The Integrated Reasoning (IR) section of the GMAT has been a part of the test since 2012. It is, by default, the second section that you’ll tackle in the GMAT – although it is possible to change the order of the various sections (see here for our guide on the structure and ordering options of the GMAT). Many students preparing for the GMAT have questions around the GMAT Integrated Reasoning score – in particular, how it is scored and how important it is.
Virtually all the questions in the Integrated Reasoning section involve being presented with a table or graph, followed by a minimum of two questions regarding the information presented in the graphic.
Questions in the IR section of the GMAT typically take one of four forms: Two-Part Analysis, Table Analysis, Multi-Source Reasoning and Graphics Interpretation.
In this guide, we go into detail on the GMAT Integrated Reasoning score and what impact the score has on your total result.
Table of Contents
How is the IR Section of the GMAT Scored?
The IR has a scale from 1-8, with whole-point intervals (no half-points like the AWA section). Similarly to the Analytical Writing Assessment, the IR score is not factored into the overall 200-800 point main score of the GMAT.
Is the IR Section of the GMAT Important?
It certainly is. Because it’s not factored into the main GMAT score, many applicants to post-grad courses and business schools make the mistake of thinking that the Integrated Reasoning score is not as important as those sections that do factor into the main score. However, the IR gives admissions officers another point of differentiation when considering applications. If two candidates have identical GMAT scores but one has a much higher IR score than the other, it’s obvious which one most applications officers are going to select.
How is the IR Section Structured?
The IR section consists of 12 randomly selected questions of varying difficulty. There is an element of mystery surrounding the IR – it’s not clear whether different questions are assigned different values or not, and several of the questions are for research purposes only (which means they don’t count towards your score). There’s no way of ascertaining which are genuine and which are research questions, and so no way to ‘game’ the system, so to speak.
You are given 30 minutes to complete the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT. See here for our tips on optimizing your time management for the GMAT.
What is Known about the IR Section of the GMAT?
As noted, some facts surrounding the IR are a little mysterious. Here’s what is known about the GMAT Integrated Reasoning section and the score it results in:
There are 4 Kinds of Question
Across the 12 questions are 4 different types of question. You will see each type of question at least once, but as they are randomized, you probably won’t see an even distribution – you could have 3 of each type of question, or you could have 5 ‘graphics interpretation’ questions and only 1 ‘two-part analysis’ question.
The 4 types of question are as follows:
These types of question present the candidate with a graph, table or other graphic containing data. There is sometimes contextualizing text accompanying the graphic.
Following the graphic, candidates are given a series of statements that must either be completed with one of several answers, or else identified as ‘true’ or ‘false’. In the case of the former, there may be 3-5 different options, and so it’s important to consider your options carefully.
Two-part analysis questions present a brief quantitative or verbal problem. Following the problem will be a table organized into 3 columns, with one column dedicated to potential answers. Both parts of the task share the same pool of answer choices, and there may be 5-6 potential answers. Both answers must be mutually compatible (i.e. you cannot choose two answers that contradict one another).
In this type of question, information is presented in a table form. Several statements are then asserted under the table, and the candidate is asked to ascertain whether the statements are true or not. The various columns of the table can be re-sorted using drop-down menus above the table.
The candidate is quite often required to calculate probabilities, averages (whether mean or median) or ratios; recognize or infer correlation and relationships between two sets of data; or choose between statements to find the one that best describes the nature of the data within the table.
Multi-source reasoning tasks the candidate with examining data from several sources (hence the name) organized into a multi-tab format, similar to a web browser. Each tab may contain tables, graphs, written passages or other visual information.
There are typically three questions, and those questions may be multiple-choice or they may be simple yes/no selections.
The IR Section is Static
The Integrated Reasoning section comprises randomly selected questions that are chosen before you start. The section is not computer-adaptive (thus the IR score is computed differently than the main GMAT score), and it does not dynamically respond to your answers when selecting future questions.
Each Question Could Be Important
Although several of the questions are for research purposes only and are not scored, there is no way of knowing which ones these are. It’s therefore important that each question is treated as if it’s a real question.
