Schools Still Discount GMAT’s IR Section

GMAT testMore than two years after the Graduate Management Admission Council added an integrated reasoning section to the GMAT, most business school admission officials are still uncertain about how to use the results from the exam. A new survey by Kaplan Test Prep published today (Oct. 9) has found that 60% of the 204 responding admission officers say the IR score is not an important part of their evaluation of a student’s overall GMAT score. Kaplan’s survey also found that 50% of business schools pinpoint a low GMAT score as “the biggest application killer,” confirming that applicants still need to submit a strong score overall.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the results show what Kaplan calls “a slight uptick” from its 2013 survey when 57% said an applicant’s IR score was not important. When GMAC introduced the new section in June of 2012, the organization said it would be more reflective of a business school experience. 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. The IR section is scored separately from the overall GMAT score on a scale of one to eight, with 4.32 being the mean score

A GMAC spokesperson, Rich D’Amato, immediately took issue with the survey’s results. He said that GMAC has been working with schools through validity studies to understand the contribution the new section can make the the admissions process.


“Does IR provide additional information and insight into skills that can be used to predict success and add a new dimension and differentiation to the admissions process? The answer is that, yes, IR does add to the validity of the exam to varying degrees at different programs, of course,” said D’Amato.

Source: GMAC study on integrated reasoning

Source: GMAC study on integrated reasoning

GMAC said that more than a dozen schools have conducted validity studies to see not only how well the IR scores predict on their own, but also how much unique information they provide over what is already known about each candidate. “The research has shown that IR scores provide useful additional information, but, like each of the admission factors, the importance of the scores will differ based on the characteristics of each unique program and its applicants,” the GMAC study found. “The results show that the relationship of graduate grades with IR scores is similar to the relationship with UGPA, Verbal, and Quantitative scores (see chart at left).”

D’Amato said that integrated reasoning scores need to be viewed in context with other metrics used to evaluation applicants. “Admissions evaluate the combination of factors when considering a candidate, as opposed to just one factor. Therefore, the predictive validity of the factors should be assessed when used in combination. Adding IR scores improves the prediction, regardless of the combination of predictors used,” GMAC said. “From the combined dataset, results showed that a significant piece of the prediction pie was allocated to the unique information from IR scores (see GMAC’s chart below). Considering that IR is a shorter section compared to the UGPA, Verbal, and Quantitative measures, these findings show quite a bit of value can be gleaned from this addition.”

GMAC study of integrated reasoning validity

GMAC study of integrated reasoning validity

Kaplan’s survey results may also reflect the fact that not everyone in a school’s applicant pool has an IR score because of the newness of the section. That can discourage admissions officers from using it to evaluate candidates because the scores cannot be applied broadly across all the candidates under consideration.

“The fact that a majority of MBA programs are still not currently placing great importance on the Integrated Reasoning section of GMAT is somewhat understandable since they may want to gather additional performance data before fully incorporating it into their evaluation process,” said Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep.  “It’s important to remember that because GMAT scores are good for five years, many applicants in 2012, 2013 and 2014 probably submitted scores from the old GMAT, which did not include the Integrated Reasoning section. “As more and more applicants submit scores from the current GMAT over the next couple of years, business schools may decide that Integrated Reasoning performance should play a more critical role. “

For the 2014 Kaplan survey, admissions officers from 204 business schools from across the United States – including 11 of the top 30 MBA programs, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report – were polled by telephone between August and September 2014.


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