Are you worried about the GMAT integrated reasoning section? You’re not alone. Many students find the integrated reasoning section difficult to understand and to prepare for.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the best prep books and other materials available to help you succeed on IR questions, as well as offer some tips for GMAT integrated reasoning prep. By the end, you’ll be more than ready to start your Integrated Reasoning prep.
The GMAT Integrated Reasoning Section: The Basics
First off, before getting into the best integrated reasoning prep books, let’s go over what the integrated reasoning section of the GMAT is and what it tests.
The GMAT integrated reasoning (IR) section tests your ability to integrate complex information from multiple sources and to answer questions about the information provided by those sources. The sources can include short passages, tables, graphs, charts, and other graphics.
The IR section includes twelve multi-part questions that need to be answered in 30 minutes and includes four question types: table analysis, graphic interpretation, two-part analysis, and multi-source reasoning (which usually includes several short passages).
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Each of these questions has multiple parts, usually two or three. You must answer each part of an IR question correctly in order to get credit for the question. There is no partial credit.
The IR section is scored from 1-8 in single-digit intervals and is not adaptive (find out more about the computerized adaptive format of the GMAT here). The IR score doesn’t impact your total GMAT score, which includes only the verbal and quant scores.
Do You Need Integrated Reasoning GMAT Books?
So, now that I’ve gone over the basics, let’s talk IR prep. When you’re considering integrated reasoning GMAT prep books and materials, the first thing to consider is if you need them at all. MBA admissions committees generally don’t consider the IR section to be as significant as the verbal and quantitative sections, so you shouldn’t overdo your IR prep. You don’t want to go off on a tangent and spend too much time prepping for this section, particularly if you’re struggling significantly with the verbal or quant section.
Though the integrated reasoning section isn’t as significant as the verbal or quant section, it still matters to admissions committees and shouldn’t be entirely overlooked. Regardless of how you do on practice tests on the integrated reasoning section, you should take time to review the basics of the IR format and question types. It’s especially important to make sure that it’s not an extremely weak spot in your overall GMAT.
After you take an initial diagnostic GMAT, you’ll know more about how much trouble you have with the integrated reasoning section. These are some of the signs that you should devote some extra time to integrated reasoning prep:
- You don’t get through all the questions or struggle with timing.
- You have a lot of trouble with answering the questions or understanding what they’re asking of you.
- You got a very low IR score (below 4 out of 8) on your first practice test.
If any of those statements apply to you, you should devote some time to IR prep (which might require an integrated reasoning prep book).
Also, if you’re doing well in the other sections and the IR section is a particular weakness, you should devote some targeted prep time to the IR section to ensure that it isn’t a glaring weak spot on your MBA application.
Why get a prep book rather than simply completing integrated reasoning practice questions? GMAT integrated reasoning books are especially helpful if you find the format of the integrated reasoning section baffling or who have trouble analyzing graphics and graphs. In this case, you’ll benefit from more in-depth answer explanations and breakdowns of the IR format.
Also, GMAT integrated reasoning books could help if you are regularly completing practice quizzes and aren’t improving on integrated reasoning questions. A lack of progress could signal that you need more devoted attention to this area.
What to Look for in Integrated Reasoning GMAT Books: 3 Key Characteristics
Quality integrated reasoning GMAT books should have several key traits. Let’s go over what they are so you know exactly what to look for.
#1: Easy to Digest
Remember that even if you’re struggling with the GMAT integrated reasoning section, it should never take over your GMAT prep.
This means that any prep book you choose should be easily digestible. It should be thorough and in-depth without being overly long or taking up too much of your prep time. Make sure it’s a quick read, straightforward, and not overly dense.
#2: Realistic Practice Questions
The practice questions in the IR prep book you select should be as similar in tone, content, format, and length to real GMAT IR questions as possible.
You should also ensure that there are plenty of practice quizzes and question sets available in the prep book you select, so that you can regularly implement the skills you’re building through drills during your GMAT study sessions.
