Schools Now Using IR Scores On GMAT

integrated reasoning IR

After a couple of years of showing little love for GMAT’s new integrated reasoning section of the GMAT, admissions officials are beginning to use those scores in deciding on admit/deny decisions, according to a new survey by Kaplan Test Prep.

The survey found that 59% of the admission officials at more than 200 business schools in the U.S. and the United Kingdom say an applicant’s separate score on the IR section is an important part of their evaluation. Only a year ago, just 41% of the admission officers said an IR score was important.

The change of mind is expected because business schools now have access to the scores across their entire applicant pools. When the IR section was launched in June of 2012, only a small portion of the applicants had those separate scores as part of their GMAT reports. So it would have been difficult to compare candidates’ performance on the IR when many prospective students hadn’t taken that portion of the GMAT.


Kaplan, however, didn’t measure exactly what “important” means. By and large, schools pay the most attention to the overall GMAT score, with greater emphasis placed on the quant side. The total GMAT score, which ranges from 200 to a high of 800, does not include the IR score which is separate. A recent survey by Poets&Quants of MBA admission consultants found that the overall GMAT is getting more weight than ever in admission decisions.  The consultants estimated that GMAT scores account for more than a fifth of the weight—21.7%—in business school admission decisions, with nearly 16% given to the total score and an additional 6% to the quant score breakdown.

After a GMAT score, the consultants believe the following parts of an MBA application are most important: essays (14.5%), admission interviews (12.1%), undergraduate GPAs (10.3%), recommendation letters (7.6%), employer prestige (7.3%), college or university attended (5.9%), and extracurricular involvement (5.7%).

Far less significant, believe the consultants, are such factors as the number of years of work experience (4.7%), a candidate’s industry background (3.1%), international experience (3.0%), undergraduate major (2.4%), or fluency in other languages (1.4%). How an IR score fits into this mix is uncertain. Still, the latest responses collected by Kaplan represent quite a turnaround from previous surveys.


When the section first launched three years ago, Kaplan had found that 54% of the respondents to its survey were undecided about how important IR scores would be in the evaluation process. At that time, only 22% of the admission officials thought it will be important.

But the Graduate Management Admission Council has been aggressively promoting the benefits of the scores to schools. When the early response seemed negative, GMAC maintained that admission officials would ultimately find the scores 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.”

With a 1-8 scoring scale, integrated reasoning includes four question types: table analysis, graphics interpretation, multi-source reasoning and two-party analysis.  The average GMAT test takers scores 4.3 on the section. A score of 7.0 is considered in the 81st percentile, while a score of 8 is in the 92nd percentile, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the test.


“Now that MBA programs have an additional year’s worth of data on the Integrated Reasoning section and have become more familiar with what it measures, it’s understandable why more have decided that it should be an important part of how they evaluate an applicant’s overall GMAT score,” said Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

“As more and more applicants submit scores from the current GMAT over the next couple of years, Integrated Reasoning performance might continue to increase in importance, which is why we strongly advise MBA applicants to prepare for and do well on this section. Remember that Integrated Reasoning receives its own special score, so doing well on it can distinguish you in a positive way if your performance on other sections of the exam like Quantitative, Verbal or Analytical Writing Assessment is lacking. A high score on IR can give you that competitive edge. On the flip side, a low score can hurt you.”

The Kaplan survey was conducted between August 2015 and September 2015 of admissions officers at 214 business schools in the United States (209) and United Kingdom (5).  Among the 214 business schools are 21 of the top 50, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.


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  • Matt

    It’s not false hope, it’s a reality check.

    Effective networking is far more important to getting an interview at MBB than GMAT. Once you’ve got the interview, MBB only care about your performance in their cases when it comes to gauging your analytical capability; they don’t need an extra data point from a test you took over a year ago.

    It’s important to note that most applicants with sub-720 scores at top schools got into those schools because there was something special/unique about them.

  • Toprecruit

    George stop acting so sanctimonious. I work at McKinsey and can assure you we do have a de facto gmat cutoff at 720. If your “friend” got less they were either a referral or working in a peripheral office in Africa. In theChicago office no one has below a 720 according to my real friend who runs mba recruiting….

  • 2cents

    Half the people applying to MBBs don’t even put their GMAT on their resume. Stop making things up.

  • MBB

    Stop giving those who didn’t perform well false hope. They might make the occasional exception for the otherwise stellar 710 kid, but 720 is indeed a general rule of thumb. Especially if you don’t go to an M7.

  • Matt

    I echo what George says, stop propagating unfounded information on the internet. There are plenty of folk at top schools with sub-720 GMATs, and some get into MBB.

    What credible reason would MBB have for not taking a holistic approach to scoring applicants? They could be missing out on a whole host of talented kids with 710 GMATs.

  • george

    Mckinsey does NOT have a 720 cut off? Who told you that. I have lots of friends who are at Mckinsey who got in with lower scores.

    Unless you have a verifiable official source which says that 720 is a cut off, please do not spread wrong information.

  • AP

    While schools may or may not say how much they value IR scores, this category has been getting a lot of attention from consulting firms. Much like the 720 cut-off that Bain, BCG and McKinsey seem to have when they recruit at business schools, the IR cut-off seems to be 6.