GMAT Impact: Timing on the Integrated Reasoning Section

When it comes to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. In this weekly blog series, Manhattan GMAT’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

As we have discussed in the past, the importance of the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section mirrors that of the essay: we want to get a “good enough” score, but our main focus is on the Quant and Verbal. (Note: this will likely change in the future as the schools figure out how to use IR scores.)

One important aspect of that is, as always, timing. We have 30 minutes total for IR, and there are a total of 12 questions. We do actually have to discuss what a “question” is; this is a little bit confusing on IR, because many of the questions have multiple parts.

One question equals everything that appears on one screen. A question might have one, two or three parts to it, and all parts need to be answered to gain credit for that one question. Once you have submitted your answer(s) for that question, a new question screen will pop up.

Because we have a total of 12 questions (some with multiple parts), we have an average of 2.5 minutes per question. Some question types will naturally take longer than others, though; for example, Multi-Source Reasoning (MSR) requires us to do quite a bit of reading. MSR prompts also typically include multiple questions, however, so our reading time can be spread across two or three questions (similar to Reading Comp), allowing us still to aim for an average of about 2.5 minutes per question.

How should we handle the overall timing for the section? Glad you asked. You have a choice: you can check your progress by time or by question number. If you are not sure which would feel more natural for you, try out both options and see which one you like better.

Also, you can check either once or twice during the 30 minutes. If you think you can remember to check twice, that is great; if not, checking just once is fine.

Time Check: if, when you check, you are within one question of your target, you are good!

Time left You have finished Q#
Check Once 15 minutes 6
Check Twice 20 minutes10 minutes 48


Question # Check: if, when you check, you are within two minutes of your target, you are good!

You have finished Q# Time left
Check Once 6 15 minutes
Check Twice 48 20 minutes10 minutes


If you find that you are behind (you have used too much time relative to the question number), then you are going to need to guess immediately on at least one question, possibly more. Do NOT try to spread your remaining time across the remaining questions; that is a recipe for getting them all wrong thanks to careless mistakes.

If you find that you are ahead (you are more than two minutes too fast), slow down a bit. Write down or check your work and make sure you are not losing any “easy” points (meaning, we do not want to make careless mistakes on questions that we actually can answer correctly.).

Finally, remember once again that we do not care as much about the IR score; identifying your weaker areas and simply skipping a couple of those questions as soon as they pop up is perfectly fine!

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