Does the GMAT Integrated Reasoning Section Matter?
The summer of 2015 will mark the 3-year anniversary of the still-enigmatic Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT. In this article, we try to analyze the section’s aim and importance for current applicants, as well as its perspective for future. Let’s see what opinion industry leaders have with regards to this section, and whether it affects your admission chances.
Firstly, the entire GMAT exam requires focus, but Integrated Reasoning, in particular, is not about mathematical equations or English grammar like the other two sections; it is about your ability to focus on the question in front of you in order to find the proper information. It is also about the ability to focus on relevant information and ignore irrelevant information. In other words, Integrated Reasoning (IR) is really testing whether you can focus and concentrate or whether you will become confused and frustrated.
Why Introduce IR?
For years, people have complained that much of what the GMAT tests has no relevance to their business careers. They have even tempted fate by asking for a more relevant test. Those people should have been careful as to what they wished for. Now GMAC has figured out a way to take the sort of tasks you might perform on a daily basis in a business environment and use them as the basis for the “Integrated Reasoning” (IR) section.
A post to the official GMAT blog said this: “Simply put, the IR section tests you on the skills you use every day to analyze information. You use IR skills, for example, when you conduct an Internet search to find an affordable apartment within walking distance of a subway station; or plan an itinerary for a two-week trip to Barcelona, Madrid, and Casablanca; or schedule your course load for the coming two semesters—or do all three tasks at once.”
Is IR Important?
Simply put—not yet, but it will be, soon enough.
According to the 2014 survey of admissions officers at over 200 business schools across the United States, 60% say that an applicant’s score on the GMAT’s Integrated Reasoning section is not currently an important part of their evaluation of a prospective student’s overall GMAT Score.
This represents a slight uptick from the similar survey from 2013, when 57% said an applicant’s GMAT Integrated Reasoning score was not important. Despite that finding, another survey also finds that 50% of business schools pinpoint a low GMAT score as “the biggest application killer,” confirming that applicants still need to submit a strong score overall. And because GMAT takers receive a separate score for the Integrated Reasoning section, poor performance on this section cannot be masked by stronger performance on the Quantitative, Verbal or Analytical Writing Assessment sections of the exam.
Why Don’t B-Schools Give IR its Due Attention?
According to Brian Carlidge of Kaplan Test Prep: “The fact that a majority of MBA programs are still not currently placing great importance on the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT is somewhat understandable, since they may want to gather additional performance data before fully incorporating it into their evaluation process. It’s important to remember that because GMAT scores are good for five years, many applicants in 2012, 2013 and 2014 probably submitted scores from the old GMAT, which did not include the Integrated Reasoning section.”
This is further substantiated by Joanna Graham, Director of Field Marketing for the GMAC: “…a lot of schools are still in that ‘wait and watch’ mode or ‘wait and watch’ period where they don’t necessarily want to unfairly penalize students who don’t have a IR score and they recognize that over the next five years they’re going to see candidates, since the [GMAT] scores are good for five years, they’re going to see a mix of students who have both [some with IR scores, some without]. I think for all intents and purposes candidates who do have a [good] IR score it certainly doesn’t hurt them, just because if nothing else it gives them an extra data point on which the schools can evaluate them. I think schools are really just hungry for as much data about the candidates as they can get their hands on. One of the things that has been of benefit is the fact that we didn’t change any other aspects of the test, so you know a 680 total score still means the same thing that a 680 did a year ago [before the IR section was added]. So there’s some consistency, and I think that’s one of the things that was really important for us as well, making sure that while there was going to be a learning curve and a little bit of a transition, that it wasn’t a completely uncomfortable transition.”
Should You Still Prepare for the IR Section?
Of course! Despite what it may seem like, Integrated Reasoning is not a “dump section” that you can just ignore.
Rich D’Amato, a spokesperson for GMAC, said the organization expects the relatively new section of the GMAT to become increasingly more important. “We fully expect it will grow in how much it matters in the future, since the section and the skills it measures were designed with input from both schools and recruiters about what they were looking for, respectively, in prospective students and staff recruits”.
As more and more applicants submit scores from the current GMAT over the next couple of years, business schools may decide that Integrated Reasoning performance should play a more critical role. Until that time though, one should not discount the importance of preparing for, and doing well, on the Integrated Reasoning section. Similar to how not scoring well on Integrated Reasoning cannot be masked by good performance on other sections because it receives its own separate score, doing well on Integrated Reasoning can set you apart from other applicants in a positive way and give your application the extra “edge”. Use it to your advantage!