Manhattan GMAT’s Analysis Of GMAC’s Newly Released Integrated Reasoning Percentile Rankings

Stacey Koprince —  June 26, 2012 — 6 Comments

Manhattan GMAT IR

We’ve been talking a lot lately about how to prep for IR, including the idea that we only need a good enough score for now because the section is so new that the schools aren’t going to place heavy emphasis on IR right away. One key piece of information, though, has been missing: what’s a good enough IR score?

GMAC has just released the first set of percentile rankings for the 1 to 8 IR scoring scale. Here it is:

Percentile Score
94% 8
85% 7
70% 6
54% 5
46% 4
26% 3
17% 2
0% 1

The mean score is a 4.0 / 46th percentile. In general, as with the essays, we want to try to hit or beat the mean. If you’re applying to an extra-competitive program, try to beat the mean, but a 5 (for now) is fine “ you don’t need to hit 7 or 8 the first year.

Why? As we’ve discussed before, the schools will be in data-gathering mode for at least the first year. They simply don’t know yet how much weight to place on this new section or how valid it will be in helping to distinguish among quality applicants. They’ll gather data on their applicants and admits for the first year or two to help them figure this all out and then they’ll start placing more emphasis on the IR score.

At the same time, you don’t want to completely bomb the section. They might think, Oh, this student might have given herself an unfair advantage by essentially skipping the IR section, so she was more mentally fresh when she got to quant and verbal. We should discount her quant and verbal scores.

How do we get that good enough score?

The first question everyone will have is: how many questions do I need to answer correctly in order to get a good enough score? And, for once, the answer is not going to be everybody gets about the same number of answers right. That is how the quant and verbal sections work, but not IR. IR really is based on the percentage of questions answered correctly.

We don’t know yet, though, how many you need to answer correctly in order to hit the various scoring levels “ we just don’t have enough data yet. But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess: aim to get half of the questions right (or more).

IR is a pretty even mix of quant and verbal reasoning skills, so weight your attention more heavily towards your stronger area. Really good at CR and RC? Bail more quickly when you see a really hard quant-based IR question. Alternatively, is math your thing? Then be ready to guess and move on more quickly when you’ve got a really long, convoluted text with reasoning-based questions.

Anything Else?

Yes, one other very important detail: you also need to be prepared enough for IR that it won’t overly tire you out before you get to the main event (quant and verbal). Mental fatigue manifests as a decreased ability to concentrate, the feeling that you aren’t getting what you’re reading and you have to read it again, an impatience to be done with the test already and I don’t care what the answer is, or significant difficulty in making decisions, to the point of feeling paralyzed on a question.

If you’re not prepared enough for IR, you’ll be making your life harder when you reach the quant and verbal. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I keep putting that word enough in parentheses. Here’s why: you’re not actually trying to get everything right, so when you see something that’s just way too hard, you make a guess and keep going without stressing about it at all. Not only doesn’t it matter that you’re probably going to get it wrong, but that realization is actually actively in your favor right now (because at least you’re getting it wrong quickly and without too much mental effort). Answer what you can, guess where you can’t, don’t stress about any of it, and finish the section still relatively mentally fresh.

Key Takeaways for IR:

  1. Know what your goal is: to get a good enough score and to be prepared enough that IR doesn’t wipe you out mentally before you get to the more important later sections.
  2. Build some flexibility into your timeframe and prep plan. The IR question types are different enough that some people will find they need more prep time than they might have expected. Others will think, wow, I wish the whole test were like this! You won’t know until you dive in and start studying, but be prepared to slow down and take a bit more time if IR is really throwing you for a loop.
  3. Your actual prep process will be very similar to what you have already been doing for quant and verbal “ same kinds of prep materials, same kinds of study activities, same kinds of analysis of your work, and so on. This will all just be happening with new question types, that’s all.

Read more of Manhattan GMAT’s articles on Integrated Reasoning.

* GMAT is a trademark of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of the name or any material does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

Stacey Koprince

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Stacey Koprince is an Instructor and Trainer as well as the Director of Online Community for Manhattan Prep. She also co-manages the company's GMAT curriculum and product line. She has been teaching various standardized tests for more than fifteen years and her entire teaching philosophy can be summed up in five words: teaching students how to think.

6 responses to Manhattan GMAT’s Analysis Of GMAC’s Newly Released Integrated Reasoning Percentile Rankings

  1. What if I take GMAT soon ie. In the next year but I don’t plan on applying to bs for he next year or two? Will an average score that I get with little info on ir hurt me when I apply next to other people in my application round? They would probably have higher scores as more info on ir surfaces

  2. We have been talking to many bschools who have specifically told us that they won’t be reading too much into the IR section this year.

  3. I wish more people would write blogs like this that are actually helpful to read. With all the crap floating around on the web, it is rare to read a blog like yours instead.

  4. That’s a really interesting idea. If it were me, I wouldn’t change much of anything the first year – I’d admit the way I normally admit, and then I’d just look at the data after to see what it tells me. I wouldn’t want to mess with my “proven formula.” Plus, after the first year, there’s going to be a lot of collective data from all of the schools – I’m sure both the schools and GMAC will be doing some kind of study on the results. Those results will, of course, be skewed because most people aren’t trying very hard on IR during the first year. But if the section is valid / provides useful data, then the results should still be directionally accurate…

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