The Next-Gen GMAT: Multi-Source Reasoning

Stacey Koprince —  May 17, 2012 — 1 Comment

We haven’t tried one of these yet: multi-source reasoning. These questions will consist of 2 or 3 tabs of information with accompanying questions. MSRs tend to have 2 or 3 associated questions, though it’s possible to have just 1 or more than 3. The one we’re going to try has been released as a sample question on the website and contains just one accompanying question.

Try the problem

gmat multi source reasoningLet’s try out the question: here it is. Just in case that link changes, you can also click on this link to go to the next-gen GMAT website, and then, toward the bottom of the page, click on the Multi-Source Reasoning link. We’re going to try the very first problem (with the text beginning Yesterday was the deadline).

Note: when you are done, do NOT click the next button. Just leave it up on the screen and come back here.

Set your timer for 2.5 minutes and go! (Note: we have an average of 2 minutes and 30 seconds for each IR question in the section, but some question types are more complicated than others. I recommend trying this one for 2.5 minutes, but you can spend 3 to 3.5 if needed. Normally, we would have at least 2 questions and a total of at least 5 minutes to spend on an MSR prompt, but we’re answering only 1 question here.)

There’s so much text!

Yes, that’s true. MSRs will tend to be text heavy and may also include graphs or tables. Remember, you will normally have several questions, similar to RC, and because of that, you will have time to read the information and answer the questions!

Email #1 is from the administrator. She has two questions: did enough people respond to the survey and do they need to ask more people to participate?

I wrote down:

T1: enough ppl? >>? [T1 is an abbreviation for Tab 1]

The project coordinator responds in Email #2. They received 350 but need 700 (so it looks like they will need more). Next we get a bunch of statistics. Here’s what I wrote down:

T2: got 350, need 700+
40% usu reply [usu is an abbreviation for usually]
but could vary
$50 per pers; budget?

Okay. The project coordinator provides some information about how they might make the decision to ask more people to participate, but doesn’t actually offer a plan. He also asks a question: what’s the budget for this project?

The administrator answers his question and indicates something very interesting: they will honor [their] commitment to pay people, but they need to try not to exceed the budget. In other words, the administrator is acknowledging the possibility that they will exceed the budget, even though they’re going to try not to do so. I wonder if that will come into play in any of the questions?

I wrote down this:

T3: $45k budg

I chose not to repeat the $50 per person info in my notes and I decided that I would definitely remember that part about trying not to exceed the budget (because it was interesting to me), so I didn’t need to write that down.

The Question

We’re given three Yes/No statements (note: this is considered one question). The question asks us whether the given information supports the inference as stated. Excellent. These are inference questions. If we can prove the statement must be true using the given information, then we’ll answer Yes. If we can’t prove that it must be true, then we’ll answer No. (Note: we do not have to prove the statement false in order to select No. We just have to show that we can’t prove it true.)

Here’s the first statement:

The administrator is unwilling to invite as many participants in the second group as were invited in the first group.

Hmm. I don’t remember reading anything about that. Let me check my notes. The administrator just asked questions in Tab 1. Tab 2 was the coordinator, so I can ignore that. Tab 3 was the administrator again. If she did indicate unwillingness, she’d have had to do so in tab 3. I’m going to check the text of that tab again.

(Rereading Tab 3) Nope, I can’t justify that this statement must absolutely be true. She actually says that we need to try not to exceed the budget, not that we absolutely cannot exceed the budget, which implies that there is a possibility we could invite more and go over budget. I’m answering No on this one.

Here’s the second statement:

The project coordinator does not expect to be able to meet the goal for numbers of completed surveys received.

Project coordinator okay, that was tab 2. I’m scanning that again. He said that there exists the risk of getting too few returns but doesn’t indicate definitively that they will not be able to get the 700 surveys. The answer is No again.

And our third statement:

The administrator is willing to accept some risk of exceeding the budget for compensating participants.

Yes! This was that interesting language in Tab 3 that I noticed! Let me just go check yep, in tab 3, the administrator says we have to try not to exceed the budget, so she’s acknowledging the possibility that we might go over. This one is a Yes.

The answers to the three statements are No, No, Yes.

Key Takeaways for Multi-Source Reasoning questions:

(1) These will be the longest to read, similar to RC passages in the sense that we will need to invest time upfront before answering the questions. The one we did above was very text-heavy, but MSRs can also contain tables or graphs and be quant-focused.

(2) Try to understand the big picture information, but don’t get too caught up in the details. There are a lot of details for which we’ll never get asked questions (and this is true in general on IR questions). Once you’re looking at the question, you can return to the detail to confirm.

(3) Most Multi-Source Reasoning prompts will come with 2 or 3 questions (the one we did above is considered 1 three-part question). As such, you will have an average of 5 or 7.5 minutes to complete an MSR plus the accompanying questions.

* All quotes copyright and courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this material does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

Stacey Koprince


Stacey Koprince is an Instructor and Trainer as well as the Director of Online Community for Manhattan Prep. She's also a management consultant who specializes in corporate strategy. 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.

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