GMAT guide: Integrated Reasoning (IR)

GMAT guide: Integrated Reasoning (IR)

Integrated Reasoning is a section about processing large amounts of data. It is a relatively new section in GMAT exam. This section first appeared in the papers in 2012. The section is a combination of quantitative and verbal information. The two sections in this paper are as follows:

Verbal Focus and Maths Focus

Basic Reasoning Facts

Integrated Reasoning question types

Integrated Reasoning question types

Integrated Reasoning question types

The IR Calculator

This section checks the ability of the candidate to estimate. On each of the 12 IR questions, you will see the word calculator on the upper left part screen. This will bring up the onscreen calculator, which will pop up in the middle of the screen.

This is a primitive calculator and it can do only one calculation at a time. Over-use of the calculator can be a huge time-waster for the candidate. Although, this on-screen calculator may seem to aid the process of calculation. 


Remember, this is a test of number sense and logic. You should practice getting rough estimates in your head.

For example, if you want to calculate- 3+5*7, you might start by entering by 3, then +5. However, when you hit the multiplication button, it automatically completes the previous operation. You will automatically get 8 on the screen when you hit 'multiply'.

Each operation button (add, subtract, multiply, divide) automatically completes any previous calculation pending. It is important that first you enter the calculation you want to be done. By contrast, if you enter, 5*7, then +3, then your answer will be correct. The answer should be 38. 

When you have completed the calculation or if you change your mind about calculation, always press C button for the complete reset. Alternatively, if you reset your calculator and bring it up again, then it will be completely reset.

The five “M” buttons discuss calculator’s memory. Firstly, MS, which is, memory store displays the memory at the moment. Even if you press the C button, MS still has memory saved. The MR= memory recall button will display the value in memory on the display. The M+ button adds to the memory. Simultaneously, M- button subtracts from the memory. 

General Strategy

  • In the Q & V section, once you enter a response to a question, you can’t go back. You have to attempt the questions in the order they are presented.

  • There is no partial credit for questions in this section. If there are 3 tasks as a part of a question, you get 2 of the 3 correct and one wrong, you will not get any credit for the question at all.

  • Time management is absolutely critical on the IR section.

  • If, by practice, you know that a certain kind of question slows you down or confuses you, then you should skip that question on test day. However, skipping two questions is way too much. You should practice more so as to be more precise on the test day.

  • It is important that you recognize quickly the type of question you are dealing with and the rest should be straightforward.

  • You should regularly look at business newspapers and magazines, to develop a sense of the complexity of data, you might have to analyze and use.


IR- Multi-Source Reasoning

  • This is the first type and most time-consuming question. This question is very similar to GMAT Reading Comprehension.

  • Click other tabs to access the other cards. Sometimes, there are two cards of information, but usually there are three. The cards typically contain text. However, sometimes there’s a mix of text and tables or charts or formulas. The information on the cards is always interrelated in a variety of ways.

  • This section is time-consuming as these cards present a great deal of information.

  • The GMAT IR MSR presents two different kinds of questions.

  1. A single 5-choice multiple choice question

  2. Three dichotomous choice items: often preceded by a short prompt, followed by three statements, each requiring some kind of binary decision:

  • True/false

  • Yes/no

  • Increase/decrease

Strategies for IS MSR

1.     The information presented in MSR questions is far more than the information needed to answer the individual questions. You have to skim through the information to understand the gist of what’s where and learn to ignore everything else that’s irrelevant.

2.     Don’t use a calculator for each calculation.

3.     Remember, sometimes questions and calculations, desire information from multiple cards.

4.     You should read all questions carefully, precisely observing the language.

5.     Use RC and CR skills you have practiced to answer the verbal question.

Table Analysis

GMAT’s Table analysis section involves analysing of a table of numerical data. You can “sort” these tables by choosing the column by which the entire table is ranked. There is a drop-down menu, which contains the names of the columns. Whichever column is selected, it is organized in order and this organizes the rest of the table. You can select another column to sort the data in a different order.

The way you will sort the table will depend on the type of question you are trying to answer. The table analysis question always presents a set of three dichotomous choice questions. The most common are “True/False” and “Yes/No”. However, particular task specifying questions are possible.

Strategy for IR Table Analysis:

  • You should look at the column headings first; some headings will be obvious, others may be not.

  • Read the paragraph above the table and make a note of the column names that need clarification.

  • Scan the numerical data, not the patterns.

  • Read the question carefully.

  • While answering the question, always remember to sort the table by columns that highlight the data you need to focus on to answer the question.

Graphics Interpretation

The Graphic Interpretation questions are designed to assess your ability to read and interpret data presented on graphs and charts. This section is important, as the visual displays are able to summarize a vast amount of information in a very concise way.

There will be some kind of graph or chart, after a few sentences. Each sentence will have a drop-down menu of choices. Your task is to choose the accurate sentence that reflects the information on graph or chart. It is possible to have a single sentence with two different drop-down items in different parts of the sentence. However, such questions haven’t appeared so far. The most important skill for this section is the ability to read graphs.

