GMAT Tips: Insights into the IR Section from Magoosh

GMAT Tips from MagooshNext up in our series on IR tips and insights is Mike McGarry, GMAT expert at Magoosh. Magoosh offers a comprehensive online prep program featuring over 150 video lessons and 700 online practice questions and video explanations to help you conquer the GMAT.

Accepted: What does the new integrated reasoning (IR) section test?

Mike of Magoosh: “Integrated reasoning” is GMAC’s term to describe questions that combine (i.e. “integrate”) skills that previously had been strictly divided between the Quantitative and Verbal sections. IR questions can demand careful reading and analytic skills, such as one uses on Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning questions in the Verbal section, as well as mathematical skills, especially data interpretation and reading graphs & charts.

In our modern electronic culture, we all experience a blitzkrieg of information.Everyone has more information coming at them than they can handle. One of the principal skills needed in the modern world, and especially in the modern business world, is the ability to make sense of information in a variety of form and to extract from it the kernel of relevance.

In the real business world, there is not a separate “Quantitative Section” or “Verbal Section.” Words and facts and numbers and graphs and charts all come together, and we have to make sense of how they all connect and interrelate. The business schools with which GMAC consults felt that old test format never asked students to combine verbal and numerical skills at once, and this basic criticism led to the development of the IR section.

2) What are your top three study tips for IR?

Mike of Magoosh:

a) IR has four brand new question formats. This ain’t your granddaddy’s GMAT! This is not another ocean of multiple choice questions. You need to learn the variety of ways information will be presented, and the variety of ways the questions will be posed. Gaining detailed familiarity with these new question formats is absolutely essential.

b) Some IR skills carry over completely from the Verbal (especially RC and CR questions) and Quantitative sections. The skills unique to IR involve executive function and critical thinking: deciding priorities, weighing benefits vs. liabilities, designing strategy, resolving conflicting values, etc. How do you learn that stuff? Read how the experts do it every day. You need look no further than the WSJ or the Economist magazine to get myriad examples of successful, and not-so-successful, executives exercising these skills in the real world. Learn from the pros.

c) Graphs! If you’re not a math/techy person by nature, get yourself used to reading graphs. Again, both the WSJ and the Economist magazine are wonderful sources: rare is an issue of either that won’t have a couple graphs scattered somewhere amongst its articles. Find those graphs, and practice interpreting them in context. If you understand everything a graph is communicating in a WSJ or Economist article, you are well on your way to the level of mastery that IR expects.

Accepted: How have your test prep materials and courses changed to prepare students for the IR section?

Mike of Magoosh:

  • Within the Magoosh product, we have added a new Integrated Reasoning section which already has a bank of questions, and we are in the process of building up this bank.
  • Since January,our blog has had a number of blog posts on the IR section, including practice questions of each of the four types.
  • Last month, we released a free comprehensive IR ebook.

Accepted: For 2013 applicants, do you think schools will make heavy use of the IR score and treat it as reliable and predictive as the other GMAT sections? Or do you believe they will rely more on the tried and true elements of the GMAT and less on IR this year?”

Mike of Magoosh: I think that’s a hard one to call. Certainly the Q&V will be the most important, and what’s hard to determine is the relative importance assigned to IR. I think the person who aces Q&V and also aces the IR will have an edge over the person who aces Q&V but flubs the IR. Acing everything, even a brand new question, is a way a candidate can make a powerful statement: “Look, I can handle whatever you throw at me.” On the other hand, I think the schools will not know what to make, say, of the person who bombs the Quantitative section but aces the IR. What does that say about that person’s skill set?? I think exactly what the IR measures, and what the IR score reflects about a business school candidate, will not become clear until at least a few rounds of admissions have passed.

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