GMAT Impact: Yes, You Do Need to Study (a Bit!) for 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.

We all know by now that, if you are applying to business school this year, your Integrated Reasoning (IR) score will not likely be used at all by the schools (see our post about Stanford going on the record about this topic). Although you do not want to bomb IR completely—we have been advising people to aim for a 4 or higher—you do not need to go for a great score. There is an even more important reason, though, that you need to study (a bit) for IR … probably more than you think.

Why? The answer is very simple: the IR section comes before Quant (Q) and Verbal (V). Whereas you do not need to care much about IR, you do need to care a great deal about Quant and Verbal. If you are not prepared to get an okay IR score while using the minimal amount of brainpower necessary, then you might have mental stamina issues later in the test, and that could cause problems for your Q and V scores.

So, what exactly do you need to do? First, familiarize yourself with the four different prompt types and the four different question types. Know how they are going to present information, the types of questions they are going to ask and what kinds of reasoning you will need to use to assess that information and address those questions.

Second, know your strengths and weaknesses among the different prompt and question types. Given that you are only going for a 4 or better, you do not even need to try to answer all of the questions, but you might as well spend your time on the things that you are better at. Know how to make effective decisions about what to try and what to skip.

As a very general rule, Multi-Source Reasoning questions tend to be easier for those who are better at verbal, while Graph questions tend to be easier for those who are better at quant. Two-Part questions can go either way, depending on the details of the question itself; you will just have to see whether there are numbers in the problem. Ditto Table questions—while those will certainly have numbers, the math manipulations involved can be fairly light, and these questions might be more focused on logical reasoning than on pure math. Here is an example of a very quant-focused Two-Part problem and another that is purely verbal.

Finally, if you are planning to apply next year (or later), then you may have to try for a better IR score. As of right now, we do not know how much weight IR will have or what kinds of scores will be considered “good enough,” but I would aim for a 6 or higher for the top-tier schools and a 4/5 or higher for other schools.

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