The Importance of Integrated Reasoning

With a fairly consistent test format for more than fifty years, the Graduate Management Admissions Council has revamped the test with a couple of assessment changes in the past few years.  Most recently, the Integrated Reasoning Section, a 30-minute portion of the GMAT made up of 12 questions, was designed to measure one’s ability to discern patterns and combine verbal and quantitative reasoning so solve problems.  While the admissions committees at top schools seem to continue focusing on the traditional verbal and quantitative score combination (out of a possible 800), we will likely see an emphasis shift towards these new sections in the future (which also include a 30-minute writing analysis of a topic), since the skills they measure are critical to today’s business leaders.

Making sound decisions in business is perhaps the most important skill for the global business person in today’s marketplace. Even though they are often confronted with incomplete information, MBA professionals are still required to make choices on a daily basis which can impact organizations around the world.  While the quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT do a good job of measuring and predicting how students are likely to perform in business school, the fact that these sections separately measure these attributes, they are not necessarily a good indicator of how someone will combine these skills to make sound decisions. The Integrated Reasoning section measures these skills in a format which requires test takers to quickly assimilate information from a variety of sources and evaluate that information to discern the correct answers.  We can probably all agree that bringing complex ideas together and analyzing data in a variety of formats are necessary to succeed in today’s technology and data-driven global marketplace.

It was a massive survey of 740 business school faculty worldwide which resulted in the list of skills this section of the GMAT was designed to test.  These faculty identified the most important skills they thought today’s matriculating students needed to possess as they embarked upon the next phase of their business careers.  Over time, as the admissions committees and rankings boards come to share the view that these skills are important, the Integrated Reasoning score will provide a new measure for adcoms to find candidates who are the right fit for their programs, and it will also provide another way for you as an applicant to stand out .  In the meantime, if you happen to score well on this section of the GMAT, you may need to highlight your results to the adcoms yourself.  Until the Integrated  Reasoning section of the GMAT catches on in the admissions process, at the very least you can rest assured the time spent preparing for this section and the extent to which you can develop your skillset in this area will only help you navigate a challenging business school curriculum.  It may just help you shine on the job in your chosen post MBA career as well.

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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Vertias Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.

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