GMAT Tip of the Week: Integrated Reasoning & Precision in Wording

We’re less than six weeks away from the grand unveiling of the Integrated Reasoning section within the “Next-Generation GMAT”. So at this point it’s fairly safe to say that most readers of this article will see Integrated Reasoning on their exams.

As we mentioned earlier this week, that’s absolutely no cause for alarm. In fact, the more alarming situation would be one in which you attempt to rush your GMAT prep to avoid the IR section. At this point, if you’re not putting the finishing touches on your GMAT studies, it’s likely unwise to try to take the exam within the next month (because the test will shut down for a few days for the changeover, we’re less than 5 weeks from the last possible date you can take the “old”, 2-essay GMAT).

So as we’ve said before (in the immortal words of Lil Wayne), “if you ain’t running with it, run from it” – it’s time to work with the Integrated Reasoning section and not to try to scheme ways to avoid it. And you’ll find two things to be true about the IR section and the way in which it fits with the test as a whole:

1) It’s not really that different or “new” at all
2) Studying the IR section will make you better at the rest of the exam

Consider the Graphics Interpretation style of questions and this example below:

In the graph above, the y-axis shows the average starting salary of MBA programs, the x-axis shows the average campus temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) during the school year, and the size of the circles denotes the ratio of applications received to candidates admitted for each school, with the size of the circle directly proportional to the measure of the ratio.

If a question were to ask:

Can the following conclusion be reasonably drawn from the graph above: Schools with average starting salaries above $100,000 receive more applicants than do those with average starting salaries below $100,000.

This essentially becomes a Critical Reasoning question with a graph as part of the stimulus. And the answer is wrong for Critical Reasoning reasons: precision in wording. The question asks about the *number* of applicants, but the graph/stimulus only supplies information about the *ratio* of applicants to acceptances. This question is not about the graph! It’s about the wording around the graph, and about the parameters of what the graph can tell you. Many IR questions will be Critical Reasoning questions, just with an expanded set of stimulus options – they’re no longer limited to just paragraphs…the authors of the IR format questions can use graphs, charts, and tables as hosting mechanisms for that same, clever GMAT precision in wording.

What does this mean for you?

1) Don’t see IR as “new”, but rather as a variation on a common GMAT theme. Pay attention to precision in wording when you’re asked whether you can draw a conclusion.

2) As you practice IR, take note of the mistakes that you make (or the trap answers that you deftly avoid) that relate to other GMAT sections. The operative word in “Integrated Reasoning” is “Reasoning” – that’s what they’re testing. “Integrated” is the adjective that shows how – by integrating some themes from the quant section and some themes from the verbal section. If you’re studying effectively, you’ll sharpen your reasoning skills and be a better GMAT test-taker all around.