Importance of Integrated Reasoning (IR) Score in GMAT


“Do B-schools Care About Your GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) Score?”

IR scores have caused much confusion since the GMAC introduced this Integrated Reasoning section in the GMAT in June 2012. Do these matter when it comes to admissions? If so, how much? Who cares? And why? The questions raised were many, and these have been debated endlessly since then.

There is a lot we could tell you about the IR score. But here is all you need to know: your IR score does matter. It matters more for certain kinds of profiles and a little less for certain others. Read on to get the complete lowdown.

A little history

When the GMAC announced the GMAT IR section in 2012, a significant number of test takers rushed in and took their test early, so as to avoid having to tackle this unknown devil. Since GMAT scores are valid for five years, B-schools got two kinds of applicants: those who took the GMAT after June 2012 and thus, reported this score, and others who took the GMAT until June 2012 and had no IR score to report. The schools didn’t know how to handle this; so they said nothing.

However, the GMAC has always maintained that IR scores are important in measuring a test taker’s ability to evaluate information presented in different formats and from various sources. According to Ashok Sarathy, vice president for the GMAT program at GMAC, “The GMAT has always been about building an exam that provides the highest value to students by preparing them for the demands of the classroom and the highest value to schools through the exam’s validity. The IR score is designed to be an additional data point to help schools differentiate among the most competitive applicants.”

Changing perspectives

If a recent survey (October 2015) by a test prep institute is to be believed, then B-schools have started to agree with the GMAC. This survey found that 59% of the admission officials at more than 200 business schools in the U.S. and the United Kingdom say that an applicant’s separate score on the IR section is an important part of their evaluation. Which is an increase of 18 percentage points from last year! Only a year ago, just 41% of the admission officers said an IR score was important, and three years ago, only 22% believed that IR would ever become important.

With a 1-8 scoring scale, the IR section has four question types: table analysis, graphics interpretation, multi-source reasoning and two-party analysis.  The average GMAT test taker scores 4.3 on IR. A score of 7.0 is considered the 81st percentile, while a score of 8 is around the 92nd percentile, according to the GMAC. But just how important is the IR score?

The tipping point

In general, B-schools give maximum weight to overall GMAT scores and often, also have minimum expected scores for the Quant and Verbal sections. But the IR score can tip the scale either way. If you have a strong Quant background, you’re likely to do well on Quant. In that case, a good IR score is just additional validation of your Quant prowess. However, a below average IR score may be a red flag in your case. On the other hand, if you have a strong non-Quant background, say, for instance, a graduate degree in literature, media, medicines, or law, you may find Quant a tough nut to crack. But a strong IR score will show that you’re not afraid of numbers and data-based analysis. This could really work in your favour. In any case, IR will continue to grow in importance as more and more candidates start reporting it in their GMAT score cards. So, give this section your best shot!

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