In honor of Integrated Reasoning’s one year birthday on June 5, we decided to carefully evaluate all 105 official IR questions that the GMAC has made available for practice so far. This includes 50 questions in the Official Guide online companion, 12 questions in the GMATPrep diagnostic tests, 15 questions in the GMATPrep practice question sets, and 24 questions in the Question Pack 1 add-on to GMATPrep.
In addition, MBA.com offers 19 sample Integrated Reasoning questions, of which 15 are duplicative with Official Guide online questions and four are not found elsewhere. You can also find links to these questions on our Integrated Reasoning page. Note that the fourth question in the Graphics Interpretation problem set, the third question in the Two-Part Analysis problem set, the third question in the Table Analysis problem set, and the first question in the Multi-Source Reasoning problem set are the unique problems. These four questions combined with the 101 questions listed previously make up the 105 questions that we reviewed.
General Lessons Learned
So what lessons did we learn? Let’s first discuss some general thoughts, and then observations specific to each question type. Overall, Integrated Reasoning can be quite challenging even though this section is not adaptive. Difficulty varies from relatively straightforward to insanely difficult (given the time constraints). Insanely difficult questions would take even the most advanced students more than 3 minutes to correctly answer. Let’s hope that the GMAC balances question difficulty amongst test takers. Although difficulty varies within each question type, we would rank the four question-types from easiest to hardest as follows: Table Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis, Multi-Source Reasoning.
The time crunch is real, and you must be careful not to spend excessive time on any one question. Unless you are aiming for a perfect 8 score, you may be better off skipping (i.e. quickly guessing on) one very difficult question (if you can quickly make that assessment of difficulty) and saving your time for other questions. Since you must get all parts of a question correct, skip the entire question if you are short on time; don’t waste time trying to get non-existent partial credit. If you do need to skip a question, it’s better not to skip a Multi-Source Reasoning question. Since you typically see the same MSR prompt for multiple questions and because reading the MSR prompt takes most of the time, you won’t actually save much time by skipping an MSR question.
Although a calculator is available, its use can itself be time-consuming and is usually not necessary. On the practice questions, we rarely used the calculator, usually on just one part of one or two questions out of 12 questions. The calculator proved helpful only on a truly mathematically intense calculation that could not easily be estimated or compared with another value. We found ourselves using the calculator more on Graphics Interpretation than other question types, albeit still infrequently. Some third-party (non-GMAC) diagnostics contain IR questions that are far more calculation-intensive, and therefore more in need of the calculator, but this is not reflective of the real GMAT.
The wording of problems is purposely subtle and tricky. Be sure to read the prompt, the question, and the answers very carefully. Unlike the math section of the GMAT, you will find lots of extraneous information and data on Integrated Reasoning, particularly for Multi-Source Reasoning and Table Analysis questions. Get a good overview of the information presented and then extract the relevant information.
Graphics Interpretation (GI) [23 of the 105 questions]
GI questions deal primarily with math concepts. Line slopes and percents are particularly prominent in this question type, with ratios, mean averages, and probability also appearing frequently. All types of graphs can be included with GI questions, from the more familiar bar charts and line graphs to less familiar types of graphs such as specialized flowcharts and bubble charts. In order to save time on GI, look at drop-down menu choices before doing any work. As with Problem Solving questions, you will often find multiple-choice answers that are far apart, in which case approximation is appropriate.
Two-Part Analysis (2P) [34 of the 105 questions]
Versus the other IR question types, 2P questions vary most significantly in the information presented and the question asked. 2P is about evenly split between math-focused and verbal-focused questions. Each verbal-focused question is generally similar to either a Reading Comprehension question or a Critical Reasoning question (all types, but strengthen and weaken types are most common). Although the format of the question is slightly different, the skills used to answer 2P verbal-focused questions are pretty much the same as the skills used in RC and CR. As described in our prior post, we found two 2P verbal-focused questions with questionable answers in the Official Guide online companion. Because the Official Guide was released before the Integrated Reasoning section launched, these two questions probably did not receive the same level of rigorous testing that GMAC questions usually get.
For the 2P math-focused questions, a wide variety of math concepts are present, including geometry, algebraic equations, rates, and functions. As with Problem Solving questions, we generally don’t find much irrelevant information, so be careful if you haven’t used all the numbers or data provided. The difficulty of the math-focused sample questions skews harder than that of the verbal-focused sample questions, but the sample size is not large enough to draw any definite conclusion. You should work through 2P practice questions to become familiar with the question format. But because 2P questions vary widely, the best way to prepare for the concepts tested in 2P questions is to prepare for the GMAT math and verbal sections.
Table Analysis (TA) [14 of the 105 questions]
TA questions are primarily about figuring out the best way to sort the table. Tables can be large and contain lots of extra data, but sorting helps you quickly extract the relevant data. When first approaching a TA question, understand what information the table contains at a big-picture level without delving into the numbers. For each of the three sub-questions, sort the table based on what you are asked. Trying to answer a question without sorting will just waste time.
TA questions deal primarily with math concepts, particularly with mean and median averages and with ranges. Questions are almost always yes/no or true/false, so you typically don’t need to calculate exact values. You often must make some sort of comparison (e.g. is the mean value for 2010 greater than the mean value for 2011?), but this can usually be done without precise calculations.
Multi-Source Reasoning (MSR) [34 of the 105 questions]
MSR is particularly hard, because the information and data is spread across two or three tabs, only one of which is viewable at a given time. In order to alleviate the need to switch back-and-forth, take notes on your whiteboard packet of the important points on the least important or least data-filled tabs. You typically see the same MSR prompt for multiple IR questions (as with Reading Comprehension), so carefully read the MSR prompt the first time you see it, even if doing so consumes extra time.
About 2/3 of the sample MSR questions are verbal-focused and about 1/3 are math-focused. The verbal-focused questions are most similar to Reading Comprehension questions, but can require analysis of tabular data in order to answer the question. The sample math-focused questions deal primarily with budgets and costs, but can include other math concepts such as percents and rates.
About 2/3 of the sample MSR questions are 3-part opposite-answer questions and about 1/3 are traditional multiple-choice questions. Note that a minority of the sample math-focused questions are 3-part questions, whereas almost 4/5 of the sample verbal-focused questions are 3-part. With 3-part questions, we find that all three parts have the same answer infrequently. If you get the same answer for all three parts, quickly ensure that you have not erred (the same holds true for Table Analysis). Likewise, if you are unsure about one of the three sub-questions and you get the same answer for the other two sub-questions, you should guess the opposite answer for the sub-question that you are unsure about.