Focusing on Integrated Reasoning

Focusing on Integrated Reasoning
Since chronic distraction and highly processed foods are known to interfere with your ability to focus, cut back on carbs and multitasking (Photograph by Getty Images)
Photograph by Getty Images

This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

In part 2 of this article, you learned why Integrated Reasoning is difficult for many people as we discussed the importance of becoming familiar with the question types. In part 3, we learn how to focus on Integrated Reasoning.

Since Integrated Reasoning (IR) is a test of your ability to focus, it is important for you to work deliberately to cultivate this ability. There are two things you are looking to strengthen in particular: 1) your ability to pay close attention to unfamiliar, detailed material for 30 long minutes; and 2) your ability to focus on the right portion of a large, complicated data set while ignoring the irrelevant information.

Interfering with your ability to focus
Two things known to interfere with the ability to focus are chronic distraction and highly processed foods.

• Distracted thinking

In order to do well on the IR section, you need a few tools. One is called “filtering,” which Stanford Professor Clifford Nass defines as “the ability to ignore irrelevant information and focus on relevant information.” This may be the No. 1 tool needed to succeed at IR.

The second tool is what Dr. Nass describes as “the ability to manage your working memory, keep it neatly organized,” and be able to retrieve things immediately when needed. This is another must-have trait for Integrated Reasoning.

The final tool needed for the IR section is the ability to quickly switch from one task to another, such as immediately making the transition from sorting a table to reading a graph. This is what is commonly called “multitasking”—rapidly switching from one task to another.

Those people who are chronically distracted—for example, always checking their phone for texts, trying to do several things on the computer at once, having a conversation while typing an e-mail—are severely lacking in all three of these necessary tools.

People who commonly do one thing at a time and give that task full attention have much better filtering, working memories, and multitasking abilities. This is how Nass describes chronic multitaskers: “suckers for distraction and suckers for the irrelevant, and so the more irrelevant information they see, the more they’re attracted to it.” That’s a recipe for disaster on the IR section. You might do all right on the Quant section, which contains no irrelevant information. On the IR, a chronically distracted person will be in trouble.

• Sugar and other highly processed foods

In general, carbohydrates can be useful to fuel your brain. But while your brain depends on glucose, the Franklin Institute warns: “Too much sugar or refined carbohydrates at one time, however, can actually deprive your brain of glucose—depleting its energy supply and compromising your brain’s power to concentrate, remember, and learn. Mental activity requires a lot of energy.”

“A sugary snack or soft drink that quickly raises your blood sugar level gives you a boost (and any caffeine adds to the lift), but it’s short-lived. When you eat something with a high sugar content your pancreas starts to secrete insulin. Insulin triggers cells throughout your body to pull the excess glucose out of your bloodstream and store it for later use.

Soon, the glucose available to your brain has dropped. Neurons, unable to store glucose, experience an energy crisis. Hours later, you feel spaced-out, weak, confused, and/or nervous. Your ability to focus and think suffers.”

This can affect your performance on the entire GMAT exam, especially the IR section.

While emphasizing the two items above can significantly increase your ability to focus, the next portion of this article will offer ways to improve how you focus on the IR section.

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