Top Tips for Integrated Reasoning:
hen you’re approaching the GMAT for the first time, a few things tend look at least a little familiar. There’s a verbal section and a quantitative section, just like on many other standardized tests (think the SAT or ACT). There are multiple-choice questions, just like on many other exams you’ve taken throughout your life. But then there’s Integrated Reasoning…which looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before, at least on a test.
Because Integrated Reasoning looks less familiar to us, a lot of new GMAT students balk at the format and don’t end up scoring all of the points they could. Here are a few tips to guide you through the section!
1. Know the question formats.
This is true of all GMAT sections, but it’s especially true for IR, where the questions can look a little weird, to say the least. However, there are only four question types—but you’ll see them every single time. These are Multi-Source Reasoning (presented as cards); Table Analysis (presented as tables); Graphics Interpretation (presented as, well, graphics); and Two-Part Analysis (charts).
2. Know the question types.
In Multi-Source Reasoning, there are two question types: multiple-choice and “dichotomous” choice. The first is pretty straightforward. The second will present a dichotomy (like true/false) and then present you with statements to match with either side of that dichotomy. Table Analysis questions will all be in this format. Graphics Interpretation presents new challenges, with fill-in-the-blank sentences to be completed by choosing the right answer from a drop-down menu. Finally, in Two-Part Analysis, you’ll come across a question type that involves selecting answer choices that answer two questions.
3. Learn the scoring system.
You can’t get partial credit on GMAT IR, meaning that you need to answer any question with more than one part entirely correctly to get that point. You’ll see 12 questions, but each question will have two to three parts (except in Multi-Source reasoning).
4. Make time-management inferences based on the scoring system.
If you’re completely unsure about two parts of a three-part question, it’s unlikely that you’ll get the point anyway, so why spend a lot of time on the third part of it? Time to make your best guess and move on.
5. Build your graphics muscles.
Unless you’re the kind of person who seeks out graphics for fun (in which case, this section was made for you), your IR score will benefit from some time spent familiarizing yourself with graphics interpretation. Check out the Wall Street Journal and The Economist for complex sources.
6. Work on your mental math skills.
Oh, a calculator! most test-takers think when they first see the IR section. You don’t get a calculator for the quantitative section, so this feels like a real treat. But guess what? The on-screen IR calculator doesn’t understand order of operations. This seems like a small thing, but in reality, it can end up costing you a lot of time on test day—when you could do the math much easier mentally, with practice. Work on calculations in day to day life, weaning yourself off of your phone’s calculator. Calculate tips, balance your checkbook, add and subtract at the grocery store; as long as you’re doing it mentally, rather than by hand, it’ll be great practice.
GMAT Integrated Reasoning doesn’t come naturally to most people. It’s a section that requires an understanding of both logic and math, in addition to knowledge about graphics. However, just because it’s a new format for most people, that doesn’t mean you can’t master it! Put in the time and effort, and you’ll see your work pay off.
Rachel Kapelke-Dale blogs about test prep and admissions for Magoosh. She has a BA from Brown University, and did her own graduate work at the Université de Paris VII (Master Recherche) and University College London (PhD). She has taught and written about test preparation and admissions practices for over a decade.