General recommendations for this section:  

  • The use of visual estimation. You have to make quick approximations. It is rare to comprehend exact information from the graphs. Human beings started using graphs and charts, doting on predominant visual nature and the ability to process the visual information.

  • You just have to figure out what you really have to do.

  • Practice a lot. You can read the Wall Street Journal or the business section of New York Times, Economist magazine and Bloomberg Business week.

  • Understand that answers can be easy. Just focus on what is being asked.

Categories of Charts

Pie Chart: This is the easiest kind of chart. Normally, the question in the GMAT IR paper does not depend on only a single pie chart. Instead, a pie chart is always paired with another pie chart, one breaking down a particular region of other.

Pie Chart

Line Chart: This is also a common graph. The horizontal axis in a line graph is time. This is recognized as “time-plot”, and it demonstrates trend over time.

Line Chart

Bar Graphs: The bar can either be vertical or horizontal. The bar may represent different members of a category or different intervals of time. The parallel scale indicates the variables. Likewise, the length of the bar indicates the amount or contribution of that element.

Bar Graphs

In this picture, the scale of “calories” is horizontal. The length of each bar gives the calories in that piece of fruit.

Vertical Bars: In this graph, the scale is also vertical. It indicates the number of sales for each weekday.


Vertical Bars

Segmented bar graph: Each bar consists of two or more segment, denoted by different colours or patterns. The segments break down overall variable into relevant parts.


Segmented bar graph

Side-by-side bar graph: In this type of graph, each category has two bars, right next to each other. The typical way to separate the bars is to represent them with different colours or patterns. The two different bars represent two different agents and allow direct comparison.

Side-by-side bar graph

Histogram: This is the final type of bar chart. Technically, although histograms have a bar, they are not really bar charts. It is so because the bar represents regions of a numerical variable. They are not discrete categorical variables. The heights of the bar in a histogram indicates the frequencies of values that fall in a given range.  


Flowchart: Typically, flowchart would be some mathematical procedure.


Organisational chart: This chart is rarely given as a question in the test.


Organisational chart


Venn Diagrams: These diagrams contain more information in the form of symbols rather than numbers. Consider the following diagram.The diagram reveals different categories, how they overlap. It also reveals information about different kinds of individuals or items that land in different combinations of categories. These diagrams represent different kinds of information that interact with one another.

 Screenshot 2015-11-10 17.27.04.png

In this Venn diagram, we can assume that different colors and shapes are different kinds of schools. Some of these schools have a dedicated computer lab while some have computers in each classroom. The ones outside both circles are the reds. All the greens and blues are inside the dedicated computer circle. It is important to note which kind of symbols are in each region. So, in the example above we can see different kinds of information interacting with each other. This diagram reveals different categories, how they overlap and interact with each other. It also shows how different items can land in different combinations.

Scatterplots: Each item can be measured by two different numerical variables. It is a very easy situation to represent graphically. It is very easy to find the correlation between individual pairs.

 Screenshot 2015-11-11 10.20.12.png

In the above diagram, the two variables will be represented on two axes. It is interesting to note that the two variables will not start from a zero value. Each individual item will be represented as a single dot and its position will be determined by the value of each variable. The correlation strengths may vary from strong to weak going from left to right. The left most is nearly perfect. The right most is considerably weaker. A perfect correlation is a straight line. Remember, either the graph will have perfect correlation or no correlation at all.

The exact location of each dot indicates the value of two different variables for that individual. Correlations, either positive or negative, are the patterns that pertain to a trend of the set overall. Regression lines or trend lines demonstrate the overall correlation pattern. 

Remember that GMAT IR loves to combine more than one kind of information on any graph.

Two-Part Analysis: This section poses the most versatile question on the entire GMAT. The basic structure lends itself to either mathematical problems or verbal questions. The content can be math or verbal.

At the beginning of the question, there will be a paragraph to set things out. Like a word math problem, it may be like a critical reasoning argument followed by a question stem, separating itself from the paragraph.

You can understand the question with the self-explanatory column headings. Overall there will be two columns. Each one will have its own question. There is a possibility of either two questions side-by-side or interrelated questions. Each question shares five or six rows of possible choices. You must mark exactly one answer in each column. Remember, you cannot select more than one thing in either column. 

Verbal Two-Part Analysis: The CR and RC skills will be a huge help on these questions.

In this type of question, you have a paragraph argument, followed by a separate paragraph with a question. Following is an example of table and question that are often asked in this section. 

Screenshot 2015-11-11 11.43.36.png

Screenshot 2015-11-11 11.37.23.png 

Your job is to identify premises, conclusions and assumptions. Identify the positions of different speakers. Further, carefully consider the interrelationship of columns, if applicable. 

Math Two-Part Analysis: This section does not deal with any new questions concerning mathematics. The only difference is about the slightly different format of the question. This is an example of math two-part analysis question. 

Screenshot 2015-11-11 12.09.44.png

This question is like a word problem and there are unknowns here are the number of nickels and dimes. The answer choices are all numbers.  

It is important that, for these types of questions, you study math. You should also pay attention to two equations, to two variables, distance and rate problems, work and rate problems and problems in general and sequences.

It is important that to solve this section you pay attention to detail.  

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