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How do B-schools factor IR scores into MBA admissions?

An analysis of GMAT integrated reasoning stats and implications for the future of MBA Admissions: 6 things MBAs need to know!

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This is a guest post by GMAT Pill, resident GMAT adviser at BusinessBecause, a leader in GMAT prep.
 
A year has passed since it's release and 196,712 scores have been recorded. Statistics have been compiled showing that the average (mean) IR score was 4.34 / 8.00 with a standard deviation of 2.1

Using a bell shaped distribution, 95% of the scores should lie within 2 standard deviations (2* 2.1) of the mean (4.34). 
 
Two standard deviations below the mean is 4.34 - (2*2.1) = 2.24
 
Two standard deviations above the mean is 4.34 + (2*2.1) = 6.44 
 
However, just note that this is not a normal distribution; the intervals of the score only change by 1. 
 
KEY TAKEAWAYS 
 
1) The IR score can tell a lot about an applicant

The MBA admissions committees have developed a better understanding of what the score represents, now that the IR section has been out for a year. Admission committees can better compare how the score relates in comparison to an applicant’s other stats.

However, what does this mean for the applicants?

The admission offices at the top business schools are always flooded with qualified applicants who have high GMAT scores.
Which ones stand out? You may ask.
 
Students who received a high IR score will definitely set themselves apart.

Typically, in the case of top business schools, students with high GMAT Quant scores flood the admissions box. The sheer number of students in the Q48+ range – can curve the scoring so that the difference between ~2 quant questions can potentially drop scores beneath the 90th percentile. Fortunately enough, the admissions officer might actually prefer the Q48 student over the Q50 student if they knew the Q48 student has a stellar IR score while the Q50 student does not.  This is not currently the way it is, but as IR becomes more and more accepted, such a scenario could be quite plausible.

Let’s take this scenario for example: The final admission seat is down between two possible candidates:

Candidate X: Q48 / IR 8
Candidate Y: Q50 / IR 5

Given this information, Candidate X might appear to be the stronger, more well-rounded candidate.

It should be interesting to note that the difference between GMAT scores and IR scores is quite apparent among Asian applicants. Chinese and Indian applicants who scored high on IR will more likely have an edge over the competition than will applicants from other countries.
 
Why? Simply because the discrepancy between average GMAT score and average IR score is greatest for applicants from these countries.
 
2) Scholarships can be based upon IR Scores
 
Those who are aware of the GMAT Pill's success stories platform may have noticed that several students were able to receive acceptance to top business schools across the world along with an MBA scholarship. Such an accomplishment was made possible by a placing larger emphasis for the success of the overall GMAT, including the IR section.

What makes the IR so important for possible scholarships?

Scholarships are based upon a school’s desire to invest in a student. They want to find strong, hard working individuals who can process information and think on their feet.  The IR section is actually designed, to assess these types of abilities. A solid performance in all sections of the GMAT - Quant, Verbal, AWA, and IR - will help you stand out for scholarship.

For example: GMAT Pill alumni (and now GMAT Pill mentor) James – registered an incredible GMAT score of 770 – followed with a perfect IR score (8/8) and a perfect AWA score (6/6). Jame’s accomplishments were so distinguished that he obtained a $93k MBA Scholarship from London Business School.
 
3) The connection between Consultants and IR score

Like all recruiters, consultants covet graduates with high GMAT scores and GPAs. However, high IR scores are desirable as well. 
 
Why? Well, the IR test was designed to assess the skills that consultants use on the job.
 
So naturally, recruiting efforts in consulting firms may involve asking applicants for their IR score.
 
4) Adding IR score to unofficial score report
 
At the moment, IR scores are only available after students receive their official score reports. Following the Fall of 2013, test takers will find their IR score listed on the unofficial score report they receive at the test site.
 
5) Earlier than 20 Days

At the test site, the administrators will tell you that the official score report will arrive in the mail within 20 days of the testing day. Well, actually, GMAC is telling us the score report will more likely arrive in about a week. On paper it's 20 days, but don’t be surprised when you receive a mail from GMAC much earlier than that.
 
6) Potential of a single GMAT 800 score
 
Debate has been stirring up about whether or not there should be a single score of 800 consisting of 4 subdivisions -Quant/Verbal/AWA/IR.

The 800 score is currently made up of 2 components: Quant and Verbal. 

 
If GMAC were to combine all 4 scores into one total 800 score, it would represent a tremendous change to the current test scoring system. Much discussion will be needed before any action is taken. Even if it were approved, these changes would take several years to correctly adjust (i.e, the scoring scale).

GMAT Pill believes that simplifying everything into a single score is the appropriate decision. The admissions office can better make sense of the official score report, and the IR section will receive the recognition it deserves in the final 800 score. This final 800 score is the score that students find compatible enough to compare with one another. It is the score that top business school take into account during admission, etc 

Although no promises have been made, there is always a possibility for adjustment.
 
After crunching a year’s worth of data, the GMAC organization exposed statistics that proved how different countries experience discrepancy between average GMAT scores and their corresponding IR scores.

