Integrated Reasoning: 2-month Anniversary Update

On June 5th the new Integrated Reasoning (IR) section debuted on the GMAT, to much consternation and hang-wringing among prospective business school applicants. A couple months on there are a couple points to mention as we look back at the IR.

Initial Integrated Reasoning Percentiles

The scores for the Integrated Reasoning have been known since April, but in order for percentiles to be generated GMAC needed to wait for actual test results. After a few weeks they had given enough to compile and release the first data. From the 6,229 test-takers, GMAC found that the averages score was a 4 on the 1 to 8 scale, corresponding to the 46th percentile.

A top score of 8 would be the 94%, meaning that 6% of all test-takers score an 8. For a complete view of the percentiles, see the graphic (from GMAC), below.


Still No Need to Worry…Yet

Given that the IR was just added a couple months ago, most of us in the test prep industry were pretty skeptical about the new section factoring much into admissions decisions. After

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a couple months, during which time we’ve had an opportunity to chat up a number of admissions officers, and what we’re hearing confirmed what we expected. The IR score will not factor much into the equation this year (and probably not next either). As we predicted, the first couple years of IR testing will be too early to know how big a role the section should play, or how those with IR scores and those without would be compared (Allison Davis, Associate Director of MBA admissions at Stanford GSB recently said as much in this blogpost).

It’s much more likely that IR will be more integral to the admissions process in two years (after a cohort who has taken IR has also completed the first year of core classes, but this year people should focus primarily on the Quant and Verbal as in years past. Treat the IR in the same way you would the AWA. Practice for it, prepare for it, but don’t let it dominate your thoughts or your prep. You only really need a score that won’t give them a reason to doubt your seriousness or ability.


Nevertheless…Three IR Prep Tips

Since we’ve had the opportunity these past few months to prepare students for the IR portion of the test, a few keys have become clear for efficiently improving your IR results.

1) Proper pacing – There are 12 questions to do in 30 minutes, and given the complexity of some of the questions, comfortably doing all 12 in that time is difficult for most test-takers. The good thing is you don’t have to do all of them. Scores are determined by the number of questions correct, so accuracy not speed should be your chief guiding principle. There will always be a couple questions that are overly complicated. Rush through those to get to the ones that are more straight-forward so you can spend your time working on those.

2) Get comfortable – The best way to accomplish the recommendation in 1) above and improve your ability over all is to become familiar with both the question formats and the types of questions they ask. Both are almost identical from test to test, meaning only the content changes. The variety is in IR is less pronounced than in the Quant, for example, where different manifestations of the same content or concept can often throw people off. In the IR, question is the question and the format is the format. Do enough of them and you could probably answer them with your eyes closed. Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea.

3) Use what you already know – Most IR questions and formats utilize concepts or principles you would have already learned in studying for the Quant and Verbal portions of the GMAT. Sometimes it’s just a verbal concept (like critical reasoning), sometimes its just a quant concept (like averages or percents), and sometimes its both together. Regardless, always seek to draw on knowledge you have to help you apply. There’s nothing really new about the IR aside from the format.


That’s the latest on IR. We’ll be back with more in the coming months.

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