GMAT Tips: IR Section Insights from Kaplan Test Prep

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Kaplan Test Prep graciously shares some tips and insights into the new Integrated Reasoning (IR) section of the GMAT exam.   If you are interested in using Kaplan to prepare for your GMAT exam, read our interview with Ram, who just recently completed a Kaplan GMAT course.

Accepted: What is the new integrated reasoning (“IR”) section testing?

Kaplan Test Prep: Aspiring business school students face a more challenging GMAT than they did just a couple of months ago with the addition of the Integrated Reasoning section in June.  Integrated Reasoning presents four question types designed to measure test takers’ ability to organize, synthesize, and evaluate information from multiple sources and in different formats. The makers of the exam say the Integrated Reasoning section tests how applicants respond to the kinds of complex challenges they will encounter in business schools and as managers. The GMAT’s 200,000+ annual test takers worldwide now face the following new question types:

  • Table Analysis:  Test takers are presented with a sortable table of information, similar to a spreadsheet, to be analyzed to find whether answer statements are accurate.
  • Graphics Interpretation: Test takers are asked to interpret a graph or graphical image, and select the option from a drop-down list to make response statements accurate.
  • Multi-Source Reasoning: Questions are accompanied by two to three sources of information. Test takers must examine all the relevant information which may be a combination of text, charts, and tables to answer questions.
  • Two-Part Analysis: A question will involve two components for a solution. Possible answers are given in a table format with a column for each component and rows with possible options; test takers are asked to consider the options provided.

Accepted: What are your top-three study tips for IR?

Kaplan Test Prep: Best Practices for each question type:

Graphics Interpretation:  Lots of different kinds of information to analyze in order to answer these questions, so stay focused and systematic.  Pay attention to the details on the graphs to stay efficient.

Two-part Analysis:  Note what each column represents, and simplify whenever possible.  Treat these almost like a Data Sufficiency problem where you figure out what you will need from the information given before jumping into the answer choices. The Backsolving Strategy is usually the key to a quick solution when the question involves numbers.

Multi-source Reasoning:   Create a brief outline of what kind of information is given. Take notes as you do for Reading Comprehension passage maps, as you go through the tabs systematically, to reduce the amount of re-reading you’ll have to do when you must research for an answer.

Table Analysis:  Get the gist of the table before diving into the questions and be judicious in your decisions on how and when to sort through the table.

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

Kaplan Test Prep: For nearly 75 years, Kaplan has been training ambitious individuals to reach and exceed their goals on standardized tests so they can reach and exceed their goals professionally.  We have been teaching the GMAT specifically for over 40 years.  In short, Kaplan Test Prep is a product leader and we have multiple teams devoted to continuous product improvement and innovation. We were the first test prep company to launch a comprehensive curriculum for the new Integrated Reasoning earlier this year.  We literally had a team of hundreds of academics who worked on updating our course to teach Integrated Reasoning and make additional upgrades, including:

