IR Section Getting Mixed Reviews

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.