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Is GMAT Integrated Reasoning More Important Now?

Fact #1: The GMAT introduced the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section on June 5, 2012. All GMATs administered since that date have had an IR section.

Fact #2: In the months leading up to that date, thousands of GMAT test-takers accelerated their plans, taking the GMAT early to avoid the IR section. This produced a glut of pre-IR GMATs

Fact #3: Once a GMAT is taken, the score is valid for five years.

Fact #4: GMAC, the folks who write the GMAT, has done extensive research on the IR and has extensive data demonstrating the statistical validity of the IR section.

The four facts above are objective and uncontested. What is considerably more intriguing is what they imply.

You see, a couple years ago, business school adcoms were seeing a large percentage of GMAT scores coming in from the pre-IR period. Since some applicants had an IR score and some didn’t, the adcoms were in a position in which they really couldn’t use IR as a valid means of assessment.

At this point, the game has changed. Now, GMAT scores from before June 2012 technically would be valid, but scores from such an old GMAT are rarities. Virtually all GMAT scores submitted to adcom now have an IR score included. This makes the IR a viable possible assessment tool for adcom, in a way that it wasn’t a couple of years ago.

Fact #4 looms large in this context. After all, the point of the GMAT overall is as an assessment tool, a predictor for how well an applicant might handle the academic work at business school. Well, GMAC has extensive data demonstrating that the IR section has a predictive validity that is independent of the Q and V scores: in others, it provides extra assessment information that the other parts of the GMAT do not.

All this would tend to make us predict that, as time goes on, as IR scores with GMAT become the norm, that adcom would start to place more emphasis on the IR score. In fact, as this article points out, that is exactly what is happening.  The GMAT IR section is becoming more important in admissions.

How important?

Right now, all we can say is that the importance of IR is growing. It makes sense to do your best on the IR section, just as you strive to do your best on the other parts of the GMAT. You can’t afford to ignore any part of the exam.  But how important is the IR? The data that is in seems to suggest the typical and frustrating answer: it depends.

For folks who already excel at math, who studied something mathy in undergrad, who are in the upper percentiles of the Quant sections, the IR appears somewhat less predictive. In other words, we generally expect these folks to do well in the IR also. A low IR might raise questions for such a candidate, but a high IR is sorta what is expected.

By contrast, a verbal person, someone who majored in, say, literature or history in undergrad, someone who is lackluster in math but in the upper echelons of the Verbal sections—for this person, a strong IR score would be an extremely powerful statement. It may be, for some verbal people, the Quant section will always present difficulties, but the IR sections might be something these folks can master; if so, this mastery could speak volumes to adcom.


Right now, adcoms are starting to take IR seriously. How far will this go?  Right now, many schools are still accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. The GRE Quant & Verbal are rough analogs of the GMAT Quant & Verbal, but the GRE has nothing like the IR section. It’s certainly possible that, if business school adcoms come to rely on the IR as an essential assessment tool, they may grow more reluctant to accept the GRE. Of course, that’s exactly the conclusion that GMAC would like business schools to draw. Of course, what ETS is hoping is that, once they get their GRE foot in the door at business schools, the business schools will be loath to roll that back.  Big multi-million dollar players with very different agendas: you might want to grab some popcorn, sit back, and watch this one play out! The long-term implications are anyone’s guess!  If you are talking an exam for an application in a couple months, you are fine with either exam. If you are taking an exam now for an application a few years from now, be cautious. The GMAT, of course, would always be a safe bet for business school admissions.


The moral of the story is: don’t neglect the Integrated Reasoning section. If you are going to take the GMAT, do everything you can to master IR (here are some great tips for that) as well as everything else associated with the GMAT. Among other things, remember that Magoosh can help you!

By the way, sign up for our 1 Week Free Trial to try out Magoosh GMAT Prep!

2 Responses to Is GMAT Integrated Reasoning More Important Now?

  1. MB September 17, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    This is really valuable information. Thanks a lot! I was wondering if you might weigh in on my situation. I’m planning on applying to business school from a PhD program and have GRE and GMAT scores that are quite solid overall (thanks in large part to Magoosh!), but there are some interesting differences. Here’s the breakdown with percentiles:

    GRE – Verbal: 170 (99%), Quant:168 (95%), AW: 4.5 (82%)

    GMAT – 760 composite – Verbal: 45 (99%), Quant: 49 (77%), IR: 8 (92%), AW: 5.5 (81%)

    For what it’s worth, ETS’s score comparison tool converts my GRE score to a 790 on the GMAT. My GRE quantitative score of 168 gets converted to a 50 on the GMAT quant section.

    As you can see, my GMAT performance is stronger in terms of AW and the added component of IR, but my quant score is sort of lacking (apparently a scaled score of 49 is now 77th percentile!). Given these results, what would you consider the stronger score? I think your advice on weighing these trade-offs would be informative not only for me, but also for others who want a better sense of how these two tests stack up.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 17, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

      Hey there,

      This question is a complicated one to answer, because it really depends on the program that you will apply for! On our GRE blog we have an interesting infographic comparing the GRE and GMAT for business school students:

      The GMAT quant section is harder than the GRE quant section, which may explain the difference in scores. The biggest question here is: how do your target schools view the GRE and the GMAT? I suggest doing some research in this area, because not all business schools accept the GRE and even those that do may prefer the GMAT. You can also look at the average scores for that institution in each test and choose based on that–you want your scores to make you look as favorable as possible. Your GRE score conversion to the GMAT score is very strong, so that might be a good option for schools that treat the two tests equally.

      I wish that I had a simpler answer to your question, but id depends on so many different factors! In either case, both scores are incredibly strong and well above the average scores for top schools, so either one will be sufficient–and you can send both of them to show how strong you scored in these two difficult and different tests!

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