GMAT Tip of the Week: Looks Can Be Deceiving in Integrated Reasoning

With just over a week to go until the debut of the Integrated Reasoning section, “Integrated Reasoning” Google searches are up just about as much as Facebook stock is down. With that in mind, let’s discuss the Graphics Interpretation question type through the lens of the stock market to show you how the creators of the GMAT will use your mind’s natural tendencies against you.

Do you have an iPhone? If so, pull up the “Stocks” app and look at the graph at the bottom of the page. What you see will look something like this:

Based on that graph, it’s been a wild day in the market, right? A big spike midday and then a massive sell-off before the closing bell. That line graph suggests that the NASDAQ had a wild ride… Until you look at the scale. That entire peak/valley system spanned a whopping 40 points, or just around 1% of the index’s overall value. This graph is designed to use all the vertical space available on the y-axis, so that app will always show you a volatile-looking day even when nothing really happens. You need to look at the scale to ensure that you know for yourself just how significant those fluctuations really were.

Know this about graphs in Integrated Reasoning — they can look at first glance to tell one story, but it’s up to you to check the scale and the legend to ensure that you put logical context around the visual. Questions will often ask you to draw a conclusion that might look correct based on the visual evidence, but be false once you have done your due diligence on the details that lead to that visual. Precision-in-wording matters, and the graph only serves to visually display that data. As a test-taker, you need to consult that data to ensure that you understand the picture that has been drawn for you.

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