IR section study plan
I apply the same logic to the integrated reasoning (IR) section of the GMAT. As you probably know, IR does not directly contribute to your quantitative or verbal scores, additionally most schools do not give it much weight. This can lead a lot of test takers to believe that it is a section that can be largely ignored. This is a mistake and despite what others may tell you, not studying for the IR section will set you up to fail on quant and verbal. Here are three tips to get you off on the right foot.
Know how much to study:
Despite my above advice, there is no denying that the IR section is currently less important than its verbal and quant counterparts. This said, you will still need to study for it. The IR section always comes before verbal and quant and as such, you need to get through the section without fatiguing yourself. I have written before on the dangers of mental fatigue and if you leave the IR section already feeling worn out, then you will have a long and hard fight ahead of you.
The good news is that there is no need to devote as much time to preparing for the IR section as you do for the others. I recommend that you shoot for at least a 5 on the IR section. While it is not necessary to get an 8, remember that although schools do not currently weight IR very highly, they still look at the score and it is still taken into consideration. If you are on the cusp of getting into a program, the last thing that you want is to be nosed out because of a low IR score.
Practice enough, but not too much
Your goal for IR is to study well enough to land a decent score that will not make your overall numbers look out of place and to finish still feeling as fresh as when you walked in. To do this, I recommend starting studying for IR 6 weeks ahead of your test. This will give you plenty of time to learn how to deal with Multi-Source Reasoning, Table Analysis, Graphical Interpretation, and Two-Part Analysis questions. Spending time with this section will boost your confidence and allow you to finish the section with less fatigue. Learn how to work through IR with a focus on good timing.
Know when to Guess
Knowing when to guess is an important tactic for every section of the GMAT. However, your guessing plan will be a little different for IR. Typically you do not want to guess blindly on anything. Ideally, you will at least have eliminated a few possible answer choices before diving in. However, on IR feel free to give yourself a maximum of three free guesses. Use these for questions that you think will take too much time and effort up front. You have more wiggle room here as you are only shooting for a slightly above average performance on this section.
IR is one of the most overlooked sections on the GMAT. I can understand why. As a purely numbers game, it is far less important than other sections. However, if you take the mental side of the GMAT into consideration (and you really should), the IR section is an integral part of the test. IR sets the tone for the rest of your performance and I have personally seen otherwise solid testers have their scores ruined because they went into the verbal and quant sections with less confidence, mentally fatigued, and stressed because they did not know how to manage the IR section. Do not let this be you! Give IR the time it deserves.