So, You’re Terrible at Integrated Reasoning…

08fba0fSince its release on the June 2012 exam, the Integrated Reasoning portion of the GMAT has had some test takers stumped. This 30-minute, 12 question section is oddly scored on a 1 to 8 scale, and no partial credit is given, even for multi-part, multi-answer questions.

For the past several years, it was a matter of debate as to whether business schools evaluated applicants on the basis of the Integrated Reasoning Section. Admissions offices can be slow to adapt to changes in standardized tests, waiting for enough points of comparison to consider whether the change corresponds with other ways that applicants are assessed. But in the past 1-2 MBA admissions cycles, it has become apparent that admissions teams are ready to actively add the Integrated Reasoning Section as a factor in their assessments.

But this tough nut of a section is not inundated with years of Official Guide and test-prep-company-generated questions like the Quantitative and Verbal Sections. After taking a practice test or two, you may find yourself scoring a 2/8 or 3/8 and completely at a loss on how to improve your Integrated Reasoning score.

The first step you can take to improve your IR score is understanding what types of questions to expect on the Integrated Reasoning Section, and then adjust your approach to each question with a corresponding appropriate strategy. The Integrated Reasoning questions can be bucketed into four categories:

  1. Table Analysis: sorting given tables and making the most of information presented
  2. Graphics Interpretation: reading and interpreting a graph
  3. Multi-Source Reasoning: using all the given information to assess statements
  4. Two-Part Analysis: determine the correctness of two parts of a question (all parts need to be selected correctly, with no partial credit given!)

What many test takers fail to recognize that that the IR Section is not necessarily its own unique section, but rather, it is a “summary” section – you can apply all the strategies you have learned for the Quantitative and Verbal Sections to these types of questions. Anticipation, process of elimination, etc. Integrated Reasoning is multi-faceted, as should be your corresponding strategies.

The next step is practice, practice, practice with the resources you do have available. Timing is hands-down the biggest challenge for test takers on this section, so make sure you’ve completed all the gimmes that the MBA.com website provides (with 48 questions recently released for additional practice).

And if you feel you need more help preparing for the IR Section, consider checking out Veritas Prep’s GMAT course offerings – we were the leader in test preparation companies anticipating strategies and providing dedicated Integrated Reasoning practice. Assess areas that you have made careless mistakes, ways you could better sort tables and charts, and other areas where you could have gotten to the conclusion more readily over being mired down into nitty gritty, and unnecessary, details.

With a bit of understanding and preparation, and figuring out how you are able to best read, assess, review, and interpret tables and information, you should be able to edge closer to the coveted 8/8 IR score.

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By Ashley Triscuit, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston.