Getting Started with Integrated Reasoning

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

In part 1 of this article we learned that Integrated Reasoning is really a test of your ability to focus. Now we learn what makes Integrated Reasoning different and how to begin studying for it.

For the unprepared, Integrated Reasoning can be quite painful.
The difference between Integrated Reasoning (IR) and the other sections of the exam is the sheer volume of information on each IR question, most of which is irrelevant. For example, a problem-solving problem does not give you more information than you need to solve the problem. In some cases, a data-sufficiency question does not even give you enough information to solve. This means that during the Quantitative section you are not bombarded by an avalanche of numbers the way you are on the IR section.

For many test-takers, it can be painful to be confronted with so much information and then be asked to answer a very specific question about one small part of that data. It is as if a geometry question on the Quantitative section had six triangles and you first had to decide which triangle to focus on before you could begin working out your answer.

The Verbal section does give you more information than you need and is therefore a little closer to the IR section in that respect. On most critical reasoning and sentence correction questions, about one-half of the sentence or argument is important to focus on and the other half is less important, if it even matters at all. Even then, the argument or sentence is at least building to something. On the IR section you may have a table with 50 numbers, only one of which applies to the current question.

Studying for the IR section
Integrated Reasoning is certainly something that you can and should study for directly. Later, in part three of this article, you will find tips for improving your ability to focus for long periods of time, as well as ways to hone the skill of ruling out irrelevant information. However, your first steps on the IR section should be to get familiar with the types of questions you will be asked. You can try free practice questions, using the GMATPrep software available at You can also try IR questions free on the Veritas Prep Question Bank.

Becoming familiar with the types of tables, graphs, charts, and reading passages used on IR is a must. Practicing these question types until you are very comfortable with them is the next step. Do not allow yourself to become frustrated and give up. With IR questions the answers are literally right there in front of you. You just need to be able to quickly and efficiently determine which data is appropriate and use that data to answer the question.

Make sure that you are ready and able to sort the tables, segment the graphs, and do the kind of quick relative math required on this section. But understand that even when you are very familiar with the kinds of things you will be asked, the actual subject of the charts, graphs and tables will be unfamiliar. And it will require you to focus.

Do not be afraid to use your scratch paper (better yet, a note board like the one you will have on test day). Many people attempt to complete the IR section without writing anything down. If the information is confusing you should go slowly so that you can keep it straight in your head and not get overwhelmed. Remember that if you miss any part of a two or three-part question, you get no credit for the entire question. If you find that you cannot keep up the pace of 12 questions in 30 minutes, it may be better to attempt 10 out of the 12 questions, rather that rush through.

You must be careful and thorough during the exam. The only way to do that is to be careful and thorough in practice.

Now that you know why Integrated Reasoning is difficult for many people, and you know how to begin studying for it, check back next week for part 3 where we will give you ideas as to what may interfere with your ability to focus.

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