Think about what distinguishes an effective manager from a pencil-pusher. The dutiful pencil-pusher can verify: A is a fact, B is a fact, and C is a fact. The effective manager can say, well, if we know A & B & C, it would not pay to do G, but it would be beneficial to pursue M, and it's even worth the risk to pursue W. Lots of folks can verify information. Good managers can integrate and synthesize information, weight costs and liabilities, and come up with bold decisions for courses of action to take. That very aptly describes what the IR section is designed to assess.
In terms of foundations skills, what you need to know for Integrated Reasoning is not really different from what you need to know for the Q & V sections. You need to know basic math, especially percents and ratios, and you need to be able to interpret word problems. You need to know how to read graphs. You need to read critically and interpret, much as you do on CR and RC questions. These are the basic skills absolutely required to negotiate the IR section, but they are not really what the IR is designed to test.
Higher Order Reasoning
The IR section is designed to assess higher order reasoning. These skills include:
1) Integrating information, including organizing and synthesizing different kinds of information.
2) Evaluating sources of information, or evaluating tradeoffs and possible outcomes of a course of action.
3) Drawing inferences, making predictions, identifying what further conclusions are supported by the given data.
4) Interrelating information, seeing how parts fit together in context
5) Formulating strategy, deciding among possible plans of action
These are all skills that managers need for success in the business world. These are skills that business school professors reinforce and assess. This is precisely why hundreds of business school faculty from around the world provided GMAC with the feedback that lead to the creation of the IR section.
Relish the Challenge!
Yes, there are challenges associated with the new IR section. Ultimately, the challenges of the IR section are closely related to the challenges you will experience in business school and as a manager in the business world. These challenges, these opportunities to apply your creativity and insight to complex problems, are part of what make the business world engaging, even exhilarating, for folks. This is the exciting world you are entering, and it starts for real when you sit for the "next generation" GMAT and face the IR section. Do everything you can to prepare, so that when you face the IR section, you can bring your best to the challenge.
How to prepare? Sign up for Magoosh, and we will help you be the best you can be on test day.
This post was written by Mike McGarry, GMAT expert at Magoosh, and originally posted here.