IR Section Getting Mixed Reviews

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by John A. Byrne on

GMAT’s new integrated reasoning section continues to get mixed reviews from MBA admission officers, according to a survey out today (Oct. 24) from Kaplan Test Prep.

More than half of MBA programs are unsure of how important Integrated Reasoning (IR) scores will be in the evaluation process, with 54% responding “Undecided” to the question, “How important will a student’s Integrated Reasoning score be in your evaluation of their overall performance on the GMAT?” 22% say IR scores will be important, while 24% say IR scores will not be important.

The 2012 survey of business school admissions officers was conducted in August and September and includes responses from 265 MBA programs, including most of the schools in the top 25. The survey findings confirm an earlier report by Poets&Quants in August that most schools intend to ignore the new IR scores for now.

In Kaplan’s 2012 survey, 41% said IR would make the GMAT more reflective of the business school experience, a big drop from the 59% who answered that way in Kaplan’s 2011 survey. Those who weren’t sure if IR would make the exam more reflective rose from 37% in 2011 to 49% in 2012.   Admissions officers who said IR would not make the exam more reflective increased from 5% in 2011 to 10% in 2012.

Somewhat similarly, 54% “do not know” if Integrated Reasoning makes the GMAT more reflective of work in business and management after business school; 36% say it does; and 10% say it doesn’t.

“Schools generally prefer to gather performance data on a new test or test section before fully incorporating it into their evaluation process,” said Andrew Mitchell, director of pre-business programs, Kaplan Test Prep, in a statement. “Not all applicants in 2012 will submit GMAT scores with an IR component. We can expect that, as more data is available, schools will determine clear policies, in which Integrated Reasoning may play a key role. In the meantime, GMAT test takers should not take GMAT Integrated Reasoning any less seriously than the Quantitative or Verbal sections.”

Mitchell notes that because test takers receive a separate score for the Integrated Reasoning section, poor performance can’t be masked by stronger performance on other sections of the test.

The four question types found in GMAT Integrated Reasoning – table analysis, graphics interpretation, multi-source reasoning and two-party analysis – feature scatter plots, sortable tables, and multi-tabbed data.  Such question types, introduced in the new section in June, 2012, are novel compared to the formats traditionally seen on graduate school-level admissions exams such as the GRE, LSAT and MCAT.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT test, believes that most business schools will ultimately find the new section useful “The GMAT has always been about building an exam that provides the highest value to students by preparing them for the demands of the classroom and the highest value to schools through the exam’s validity,” said Ashok Sarathy, vice president for the GMAT program at GMAC. “The IR score is designed to be an additional data point to help schools differentiate among the most competitive applicants.

“We are already hearing from schools, students, and corporations that the skills measured by IR section – and the section itself –are valuable in both the classroom and in the work place, where 97% of corporate respondents to a survey said the skills where important for success.  Students – as others have said – should give the section their best effort to prepare themselves for school and the corporate environment.  Schools will benefit from these best efforts because the shortest distance to achieving validity is through test takers knowing the IR section does and will matter in the admissions process,” said Sarathy.

Air Time - Comments
  • Roger

    You are right! GMAC are not educators in the traditional sense. But I tend to agree with the guy / girl from TFA on the point about designing the test. Did GMAC not speak to a bunch of top b-schools and design the IR section based on that feedback? But that said, GSB is not even considering the IR score. My understanding is that most of the top schools are not paying too much attention to that section either, at least for the moment.

  • The GMAC are educators? I thought they were a for profit company with a monopoly on the primary exam used for entry into the world’s business schools. At any rate, I personally applaud educators. I was raised by one. Thanks for your service in Teach 4 America. The help is greatly needed. Especially in places like my home state of Florida where public education is pretty much in the gutters.

  • I agree with you to a point; however, the amount of detail required could be dumbed down. They could even use the multiple choice method that they use now, with more answer choices and nuanced weights per answer.

  • 44thKenyan

    Unlike science or math, there aren’t always clear cut recommendations that can be made in business. The type of questions you are suggesting would be valuable, but designing such a test would almost be impossible.

  • Teach4AmericaCains

    The critics of the section fail to consider how difficult it is to design a test that so many people from different backgrounds take. I applaud the GMAC for taking a bold step in the right direction. Seldom do educators get any type of credit whatsoever in our society; it’s dammed if you do..dammed if you don’t.

  • As I stated in the debrief published on my blog, this section does not really reflect what happens in business. It is not enough just to identify what is happening on a graph; that’s back to high school. If they really want this section to be valuable, they might consider requiring 2-3 questions instead of 12 (or even one if they really want to be rigorous) and having the test taker actually make some business recommendations based on what they see. Consultants should have a bit of an advantage, of course, but so do engineers/math majors for the verbal or lit majors for the verbal.

  • Allison

    I’m a consultant and I found the IR section pointless. All it really shows is that you can scan a graph quickly. I’m not quite sure how they think this will make the test more competitive with the GRE, but whatever. The fact of the matter is schools are ranked on their incoming class’ combined score, not any of the additional scores. Thus, the IR section will eventually become like the AWA. Get above an average score on the test and you’re good to go. That is to say, useless.

  • Vikram

    It’s a terrific section..I think consulting companies should look at IR scores very closely when hiring MBAs. The GMAT itself is such a well written exam; I honestly enjoyed studying for this exam more than studying for anything else in my entire life. If you love math, reasoning, will love the GMAT and the IR section.

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