#3: Detailed Explanations of Answers and Format
In a high-quality IR prep book, there will be detailed answer explanations of practice questions that will help you understand exactly where you’re going wrong on ones you answer incorrectly. A good prep book will help you break down the questions you don’t answer correctly and analyze your weaknesses and error patterns so you can quickly remedy the problems.
Additionally, the best IR prep books will include an in-depth breakdown of the four IR question types and the format of each, and will help you learn what to look for in different kinds of graphs and charts that you might encounter on the exam.
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5 Best GMAT Integrated Reasoning Books
Now, let’s take a look at the five best GMAT integrated books available. For each book, I’ll go over its price, pros, and cons, as well as why you might choose it (or not) as an integrated reasoning resource.
#1: Manhattan Prep GMAT Integrated Reasoning & Essay Strategy Guide
Overview: This 144-page Manhattan GMAT integrated reasoning book (half of which is concerned only with integrated reasoning) includes breakdowns and examples of each IR question type, as well as practice questions and answer explanations. There’s also an IR strategy section that illustrates ways to tackle each question type and each hurdle you might encounter in integrated reasoning.
Price: $26 in paperback; $32.99 in ebook
Pros: Manhattan Prep’s breakdown of integrated reasoning question types is particularly in-depth and comprehensive, and the strategies are straightforward. If you struggle with knowing how to approach IR questions, this book will be especially helpful for you.
Also, with your purchase, you get one year of access to an accompanying website with additional IR practice questions, exercises, and answer explanations.
Cons: While the strategies in this book are helpful, there aren’t as many practice questions as you might get in another resource. You should also probably only consider the book if you’re looking for help with the analytical writing assessment as well, because about half the book is devoted to the GMAT essay.
#2: Manhattan Review GMAT Integrated Reasoning Guide
Overview: Manhattan Review’s GMAT Integrated Reasoning Guide emphasizes both strategy and practice, taking readers through an overview and examples of each IR question type before launching into a series of IR practice quizzes.
In total, there are 50 integrated reasoning practice questions in the Manhattan integrated reasoning book, each of which is accompanied by an answer explanation.
Price: $13.55 in paperback
Pros: The GMAT Integrated Reasoning Guide includes a wide variety of IR practice questions of varying difficulty levels and question types. Whatever you find most challenging in the integrated reasoning section, you’re likely to find practice questions that address it here.
Cons: The answer explanations in the Manhattan integrated reasoning book aren’t always as in-depth or detailed as they might be.
Also, the strategies offered in the book are often focused around logical deduction, which may or may not be the best way for you to approach the IR questions. In contrast to other books that offer a wider variety of options for how you might tackle GMAT questions, Manhattan Review sticks to a single strategy.
#3: Peterson’s Mastering the GMAT: Part IV, Integrated Reasoning
Overview: This prep ebook is sold as part of Peterson’s larger Mastering the GMAT volume. It gives readers an overview of the integrated reasoning section, followed by a three-step approach that test-takers are encouraged to follow for each IR question type. Examples and explanations of each question type are included.
While the text is 115 pages in total (including a guide to the GMAT overall, the computerized adaptive format, tips for business school applications, and other helpful general information), the integrated reasoning section ends on page 45.
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Price: $2.51 on Google Play
Pros: This is a quick, inexpensive guide to GMAT integrated reasoning questions. If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to IR prep but need a bit more depth than you can find in more general prep books, Peterson’s is a great resource.
Cons: To get integrated reasoning practice questions, you’ll have to purchase the rest of Peterson’s Mastering the GMAT or their online resources. This slim volume only includes a few examples (though they are very in-depth).
#4: McGraw-Hill’s Conquering the GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning and 500 GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning Questions to Know By Test Day
Overview: McGraw-Hill’s Conquering the GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning is a comprehensive guide to both the GMAT quant section and the GMAT integrated reasoning section.
