Friday, June 19, 2015 at 7am

GMAT: Integrated Reasoning

GMAT IR

When the next-generation of home gaming consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, came out in 2013, each sold more than a million units on release day. Needless to say, gamers were extremely interested in getting their hands on these consoles and still are. Their manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft, estimate that they’ve sold a combined 32 million units worldwide.

Perhaps trying to recreate Sony and Microsoft’s success, the GMAC also released a next-generation version of their product. From June 2012, those sitting for the GMAT had to worry about a new section, integrated reasoning (IR), which GMAC called the “next generation of the GMAT” – a release which was met with slightly less fanfare than that of the PS4 and Xbox One.

Regardless, integrated reasoning is here to stay. Like the analysis of a written argument (AWA) section, it is different from the rest of the GMAT. Most notably, its scoring – it uses a scale from 1.0 to 8.0, and it isn’t computer adaptive. You still have to answer the 12 questions in order, but unlike the quant and verbal sections, the difficulty of your questions won’t change as you progress. Also, like quant and verbal, a portion will be non-graded, experimental questions.

Test takers are given 30 minutes to answer the 12 questions on integrated reasoning. No foundational knowledge is needed. Simply use the topics and skills you learned while preparing for quant and verbal. There are four question types – which we’ll discuss in detail later in this post; you’ll be tested on all four.

The last quirk of integrated reasoning, along with the fact that use of a calculator is permitted, is that no partial credit is given. That means that even though most of the 12 questions will require you to answer more than one question within them, you must answer all of them correctly to get credit. From a strategic standpoint, this is an important point to remember. If you have no idea how to answer Question 10 B, for example, save that time and move on to Question 11.

Basic strategy

After you’re finished with AWA, and an IR question pops up, follow these four steps:

1. Read the question stem before the supporting information

2. Identify the question type

3. Use the supporting information to solve

4. Choose the correct answers and move on

It’s important to give yourself context about the question before you dive in to the graph, passage, or prompt that supports it. Without doing so, it’s easy to waste time - there’s almost always unnecessary detail provided in the supporting information. Once you’re orientated yourself to the question, then you can solve for the correct answers.

Question types

Multisource reasoning (MSR)

MSR questions are denoted with a split screen. The left side of the screen has three tabs, each have information that might be necessary to answer the question - which is located on the right side of the screen. Questions will either be multiple choice or in the true/false or yes/no style.

The strategy necessary to succeed at MSR is similar to RC: don’t read the supporting information. Instead, skim it for main points and jot down keywords that you can refer to if necessary. Further, your goal is to determine how the information in each tab relates to each other. Lastly, like RC, you can also expect a string of three or four MSR questions in a row.

Table analysis (TA)

The supporting information for table analysis questions is much like a table of data in Excel. For each question, you arrange the data using the test-provided sorting options and interpret it to find the correct answer on the right side of the screen. All questions in table analysis will follow the true/false or yes/no style.

For example, a table analysis question might ask you, “Is there a negative correlation between average customer age and the number of self-check lanes at Grocery Store X?” To answer, sort the table by customer age or self-check lanes and interpret the data. If customer age decreases as the amount of self-check lanes increase, then the two have a negative correlation.

Two-part analysis (2PA)

Questions in the 2PA form will most likely look like a fancy version of problem solving or critical reasoning. 2PA can ask you to solve for either quant or verbal-related problems, but will always ask you to answer the question in two ways. For example, ‘strengthen/weaken’ for Verbal and ‘interest rate X/Y’ for Quant.

Like with CR, read the question stem first to determine the relationship between the two questions. Then, once you have some background on the task at hand, read the prompt and solve. From a strategic standpoint, remember that while the questions are related, they’re interdependent – you can’t select answer #1 twice, for example.

Graphics interpretation (GI)

The supporting information for GI questions is presented as some sort of graph or chart. It can come in many forms, including pie and bar charts, scatter plots, or company organization chart. To excel at GI, read the prompt and question stem before you look at the graph. The prompt could be the only place that the graph’s axes are described, for instance.

After you understand what the question wants you to find, use the graph to do so. Don’t be afraid of obvious answers with GI. Regardless of skill level, graphs are easier to interpret than the written word – that’s why they were created. Also, don’t be afraid to estimate. Often the question stem will explicitly ask for an estimate; other times, estimating can save you valuable time in finding the correct answer.

Putting it all together

Rather than trying to recreate the tables and graphs necessary for an IR problem in this space, practice them on your own. There are 50 IR questions with explanations available on Wiley.GMAT.com for you to review. They’re presented in a test-simulated environment so that you can get familiar with table analysis and sorting the tables, flipping through the tabs, using the calculator, and so on.

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Contrary to what the introduction of this post suggests, GMAC didn’t release IR to keep up with gaming consoles. In fact, they did so in response to their stakeholders’ request for a way to test applicants’ ability to integrate and synthesize information, just as MBAs will do in their post-graduation jobs. Like the rest of the GMAT, IR focuses on higher-level thinking. Getting to the ‘highest level’ is the goal of gamers, as well – maybe the two things aren’t so different after all… 

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Jon Taves is a CPA from Minneapolis, MN. He writes weekly about business-related topics, including his MBA journey, at EFEssays.com

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