact that that gives you even more time per question than you have for the quantitative and verbal reasoning sections. Don’t get too excited just yet. Almost every IR question has multiple parts, and you have to answer all parts of the question correctly to be credited with a correct answer.

When you consider the average number of sub-questions contained within each of those 12 questions, the actual number of IR answers you have to come up with in 30 minutes may be as high as 30. Therefore, you have to use your time wisely as you move through the section.

You’ll likely feel the time crunch more fiercely in this section than the others. We provide some coping skills to help you through it:

  • Conceal the timer. To maintain your sanity, refrain from constant clock-watching. Hide the timer on the computer by clicking on it. After you answer about three questions, reveal the timer by clicking on it again. It counts down from 30 minutes, so if you’re at 22 minutes, you’re cruising comfortably. If you’re at 21 or fewer, you may need to make some more calculated guesses to move through the section at a successful pace.
  • Know when to move on. Discipline yourself to submit your best stab at an answer if you find yourself spending more than several minutes on any one question. You don’t want to sacrifice getting to an easy, less-time-consuming question because you’ve worked too long on a harder question. You can’t go back and revisit questions after you submitted your answers, so this practice may be difficult for you, especially if you tenaciously seek perfection. Take a deep breath, mark your best guess, and move on to what lies ahead.
  • Write stuff down. Don’t be afraid to spend a little time upfront analyzing the loads of data in some IR questions. Unless you’re someone who can juggle a lot of details in your head, you should write on your noteboard as you think. A little note-taking may save you from reading information over again, which is a real time waster.
  • Whisper to yourself. Studies show that processing information is easier if you speak out loud. Don’t be afraid to whisper your way through some of the more complex problems the IR section throws at you. You’ll likely take the test in a cubicle-like setting, so if you speak quietly, you won’t disturb anyone.

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