  • All nine of our computer adaptive practice tests contain an Integrated Reasoning section.  We offer the most full-length practice tests in the business and we were the first to develop IR lessons and realistic practice sections.  Practice tests taken at a Pearson VUE Testing Center will include the IR section, as well, and that Test Day Experience is only available to Kaplan GMAT students.
  • We offer eight practice test timing options.  It is important to provide our students with a realistic testing experience during their preparation with us.  Some individuals require special accommodations to sit for the GMAT due to various physical and cognitive challenges.  In order to maintain an ultra-realistic testing experience for all of our students, we have fully fleshed out our special ADA timing options within our program to meet every need of every student.
  • Students can flag quiz questions and create quizzes comprised of flagged items.  Our GMAT Quiz Bank tool houses the highest number of GMAT practice questions in the business.  Students can create hundreds of quizzes across multiple layers of granularity.  A quiz parameter example might be: a timed quiz (timing based on q-type) focusing on arithmetic and specifically set properties offering medium and high difficulty problem solving and data sufficiency questions pulled from both used and unused items.  Now, we have added a new functionality: flagging.  Students can flag questions and create quizzes from those flagged questions for further review.
  • Question statistics and enhanced explanation display.  Our answer explanations are extremely robust and always reflect the most efficient and strategic way to solve a GMAT question.  We know that studying can be an arduous process.  Just like the need for a comfortable chair, the ergonomics (i.e., visual appeal) of the explanation display makes a difference.  No detail is too small!  Furthermore, in order to help you identify wrong answer pathologies and to self-diagnose performance, we now offer question statistics.  We tell you the percent of test takers that chose each answer choice option for each question.
  • The Lessons On Demand and Workshops list now include run times.  Sounds simple, but it makes planning study sessions easier.  Before, a student would not know how long one of our professionally produced videos would last until they clicked on it.  A simple but helpful solution of adding the total run time next to the video title lets you make the most of your study session.
  • We adjust our 1-8 Integrated Reasoning scoring scale in tandem with GMAC.  As more and more test takers sit for the new GMAT with the IR section, more and more data will help GMAC communicate what a given score within the scoring scale means in relation to a percentile distribution.  As GMAC collects this data and updates their percentile distribution chart, so will we.  For more on the Integrated Reasoning scoring scale, click here.
  • Improved answer choice selection functionality.  Again, this may seem like a nominal improvement, but the results justify such attention to detail.  In the past, when a test taker selected an answer choice, the cursor of the mouse needed to hover over the bubble preceding the choice.  Now, test takers can click anywhere on the answer choice to select it.  So what?  Well, that small improvement could mean an aggregated decrease of 1 minute of time spent just placing the cursor in the right spot on the screen.  One minute can easily equal one question!

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?

Kaplan Test Prep: Although it is yet to be seen how Integrated Reasoning scores will actually be used by admissions committees, we do now at least know what they will look like.  Since June 5, the GMAT has had one less essay (Issue) and one more section (Integrated Reasoning).  Contrary to what some might have heard, your performance on the new IR section will not impact your 200-800 point GMAT score.  Rather, you now receive five separate scores across four separate scales.

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) – 0 to 6 points in ½-point increments
  2. Integrated Reasoning (IR) – 1 to 8 points in 1-point increments
  3. Quantitative – 0 to 60 in 1-point increments
  4. Verbal – 0 to 60 in 1-point increments
  5. Aggregated Quant and Verbal (Total Score) – 200 to 800 points in 10-point increments

On test day, immediately upon completing the exam you will receive your total score.  Up to 20 days later (though it often takes less time than that) you will receive your Official Score Report as will the institutions you selected to send your scores to upon sitting for the exam.  In that official report from GMAC, you will receive your AWA, Integrated Reasoning, Quant, and Verbal scores as well as an affirmation of your total score.  [Note: your total score will not change from what you see on test day.]

A wild card in all of this is the instability of the translation of your 1-8 IR score into a percentile ranking.  All reported scores are coupled with a percentile ranking.  In other words, each listed score will be shown alongside the proportion of scores below your score in order to communicate how your scores compare with those of other GMAT test takers.  For example, if you receive a total score of 700 then you will have scored better than 89% of your peers, hence putting yourself into the 90th percentile.

Typically, GMAT score percentiles are based on three years of performance data moving through time.  That is, your percentile ranking is based on the data set created by all individual GMAT scores created on the day you took your GMAT aggregated with all other GMAT scores from the three previous years.  What this means is that the point value of your score today will change in percentile terms over time.  While your Official Score Report hardcopy will remain constant, as will those score reports sent to the (up to) five selected institutions, any future score report requests will reflect the most current data.

Since IR is brand new, GMAC will update percentile-ranking distributions with greater frequency (monthly) for the rest of 2012 as the organization grows its sample size.  From 2013 forward, IR score updates will follow the same updating schedule as the other generated GMAT scores (annually).  All of this translates into a notable and interesting unknown.  We can say for sure that your IR score as a percentile value will change.  For better or worse?  Well, only time will tell.

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