GMAT Impact: Consulting Firms Might Start Using Integrated Reasoning

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.

Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that Bain & Company, a well-respected management consulting firm, is considering using candidates’ Integrated Reasoning (IR) scores in its hiring process. What does this mean for you?

Bain represents one of the two major post-MBA career paths: management consulting (the other is banking). Harvard Business School, for example, reported that approximately 35% of graduates enter the financial services industry and 25% accept a consulting job (these stats represent the first job after obtaining the degree).

Because so many students want these jobs, consulting firms and banks can afford to be choosy. At the same time, they have to wade through a large number of resumes—what to do?

One possibility, evidently, is to let the GMAT do some of the sorting for them. Keith Bevans, global head of recruiting at Bain, told Bloomberg Businessweek, “The IR scores are trying to test analytical abilities, which is important to us. We hope it’s a good match for determining if you’ll be successful at Bain.”

Quick GMAT aside: did you spot the errors in that quote? The which modifier improperly refers to a verb, not a noun. Also, the proper word is whether you will be successful, not if. We will give Mr. Bevans a pass, though; nobody actually speaks in fully grammatical sentences. (…with the possible exception of Oprah Winfrey—have you ever really listened to how well she constructs her sentences, even in speech? It is seriously impressive.)

Bain has not actually decided yet whether to use IR scores (or, if so, how). Mr. Bevans did make a point of saying that other important factors—such as “work experience, education, leadership experience, and one-on-one interactions with staff”—will still be just as important as ever.

So what should I do?

If you do not want to go into banking or consulting, then your only IR concern is what the business schools think. Last year, the schools did not use IR, so most test prep companies and admissions consultants were counseling students to aim for a 4 or higher (the high score on IR is 8).

Some schools may begin to use IR this year, so we have been counseling people to go for a 5 or higher—possibly a 6, if you are applying to a top-five school. Several schools, though, have said that they want to see how well IR scores predict success in business school, so they will not begin to place any serious emphasis on this section for a couple of years at least.

I do want to go into consulting/banking…

You have a choice to make. You can take more time to study now and focus on maximizing your IR score as well. To be competitive at the very best companies, you will need a 7 or 8.

Let’s say, though, that you have very limited time now or that you are not sure yet whether you will want to go into banking or consulting. In that case, you might decide to take the test again after starting business school, either before your first summer break (if you need the score to help secure an internship) or before the recruiting season begins in earnest in the winter or spring of your second year in school.

Realistically speaking, a lot of people will want to follow that second path. I just want to warn you: the last thing anyone is going to want to do in a year or two is retake the GMAT just for the IR score. You will also have to study again for Quant and Verbal, because you will not want to risk a big score drop in those areas; the firms will see those scores as well.

If you are applying in two months and just do not have time to add thorough IR prep into the mix, then the decision is made for you. Quant and Verbal are more important now, so you might have to retake the GMAT in the future to get that IR score.

If you have the luxury of time, though, use it. Plan to add about four weeks to your overall study time frame. Then start incorporating IR throughout your study (a lot of overlaps actually exist between IR, Quant and Verbal). Some starting points follow.

If you are a ManhattanGMAT student, watch the two-hour IR workshop tape in your student center. Use that in conjunction with our IR Strategy Guide to learn all of the strategies for IR questions.

Here are four free How To Analyze articles, one for each of the four IR question types:

“How to Analyze a GMAT Integrated Reasoning Table Question”

“How to Analyze a GMAT Integrated Reasoning Two-Part Question”

“How to Analyze a GMAT Integrated Reasoning Multi-Source Reasoning Question”

“How to Analyze a GMAT Integrated Reasoning Graph Problem”

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