How to Prepare for GMAT Integrated Reasoning

Get Ready for the New GMAT (Editor's Note: Today we welcome a guest post from Veritas Prep where they give you great advice on how you should prepare for the new GMAT Integrated Reasoning section that we highlighted in our last post.)

1) Integrated reasoning is just what it sounds like.

The word “integrated” tells you most of what you need to know about this section. Its role is to test both verbal skills and quantitative skills in an integrated fashion.  Similar to reading comprehension, you will need to sift through, prioritize and draw quick mathematical inferences without wasting valuable time (like problem solving).  You will need to carefully evaluate whether certain conclusions can logically be drawn from data (critical reasoning) and whether this data can lead to a sound conclusion (the essence of data sufficiency). So what’s the good news about integrated reasoning?  There’s precious little “new” material to study.  Your work on logic, reading comprehension and fundamental math will provide you with nearly all the tools required to succeed on IR.  And by doing some IR practice problems, you’ll actually find yourself improving on the other sections because you will be forced to evaluate those skills and concepts from new angles, enhancing your mental agility.

2) Become comfortable with graphics.

The only new knowledge base required for integrated reasoning relates to the graphics interpretation questions, which involve extracting and analyzing information from a variety of graphics.  For these questions, you should begin reviewing the types of graphs that you see in the official GMAC practice questions – such as bar graphs, pie charts, bubble charts and, Venn diagrams.  Once you’re familiar with these graphics, the questions read a lot like reading comprehension questions.  Accordingly, some basic graph familiarity will go a long way.  Once you can interpret how a graph is organized and where you’ll need to find the data, you can then let your already-integrated skill set take over.

3) Be question-stem oriented.

You’ve likely heard the phrase “paralysis by analysis” in business – and arguably the easiest way to struggle on the IR section is to succumb to it.  Each IR question type is designed to present you with much more data than you will actually need, giving you an opportunity to waste time and energy analyzing data that doesn’t matter for the questions themselves.  To be efficient, search specifically for data that will answer the question. Do not attempt to absorb all the data before you view the questions.  And note specific wording choices in the question stems – as in many reading comprehension, critical reasoning and problem solving questions, the trap answers in IR are often created through precision in wording.  When a question asks for the highest ratio of Y to X, beware that the data might be pre-sorted in a form that makes your natural inclination to read the ratio from X to Y.

4) Make the data your own.

One new feature of the IR format is that when data is presented in a table, you can sort the table in ascending/descending order by any of the column fields.  Be sure to use this to your advantage. Just as algebraic information on the quantitative section is often presented inconveniently, so is the table data on IR.  Savvy test-takers will save time and be much more effective in answering questions by sorting tables to match what’s being asked.  For example, if a question asks, “Did the item with the highest score in category A also have the lowest score in category B?” you must sort by column A (or column B) to get the highest score in one column and compare it to the data presented in the other.

5) Remember that valid conclusions must be true.

When a question asks you whether a conclusion is valid or whether an inference can logically be drawn, the answer is “yes” only if the conclusion is proven “must be true.” “Probably true” means that it could be false, and therefore is an invalid conclusion.  Many IR questions will come in what looks like true/false form, with the overarching question “Which of the following conclusions can be drawn from the data?”  Your job is to hold those conclusions up to the “must be true” test and if you find that the answer is “not necessarily,” select no. This is also a useful strategy for critical reasoning. As you prepare for the IR section, remember this: The vast majority of the skills that you will need are those that overlap with the other sections. The questions in this section will have the most professional applications and carry over into your success at business school. Don’t see the IR section as “new” or “additional.” Instead see it for what it is - an excellent opportunity to solidify your concept/skill base for the test as a whole.  

About Veritas Prep: Veritas Prep is the world’s largest privately owned GMAT preparation and admissions consulting provider, offering industry-leading programs to help applicants improve their test scores and gain admission to the world’s best graduate schools. Veritas Prep offers live GMAT prep instruction in more than 80 cities worldwide, as well as interactive online courses available everywhere. Additionally, Veritas Prep offers industry-leading admissions consulting services for applicants seeking admission to the most competitive business schools in the world.