What is Integrated Reasoning?

By Mike McGarry, GMAT Expert at Magoosh
Published May 18, 2012

The GMAT Integrated Reasoning section is a new section on the GMAT, and will be introduced on June 1st, 2012. Instead of making test takers suffer even longer, GMAC, the writers of the GMAT, have decided to replace one of the essays with the Integrated Reasoning section.
As the section implies there is a fair amount of reasoning involved – most will be quant-based though there will be some verbal-based reasoning as well.
Here are some important points to keep in mind:
  • You must answer a question before moving on
  • Once you answer a question you can’t go back to it
  • A graph or prompt may have multiple questions
  • You will have 30 minutes to do 12 questions
  • There will be an onscreen calculator for this new section (but not for the rest of the exam!)
What are the different parts?
Graphics Interpretation – “Interpret the graph and select the option from a drop-down list…”
Format= This type has by far the widest variety of possible ways in which the information can be presented. All information will be presented visually, in a graph or a chart. The information may be a pie chart, a bar chart, a column chart, a line graph/timeplot, a scatterplot, a bubble graph, an organizational chart, a flow chart, or a floorplan/map

= Often there will be at least a small verbal prompt accompanying the graph or chart, and sometimes a detailed verbal explanation is given.

= One part of one chart may be detailed by another chart: for example, a single column in a column graph might be shown broken down into subdivisions in a pie chart.

= All GI questions involve drop-down menus. The question prompt will be a sentence, and at some point in the sentence there will be a gap; in the gap will be a drop down menu with 3-4 choices. For example: “The hospital’s debt increased by [drop-down menu] percent in 2005″ (obviously, that particular drop-down menu would have percent values). Each GI question typically will have one or two sentence prompts, always with a total of two drop-down menus. You must get both correct to earn credit for the question, as there is no partial credit on the GMAT IR.

Most graphs display numerical information in visual form. The various graphs (pie, bar, column, line, scatterplot, and bubble) will account for more than 90% of all GI questions. Organizational charts will be rare: they typically show, in visual form, the power relationships, the pecking order, in an organization. Flowcharts will be rare: they map out, in visual form, the sequence of steps needed to accomplish some end, with alternatives specified at various decision points.
Table Analysis - “Sort the table to organize the data so you can determine whether certain condition are met.”
Format = A “sortable” table of numbers — the table will have multiple columns, and you will have the ability to sort by any column, so that is shows that column in increasing or decreasing order.

= There may be verbal information, before or after the table, describing or clarifying something about the table

= Although GMAC doesn’t use the term “Multiple Dichotomous Choice” here, that’s essentially the format of all TA questions. For each TA question, there will be a prompt and then three individual questions and only two answer choices from which to select (e.g “true/false”, “improve/detract”, “make money/lose money”, etc.). The prompt can be quite wordy, delineating precise specifications. You must get answer all three prompts on the page correctly to earn credit for the question, as there is no partial credit on the GMAT IR.

This is relatively straightforward. One column of the table may be a verbal identifier (e.g. the name of each country), but the other columns will be numerical. The numbers can be numerical values of a variable, or ranks, or percentages, or percentage increase/decrease.
Two-part Analysis – “Select One Answer from each column to solve a problem with a two-part solution.”
Format = A sizeable prompt will outline the scenario. Any variables required will be defined in this prompt.

= The question consists of a table of the following form:

Question #1           
Question #2
Answer #1
Answer #2
Answer #3
Answer #4
Answer #5

Questions are will be partially or completely related and interdependent. You will mark the answer for column #1 in the first column and the answer for column #2 in the second column. It is possible, in some scenarios, for both questions to have the same correct answer. You cannot mark more than one answer in any column. You must get both columns correct to earn credit for the question, as there is no partial credit on the GMAT IR.

The 2PA questions can be either mathematical (numerical or algebraic) or completely verbal.

The algebraic 2PA questions are quite similar to Problem Solving questions involving variables in the answer choices (VICs). The prompt will be just slightly more involved than a comparable PS prompt, and then two questions, rather than one, will be asked about that prompt.

In the numerical 2PA questions, the two numbers might be, for example, the solution values of two related variables, or two percents that satisfy some specified condition. These are also similar to PS problems with numerical answer, except two questions are asked.

The purely verbal 2PA will typically present a paragraph-long prompt, perhaps involving technical terminology, and then the questions will pose two related tasks: first step + second step; biggest advantage + biggest liability; satisfies all conditions + satisfies none of the conditions; something gained + something lost; etc.

Multi-source reasoning – “Click on the page to reveal different data and discern which date you need to answer the question.”
Format = Split Screen

= On the left side a window with three clickable cards. These cards contain the information that will be relevant to answering the question. You can view only one card at a time.

= On the right side, the questions. You will only see one question at a time, and once you submit your answer to a question, you cannot go back. There will be two kinds of questions in the MSR section

a) ordinary five-choice Multiple Choice, exactly like the GMAT Problem-Solving questions or any of the question in the GMAT Verbal section

b) Multiple Dichotomous Choice: in a single MDC question there will be three individual questions and only two answer choices from which to select (e.g “true/false”, “improve/detract”, “make money/lose money”, etc.). In other words, for each of the three questions, you have a dichotomous choice: just two possibilities. You must answer all three correctly to get credit for this MDC question, as there is no partial credit on the IR section.

Some of these questions are intensely verbal: for example, three parts of a conversation or an email exchange. Others are more numerical: for example, one card might describe the overview of a scenario, and the other two cards will give numerical parameters informing aspects of the scenario. The card that introduces the scenario may define relevant jargon or relevant abbreviations, and then the other cards will use that jargon or those abbreviations in context. The information on the three different cards can interrelate in any one of a number of ways. Again, you will be free to click back and forth among the three cards as much as you like, but at any moment in time, you will be looking at only one of the three: you cannot view cards simultaneously.

 Search our directory of graduate programs

This post was written by Mike McGarry, GMAT Expert at Magoosh, and is an excerpt from Magoosh's free 
Integrated Reasoning eBook.
Find Schools