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.
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.
GRE vs. GMAT?
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!