While the book is over 300 pages in its entirety, only about a third or slightly less of the guide is devoted specifically to integrated reasoning. It includes IR tips, strategies, and practice questions, including two full-length IR practice tests and answer explanations.
McGraw-Hill’s other integrated reasoning resource, 500 GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning Questions to Know By Test Day, is also over 300 pages, but is devoted entirely to practice questions and answer explanations. In total, there are over 500 practice questions here: 300 quant questions and 200 integrated reasoning questions, divided by question type.
Price: Conquering the GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning: $11.99 in ebook format; $12 in paperback
500 GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning Questions to Know By Test Day: $19 in ebook format; $7.35 in paperback
Pros: Chapter 6 of Conquering the GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning goes in depth on how to tackle each integrated reasoning question type. There’s a lot of meaty strategy and quite a few helpful and specific tips.
Of course, the biggest pro of this prep book is the fact that it includes two full-length IR tests.
Similarly, 500 GMAT Math and Integrated Reasoning Questions to Know By Test Day provides a lot of IR practice, with 200 practice questions (more than any other IR prep resource) available within its pages.
You might consider purchasing both of these books as companions, if you’re looking for both in-depth strategy guides and a wide variety of practice questions for both the quant and integrated reasoning sections of the GMAT.
Cons: In both books, interpreting and drawing conclusions from graphics (a skill that’s difficult for many GMAT test-takers) could be explained more fully and in more depth. Answer explanations are sometimes brief and lacking in detail. Also, both books contain typos and proofreading errors that can sometimes get distracting.
#5: Vibrant Publishers’ GMAT Integrated Reasoning Practice Questions
Overview: Vibrant Publishers’ GMAT Integrated Reasoning Practice Questions includes 150 integrated reasoning practice questions, divided by question type and followed by answer explanations. The book begins with an overview of the GMAT as a whole and a brief explanation of each integrated reasoning question type.
Price: $14.95 in paperback; $3.99 in Kindle
Pros: The biggest advantage of this book is its large number of practice questions and answer explanations. Because the practice questions are divided by question type, you can focus on the ones that you struggle with most.
The answer explanations are also in-depth and detailed, and will take you through each step of reading and answering an IR question.
Finally, GMAT Integrated Reasoning Practice Questions is highly affordable, giving you quite a bit of value for a low price.
Cons: The practice questions provided here are primarily of easy to moderate difficulty, so if you’re specifically looking for advanced IR practice questions, you’ll need to supplement elsewhere.
Also, there’s not an in-depth section on the IR format that breaks down each question type. This book is primarily a source of practice questions, not an overview of the IR section as a whole.
3 Additional GMAT Integrated Reasoning Resources
Looking for integrated resources beyond prep books? There are a few other high-quality materials that you can use to hone in on the integrated reasoning section of the GMAT. Let’s take a look at the three best ones.
#1: GMAT Official Integrated Reasoning Prep Tool
Overview: The GMAT Official Integrated Reasoning Prep Tool is a web-based tool that includes 48 integrated reasoning practice questions and in-depth answer explanations. You’ll also receive a progress report at the end of each customizable practice session that will let you know how you did on the practice questions in comparison to others who answered the same ones.
Pros: The most obvious pro of the Official IR Prep Tool is that it’s one of the only sources of official integrated reasoning GMAT practice questions, so it’s a reliable way to gauge your progress as you prepare for the IR section. The visuals are also quite similar to what you’ll see on exam day.
Cons: With your purchase, you only get access to the IR prep tool for six months. If you need it longer, you’ll need to buy an extension.
#2: GMAT Pill Online Integrated Reasoning Practice Questions and Videos
Overview: The online GMAT Pill guide to integrated reasoning includes an overview of the section, strategies to succeed in integrated reasoning, sets of IR practice questions divided by question type, and video explanations for each set of practice questions.
Price: Many of the GMAT Pill integrated reasoning resources are free with no required sign-in. Others are also free but require a signup with your email. Still others (marked with a “lock”) require you to purchase the full GMAT Pill course for $437 (lifetime membership) or $169 for the first month (and $99/month thereafter).
