GMAT IR (Integrated Reasoning) Guide

GMAT IR (Integrated Reasoning) Guide


April 6, 2016


GMAT IR Overview

Integrated Reasoning (IR) is one of the four sections tested in the GMAT. Many Indonesian GMAT test takers find the IR terrifying since it looks a lot more complicated at a first glance as it contains elements of both GMAT Quant and GMAT Verbal. As a GMAT Quantitative Instructor at Toga MBA Consulting, I wanted to share this guide so that you can approach the IR section effectively. Toga has also published guides on the other 3 sections of the GMAT on its blog.

The GMAT IR section consists of 12 questions based on 10 prompts and must be finished within 30 minutes. The term question here is ambiguous since each question actually has multiple mini-questions within itself. To get a score, you need to answer ALL the mini-questions within the question correctly. Unlike the quant and verbal section, IR is non-adaptive, meaning that you won’t get a more difficult or easy question if you correctly or incorrectly answer the previous question. However, just like with GMAT Quant and Verbal, you can’t skip forward or go back to previous question.

The questions are similar to a mini business case analysis complete with a flood of data that might seem overwhelming at first. IR incorporates elements of Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Statistics, Fractions, Decimals, and Percents. This means that by studying for GMAT Verbal and Quant, you have inadvertently prepared yourself for GMAT IR!


GMAT IR Question Types

There are 4 question types in GMAT IR. Let’s take a closer look at each one of them:

1. Multiple Source Reasoning (MSR)
MSR will ask you to make a reasoning based on data from multiple sources. The data is presented in multiple tabs and usually consists of a text prompt similar to the ones found in GMAT Verbal reading comprehension, mathematical data, graphs, and tables. The questions usually comprise of 2 types; multiple choice and opposite answer. Take a look at the images below to get a better understanding of the MSR question.

The text prompt is shown on the left and comprises of 3 tabs. The question, in this case the opposite question type, is shown on the right.


This one shows the multiple choice question.

2. Table Analysis
Table analysis mainly tests your quant skill, specifically in statistics and fractions, decimals, and percents. The question itself is a three-part yes/no question. Note that you can sort the table by a column but only in ascending order. Take a look at the image below to get a better understanding of the Table Analysis question.

GMAT IR Table Analysis

3. Graphics Interpretation
Graphics Interpretation will ask you to interpret the graphs, which can be line graphs and bar charts among others. Very rarely will you see an uncommon graph and if it does come out, it will come out with a brief explanation on how to read the graph. The question is usually presented in a sentence or two with two drop down buttons to choose the correct answer; i.e. complete the sentence. Take a look at the image below to get a better understanding of the Graphics Interpretation question.

GMAT IR Graphics Interpretation

4. Two-Part Analysis
In a glance, this question looks like the regular multiple-choice question you find in GMAT Quant and Verbal sections but with a two-part question. The question itself can be quant-based, verbal-based, a combination of both, or logic-based. You’ll be given a text prompt and a question in a table. Take a look at the image below to get a better understanding of the Two-Part Analysis question.

GMAT IR Two-Part Analysis

If you pay attention, you could see a calculator button on the top right page. I recommend you use the provided calculator to help you with the calculations you would need to perform in the IR section! This is how the calculator looks like in the real test.

GMAT IR Calculator


GMAT IR Scoring and Strategy

GMAT IR score ranges from 1 to 8 in whole-number increments. As IR itself is still fairly new, only recently introduced in 2012, there’s still no consensus on how much it weighs into the admission process. That is not to say that you should not prepare yourself for it. You do want to carefully think how much time you should spend studying for it however.

If your aim is to get all the questions right, that means you only have on average 2.5 minutes per question and it would most probably drain some of your mental energy you could have allocated for the Quant and Verbal sections later. However, if you find that the questions are relatively easy during the actual test, then you should seize the opportunity and get as high a score as possible.

Say that you decide to take my practical advice above to conserve your mental energy and aim to score a 6 on the IR. In that case, plan on guessing 2 questions so you can have roughly 3 minutes for each of the remaining 10 questions. If you aim for a slightly lower score of 5, you can guess 3 questions, which will give you roughly 3 minutes 20 seconds to solve the other 9 remaining questions. Note the huge time difference you can allocate per question with this strategy as opposed to attempting all the questions without guessing.

Deciding which to guess can only be done through practice. Find out which question type is your weakness and plan to skip them. If you find yourself weak at most if not all of the 4 question types, then focus on practicing the 3 types that you feel you have the best chance of improving on. This practical approach will give you more time to focus on the other sections of the GMAT, which I would argue is more important.



Since the GMAT IR score is not counted towards your total GMAT score, in my opinion you should aim for a score just decent enough not to raise the schools’ concern of your analytical skills. Since the average score globally is 4.33, you can take a practical approach and aim for a score of 5 or 6. This will enable you to conserve your mental energy for the quant and verbal part, which are more exhausting and more importantly counted towards your overall GMAT score. The best way to do this is to learn which question type is your weakness and plan to skip them. Lastly, IR isn’t a completely different subject because in a way it is like a combination of Verbal and Quant. Therefore, I suggest that you prepare for the IR section after you’ve done so for Verbal and Quant.
Good luck and please share to others that might find this GMAT IR guide helpful!