Asian test takers seem to face the largest discrepancy, with eminent GMAT scores alongside inadequate IR scores.

What can we draw from this? If Asian applicants, the majority of whom are Chinese and Indian, are commonly receiving stellar GMAT scores but inadequate IR scores, then the Asians who score exceptionally well on BOTH the overall GMAT and the IR section will shine from the competition.  MBA programs want individuals who stand out from their peers, and those who have obtained strong verbal/quant score AND a high IR score have done just that. While this is true for all applicants, it is even more pronounced for Asian test takers. 

Fun fact:
 
Test takers from Australia and America experience the least discrepancy between their 800 GMAT score and their IR scores. 
 
If a single test were able to determine a student’s future graduate GPA, the IR score would likely be the most precise.

Although the accuracy of this conclusion is based on limited data, the stats compiled from the first year of IR scores has been made that compares total 800 score, AWA score, undergraduate GPA, and IR score to graduate GPA. It appears that the IR score best predicts graduate GPA among the other tests.
 
Can the IR score influence a student’s admission? Although the IR score may not always tell which applicant should be accepted - it DOES provide an idea of who to reject.

What do you mean?

The blue circle in the picture above reveals that among several test takers who scored a 650 (or higher), only a small percentage of them received a score of 1, 2, or 3 -- 2%, 3%, and 6%, respectively. Commonly the case, the admissions office will only look for applicants who received a GMAT score of 650 and above. Among those applicants, a few of them performed poorly on the IR section. 

CAUTION:
 
Be consistent with your scores! Don't have a 650 (or higher) GMAT score and an insufficient IR score alongside it. You will stand out, but not in a good way.

With that being said, Asian applicants who received a score of 650 or higher, should put in the extra time to do well on the IR section. Although scoring an 8 would be fantastic, it is not required. A strong score of 6 or 7 should be able to do the trick.
 
All MBA programs would like to see a high IR score, not just the upper tier programs. The total percentage of test takers who receive a score of 1, 2 or 3 is quite high. The possibility of scoring a 1, 2 or 3 is 6%, 10%, and 14%, respectively. That means that the total possibility of an applicant scoring a 1, 2 or 3 is 30%.
 
IR Scores can also predict a future career path.

With only a year of information, the initial surveys reports MBAs that go into Consulting, Operations, and Finance have higher IR scores than the MBAs who go into human resources, marketing, or general management.

In the 
middle of a conference call with GMAC – it was announced that top consulting firms like McKinsey and Bain have taken interest in knowing an applicant’s IR scores. 
 
Consultants also evaluate candidates through IR Scores.

How would that be possible?

The IR section was designed to assess the same, exact skills that consultants use on the job. Consultants, management consultants for example, need to understand what the overall goal is, and its blueprint. After crunching a series of numbers, a basic pattern must be found and steps need to be planned in order to obtain the objective.

Based on previous experience as a managing consultant at Booz & Company, I can confirm how essential IR skills are on the job. It’s not surprising that top consulting firms would want to know an applicant’s IR scores.

There’s no doubt that consulting firms would want students with high GPAs and high GMAT scores. 

However, in the forthcoming future, it is very likely that top consulting firms will see IR scores in the same light as GPAs and GMAT scores. Applicants will likely be asked for BOTH their GMAT and their IR scores on their resumes.

Future management consultants, set on their goal, should absolutely put the work in now and study for the IR section.
 
In Conclusion

The MBA admissions committee has developed a better understanding of what the IR score represents and how to compare it to an applicant’s other stats. 

Be sure to remember some inside information about the IR section. Asian applicants experience a large discrepancy between their 800 GMAT score and their IR scores. Very few applicants perform outstanding on the overall score and perform miserably on the IR section (don’t be one of them). Demographic background can play a role with IR score importance.

Some test takers can receive a "good enough” IR score of at least 4 and get into the school of their choice. 

Applicants who are aiming for a scholarship should try to score as high as possible in all categories - verbal, quant, AWA, and IR. As mentioned before, GMAT Pill alumni (and now GMAT Pill instructor) James received a full tuition MBA scholarship to 
London Business School, as a result of his excellent scores across the board.

Corporate recruiting, not just MBA admissions can be influenced by IR scores. High IR scores will definitely impress management consulting firms!

After the fall of 2013, the unofficial score report will carry your IR score. Debate has been stirred about whether or not there should be a single score of 800 consisting of 4 subdivisions - Quant/Verbal/AWA/IR. The GMAT community hopes to see this plan take fruition.

For more information about IR including sample questions, click here.
 
Zeke Lee, the 98%ile in 2 weeks guy from Stanford, is the founder of the GMAT Pill, an online course that teaches "speed-learning" techniques designed to help busy working professionals ace the GMAT in as little time as possible. These techniques combine with a collection of 1,000+ GMAT practice questions and video explanations to form the ultimate study resource for the GMAT test taker.
 
You can follow GMAT Pill on BusinessBecause for the latest news and updates.

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