Pros: GMAT Pill offers one of the most comprehensive guides to integrated reasoning questions out there. The question types are further divided into skill sets or concepts being tested, making each practice question set all the more helpful for targeting your particular weaknesses.
There are hundreds of IR practice questions, many of which are available for free, and the video explanations that break down examples and the skills you’ll need to address them are in-depth and easy to digest.
Cons: GMAT Pill’s visuals can get distracting and confusing, making navigation of the integrated reasoning section difficult. It’s also difficult at times to know what you can access for free and what you need to purchase.
#3: Magoosh’s Complete Guide to GMAT Integrated Reasoning (PDF)
Overview: This online ebook contains strategies for each IR question type, about two examples of each question type, and answer explanations.
Price: Downloadable for free
Pros: Magoosh’s book is concise and to the point. The examples presented are of appropriate complexity levels, and the answer explanations are easily digestible and detailed.
Cons: There aren’t many practice questions available here, and only a few examples of each type of integrated reasoning question.
This resource might be good for a quick overview during one or two study sessions if you’re not struggling a great deal with the IR section.
Top 3 Tips for GMAT Integrated Reasoning Prep
If you’re ready to prepare for the GMAT integrated reasoning section, make sure you’re making the most of your prep time by using these top study tips.
#1: Practice, but Don’t Overdo It
If you take an initial diagnostic GMAT (find out more about how to do so here) and find that you struggled quite a bit with the integrated reasoning section, you should absolutely devote prep time to it using the materials above.
However, keep your IR prep in perspective. Generally speaking, business schools aren’t going to be as concerned about your integrated reasoning score (or your analytical writing assessment score, for that matter) as they are about your total score.
So, while you should devote some time to the integrated reasoning section, don’t spend too much unless your initial IR score is very low. Focus on ensuring you can reliably hit an OK score (usually agreed upon as a 4 or above, or a 5 for a top MBA program) and don’t worry too much about getting a perfect 8. Spending too much time on IR prep can take away from studying for the more significant GMAT sections.
#2: Know When to Guess
You shouldn’t be afraid to guess on the GMAT when you’re unsure, but this rule is especially true on the IR section.
You have very limited time on the IR section, and each question has multiple parts, all of which you must answer before you can move on to the next one. If you want to answer all 12 questions on the IR section, you’ll have only two and a half minutes per question.
Because there’s no partial credit on IR questions, it’s not in your best interest to agonize for too long over questions you’re struggling with. Even one incorrect answer will make the whole response incorrect, so you have more chances to miss the entire question. If you’re having trouble with a question, take your best guess and move on, leaving yourself more time for questions you have a higher chance of getting right.
Pay attention to your skill set when you’re deciding when to guess, too. If you’re a whiz with reading comprehension passages but struggle with reading pie charts, consider guessing earlier on questions that include the latter. This way, you’ll give yourself a higher chance of being able to take your time with, say, multi-source reasoning questions that include several short passages, which you might find easier.
#3: Familiarize Yourself With Graphs and Charts
Reading graphs, tables, and charts, which are commonly included in the integrated reasoning section, is a difficult skill for many test-takers. The way we read graphs and charts when we read articles, for example, won’t necessarily help you on the IR section.
When you read a magazine or newspaper article, you might skim graphs and charts for just the information you consider most interesting or pertinent. On the IR section, every detail could potentially be significant; you’ll need to read all of the captions and other specifics and be able to synthesize and interpret them efficiently and effectively.
When you complete practice IR questions and read IR prep books, regularly note how you might be misinterpreting graphics or missing details in them in order to improve your performance on questions that include graphs, tables, charts, and other pictorials.
Ready to start your IR prep? Find the best sources of GMAT integrated reasoning practice questions here.
If you’re looking for more specific tips for excelling on the IR section, check out our expert guide to getting a top integrated reasoning score here.
Ready to shoot for a top GMAT score? Our eight expert tips will put you on your way.