The IR Score is Discrete
The GMAT Integrated Reasoning score is a discrete one, separate from both the Analytical Writing Assessment and the main GMAT score.
There is no Partial Scoring
An answer is either right or wrong; if you missed part of an answer and left it blank, the whole question is considered incorrect. It’s therefore important to make sure you complete everything.
What Skills Does the IR Section Test?
The primary skill tested by the IR section is the candidate’s ability to solve complex problems by integrating data. It demonstrates that the candidate is able to filter out and analyze important data, which may demonstrate to admissions officers that the candidate is adept at making informed decisions.
What Does Your GMAT IR Score Demonstrate to Business Schools and Postgrad Admissions Officers?
Business administrators the world over are constantly asked to make important decisions with only partial information, and so the ability to collect information from disparate sources in order to make the best-informed decision is key.
These are skills that business schools look for, and skills that they will develop and nurture on their courses. It’s also something that will help potential candidates stand out from the crowd.
Though the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT are both good indicators of overall academic competence and cognitive ability, they do not measure a candidate’s ability to combine these two abilities to analyze data and incorporate it into sound decision-making. The IR is designed to test exactly this, and acts as a predictor of a candidate’s ability in this area.
The GMAT Integrated Reasoning score is, then, more important than one might think when applying to courses or business schools. A pre-existing capacity for assessing different sources of data in order to make decisions is a desirable quality in a candidate.
Is the GMAT IR Score Important for MBA Admissions?
Because the IR section is a relatively new section (only introduced in 2012), business schools did not initially pay it much heed. Data was lacking regarding the IR section, and so it was difficult to make any meaningful assessment of candidate scores in the section. In 2014, only two years after the advent of the IR section, a mere 41% of 200+ business schools surveyed by Kaptest considered the IR section to be of any importance. This survey was repeated the following year; at that time, 59% considered it to be important.
Any good IR student can use this data to infer, then, that because the IR score grew in importance, it stands to reason that it has continued to do so. It can be important not only for MBA admissions, but also for large corporations looking for new management hires. It pays, then, to try your best on the IR section!
That said, the IR section is still not as important as the traditional GMAT sections, and it’s overwhelmingly likely that MBA admissions officers will prioritize a candidate’s main GMAT score when assessing whether or not they are a good fit for their school. See here for our guide on optimizing your main GMAT score.
How Can You Strengthen your IR Score to Stand Out?
Although your main GMAT score is likely to be more important, it doesn’t hurt to differentiate yourself with a strong showing in the Integrated Reasoning section. It’s therefore a good idea to properly prepare and to attempt to strengthen the skills needed for it.
Take Your Time
It’s important to read each question carefully and then look at your answer options. Some of the graphics and tables presented can be quite dense, so it’s a good idea to have an idea of what you’re looking for before you dive in and get to grips with them. Be sure to look over each source of data carefully; all the information needed is in plain sight, and so you have everything you need to correctly answer the question.
Look at all Possible Answers
Don’t jump to conclusions and choose the answer that seems to be the best fit immediately – again, take your time and assess your options. Use deduction and the process of elimination to get rid of answers that you know are definitely not correct. Once you have done this, you can assess the remaining answers and compare them with the data to choose the one that’s the best fit.
Don’t Make Assumptions
It’s important to use only the data given to you within the context of the question. Do not let preexisting knowledge or any real-world assumptions influence you when answering questions; each question is a discrete set of information and data that is beholden only to itself.
Know the Question Formats Ahead of Time
IR questions, by design, overwhelm the candidate with an avalanche of information that can be quite difficult to parse if you’re unfamiliar with how the test works. It’s therefore crucial that candidates are familiar with the various kinds of question that can be found on the test, and how best to answer them. Remember that a graphics interpretation question is a very different beast to a multi-source reasoning one, and different approaches to both are very much necessary!
