How To Study GMAT Integrated Reasoning

March 6, 2012

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Starting in June, the GMAT will include an "Integrated Reasoning" section. The GMAC has released a few sample questions of various types, and in future articles here, I'll take a closer look at those.

In the meantime, let's take an early look at how to prepare for the unfamiliar Integrated Reasoning (IR) section.

GMAT IR is new, but remember: The GMAT is still designed to evaluate the same general set of skills. The sort of person who breezes through the GMAT quant section and rarely misses a Critical Reasoning question is going to find that their abilities transfer well to Integrated Reasoning.

There are two basic skills that are most valuable in attacking Integrated Reasoning questions:

  • Extracting the important bits from a large and varied sets of information. Sound familiar? You have to do that to answer Reading Comprehension questions, and it is one major challenge of tough word problems on the quant section.
  • Data analysis. Unlike most GMAT Quant questions, you will need to find the relevant data yourself, perhaps from a table, or from one of several types of graph.

The good news is that you're already doing most of that. Whether it's "critical" or "integrated" or "mathematical," reasoning is what the GMAT is all about.

The biggest challenge facing you when preparing for the June debut of GMAT Integrated Reasoning is that there are only a few official practice questions. You've probably looked at several hundred realistic practice questions for the Quant and Verbal sections, and those are a key part of any study strategy. For IR, they aren't there.

We can only work with what we have. Here are two strategies you should use to make your study plan more IR-friendly:

  • Emphasize Critical Reasoning. While CR questions rarely include numbers and never include data analysis, CR is the question format that is most relevant to IR. Practice identifying the most relevant information and extracting the structure of the argument, and you'll find IR questions to be much more direct.
  • Practice Data Analysis. Seek out tables and graphs. (Hint: You'll find some in a good newspaper almost every day.) Make sure you know what every axis and data point means. Graphs on the coordinate plane give people the most trouble, so ensure that you are comfortable with that format.

Most of all, don't let Integrated Reasoning stress you out. The GMAT is scored on a curve, and everyone else is facing a brand-new section as well. Reasoning is reasoning, and if you're well prepared for the Quant and Verbal sections in June 2012, you shouldn't face too much difficult in the Integrated Reasoning portion, either.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Quant section. It's "far and away the best study material available," including over 300 realistic practice questions and more than 500 exercises!
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