Getting Ready for Integrated Reasoning: The Scoring!

by , Jun 26, 2012

Weve been talking a lot lately about how to prep for IR, including the idea that we only need a good enough score for now because the section is so new that the schools arent going to place heavy emphasis on IR right away. One key piece of information, though, has been missing: whats a good enough IR score?

GMAC has just released the first set of percentile rankings for the 1 to 8 IR scoring scale. Here it is:

The mean score is a 4.0 / 46th percentile. In general, as with the essays, we want to try to hit or beat the mean. If youre applying to an extra-competitive program, try to beat the mean, but a 5 (for now) is fine you dont need to hit 7 or 8 the first year.

Why? As weve discussed before, the schools will be in data-gathering mode for at least the first year. They simply dont know yet how much weight to place on this new section or how valid it will be in helping to distinguish among quality applicants. Theyll gather data on their applicants and admits for the first year or two to help them figure this all out and then theyll start placing more emphasis on the IR score.

At the same time, you dont want to completely bomb the section. They might think, Oh, this student might have given herself an unfair advantage by essentially skipping the IR section, so she was more mentally fresh when she got to quant and verbal. We should discount her quant and verbal scores.

How do we get that good enough score?

The first question everyone will have is: how many questions do I need to answer correctly in order to get a good enough score? And, for once, the answer is not going to be everybody gets about the same number of answers right. That is how the quant and verbal sections work, but not IR. IR really is based on the percentage of questions answered correctly.

We dont know yet, though, how many you need to answer correctly in order to hit the various scoring levels we just dont have enough data yet. But Im going to go out on a limb and guess: aim to get half of the questions right (or more).

IR is a pretty even mix of quant and verbal reasoning skills, so weight your attention more heavily towards your stronger area. Really good at CR and RC? Bail more quickly when you see a really hard quant-based IR question. Alternatively, is math your thing? Then be ready to guess and move on more quickly when youve got a really long, convoluted text with reasoning-based questions.

Anything else?

Yes, one other very important detail: you also need to be prepared enough for IR that it wont overly tire you out before you get to the main event (quant and verbal). Mental fatigue manifests as a decreased ability to concentrate, the feeling that you arent getting what youre reading and you have to read it again, an impatience to be done with the test already and I dont care what the answer is, or significant difficulty in making decisions, to the point of feeling paralyzed on a question.

If youre not prepared enough for IR, youll be making your life harder when you reach the quant and verbal. Im sure youve noticed that I keep putting that word enough in parentheses. Heres why: youre not actually trying to get everything right, so when you see something thats just way too hard, you make a guess and keep going without stressing about it at all. Not only doesnt it matter that youre probably going to get it wrong, but that realization is actually actively in your favor right now (because at least youre getting it wrong quickly and without too much mental effort). Answer what you can, guess where you cant, dont stress about any of it, and finish the section still relatively mentally fresh.

Key Takeaways for IR:

(1) Know your goal: to get a good enough score and to be prepared enough that IR doesn't wipe you out mentally before you get to the more important later sections.

(2) Build some flexibility into your timeframe and prep plan. The IR question types are different enough that some people will find they need more prep time than they might have expected. Others will think, wow, I wish the whole test were like this! You wont know until you dive in and start studying, but be prepared to slow down and take a bit more time if IR is really throwing you for a loop.

(3) Your actual prep process will be very similar to what you have already been doing for quant and verbal same kinds of prep materials, same kinds of study activities, same kinds of analysis of your work, and so on. This will all just be happening with new question types, thats all.

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