Consulting Firms Might Start Using Integrated Reasoning


PRIMARY GMAT LOGO - 500x500Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that Bain & Co, a well-respected management consulting firm, is considering using Integrated Reasoning scores in its hiring process. What does this mean for you?

Bain represents one of two major post-MBA career paths: management consulting and banking. Harvard Business School, for example, reported that approximately 35% of graduates enter the financial services industry and 25% accept a consulting job (these stats represent the first job after obtaining the degree).

Because so many students want these jobs, the consulting firms and banks can afford to be choosy. At the same time, they have to wade through a large number of resumes—what to do?

One possibility, evidently, is to let the GMAT do some of the sorting for them. Keith Bevans, global head of recruiting at Bain, told Bloomberg Businessweek, “The IR scores are trying to test analytical abilities, which is important to us. We hope it’s a good match for determining if you’ll be successful at Bain.”

Quick GMAT aside: did you spot the errors in that quote? The which modifier improperly refers to a verb, not a noun. Also, it’s whether you’ll be successful, not if. We’ll give Mr. Bevans a pass, though; nobody actually speaks in fully grammatical sentences. (…with the possible exception of Oprah Winfrey—have you ever really listened to how well she constructs her sentences, even in speech? It’s impressive.)

[Edited to add: One of my fellow teachers, Pedro Ledesma, pointed out to me that the sentence could be corrected in a different way. The IR scores are trying to test analytical abilities, which ARE important to us. In this case, the which modifier would refer to abilities. Alternatively, if Mr. Bevans had wanted to refer to the whole clause, he might have said: The IR scores are trying to test analytical abilities and this  (the fact that they are doing so) is important to us.]

Bain hasn’t actually decided yet whether to use IR scores (or, if so, how). Mr. Bevans did make a point of saying that other important factors—such as “work experience, education, leadership experience, and one-on-one interactions with staff”—will still be just as important as ever.

So what should I do?

If you don’t want to go into banking or consulting, then your only IR concern is what the business schools think. Last year, the schools didn’t use IR, so most test prep companies and admissions consultants were counseling students to aim for 4 or higher (the high score on IR is 8).

Some schools may begin to use IR this year, so we’ve been counseling people to go for a 5 or higher—possibly a 6, if you’re applying to a top 5 school. Several schools, though, have said that they want to see how well IR scores predict success in business school, so it will be a couple of years at least before they begin to place any serious emphasis on this section.

I do want to go into consulting / banking…

You have a choice to make. You can take more time to study now and focus on maximizing your IR score as well. To be competitive at the very best companies, you’ll need a 7 or 8.

Let’s say, though, that you have very limited time now, or that you’re not sure yet whether you’ll want to go into banking or consulting. In that case, you might decide to take the test again after starting business school, either before your first summer break (if you need the score to help secure an internship) or before the recruiting season begins in earnest in the winter or spring of your second year in school.

Realistically speaking, a lot of people will want to follow that second path. I just want to warn you: the last thing you’re going to want to do in a year or two is to re-take the GMAT just for the IR score. You’ll also have to study again for quant and verbal because you won’t want to risk a big score drop in those areas; the firms will see those scores as well.

If you are applying in 2 months and you just don’t have time to add thorough IR prep into the mix, then the decision is made for you. Quant and Verbal are more important now, so you might have to re-take the GMAT in the future to get that IR score.

If you have the luxury of time, though, then use it. Plan to add about 4 weeks to your overall study timeframe. Then start incorporating IR throughout your study (there are actually a lot of overlaps between IR, quant, and verbal). Some starting points are below.

If you’re one of our students, watch the two-hour IR workshop tape in your student center. Use that in conjunction with our IR Strategy Guide to learn all of the strategies for IR questions.

Here are four free How To Analyze articles, one for each of the four IR question types:



Multi-Source Reasoning


Questions? Concerns? Let us know here or contact our office to discuss (800.576.GMAT).


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