Develop Strong Executive Function Skills
Executive function is the ability to filter out distractions, prioritize important information, and confidently make decisions. It’s key to a strong performance in the IR section, as the ability to focus and work through overwhelming amounts of data is the whole point of it.
Manage Your Time Effectively
There are 12 questions on the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT, and many of those questions will be separated into multiple parts. As we’ve previously covered, there is no partial credit given if you’re correct on two out of three sub-questions – you need to be correct on the whole thing. It’s therefore important that you manage your time effectively. Here are some tips you can apply to optimize your time management.
Furthermore, the whole section is randomized, and so you could theoretically face 12 questions each with three sub-sections. Half an hour seems like plenty of time for 12 questions, but if you have a lot of sub-questions in the mix, that half-hour suddenly goes by much faster. It’s therefore crucial to work on mock IR tests and make sure that you’re covering all your bases by the time that 30 minutes is up.
Improve Your Visual Literacy
Visual literacy is the ability to quickly and easily understand tables, graphs, and other forms of data presented in a visual (non-verbal) manner. Given the high volume of such graphics within the Integrated Reasoning section, it’s important that the candidate be able to process the information presented therein in a timely fashion.
Of particular importance is the ability to quickly extract pertinent data from a given graphic and then analyze or make use of that data in the context of the question you’re answering. Going over graphics in publications like the Wall Street Journal can be useful in developing this skill.
What Constitutes a Good IR Score?
Let’s go into detail on the computation of the GMAT Integrated Reasoning score. The IR section is scored out of 8, and is scored in integers (so no half-points). The average is a score of 4, which 60% of candidates are able to attain. 45% of candidates attain a score of 5 or higher, while only 30% manage a 6.
Therefore, in order to stand out from the crowd and be considered to have a good Integrated Reasoning score, you’d need a 6 or higher.
Will a Low IR Score Impact my Chances of Getting onto an MBA Course?
This is a complicated question to answer. Ostensibly, your IR score will not affect your chances of a successful application. If you did well on the main GMAT test, then chances are this will be enough to get you onto your chosen course. After all, it’s a fact that the main score is valued much more highly by business schools and postgrad admissions officers.
However, there is a chance that your IR score will be used as a differentiator. As we’ve mentioned previously, if an admissions officer is looking at two candidates with identical GMAT scores, then the IR (and the AWA) might be the tie-breaker.
In fact, it’s possible that students who have higher IR scores and slightly lower GMAT scores will be prioritized due to their more balanced scores. If a candidate has a 680 on their GMAT and a 7 on the IR, then many admissions officers would be likely to prefer that candidate to one with a main score of 700 but only a 2 on the IR. It’s therefore a good idea to ensure that you spend some time prepping for the IR and that it’s taken seriously.
That said, some MBA programs outright state that they do not consider the IR to be important. If that’s the case, then you can obviously spend less time on it.
How Much Time Should I Spend on Preparing for the Integrated Writing Section?
It’s recommended that the bulk of your study time is spent on preparing for the main part of the GMAT, with secondary priority given to the AWA and IR sections. That said, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these two sections ahead of time. For the IR, about 2-3 days spent purely on the IR section is sufficient to ensure you are thoroughly familiar with the kinds of questions that you’ll encounter in the IR section of the GMAT.
Is the IR section important for the Executive Assessment (EA)?
Yes it is – in fact, it’s a much more important section on the Executive Assessment than it is for the GMAT.
The Executive Assessment is an alternate standardized test that is not related to the GMAT. Some MBA programs prefer the EA to the GMAT, and so if you’re applying to a program that uses this test as a basis for entry, then it’s important to spend much more time preparing for Integrated Reasoning.
Though many will dismiss the IR section of the GMAT as unimportant, the truth is that it’s not so simple to discount it in this fashion. Even if it’s not ostensibly important to the course you’re applying for, it is a score that will be disclosed to the admissions officer, and it’s possible that they will consider it important when comparing you to other applicants. It’s therefore worth taking some time to prepare for this GMAT section and optimize your Integrated Reasoning score, so you don’t need to worry about it making the difference between a successful and unsuccessful application.