GMAT Graphics Interpretation Questions

Written by Kelly Granson. Posted in GMAT Study Guide

0514 gmat_630x420_copyA previous post explained why GMAT is changing and how the new GMAT Integrated Reasoning section will affect your scores and admission chances. If you have not read that post, go back and do so.

This post will focus on one category of the new GMAT questions: Graphics Interpretation questions—what they are, what they test, and how to approach them.

What are Graphics Interpretation questions?

The new GMAT Graphics Interpretation questions will test the same math and reasoning skills that have been tested by the Quantitative and Verbal sections but will do so in an entirely new way. Instead of giving you numbers and statistics, GI questions will provide information (evidence) in graphical format and ask you to infer something from it. Usually, such problems present one graphic followed by two questions and then ask you to select an answer choice from a drop-down list.

How do Graphics Interpretation questions look?




Refer to the diagram above, which represents statistical data on the residents of Businessville. Each symbol represents 10 residents of a community with a total population of 150 residents.

Use the drop-down menus to complete each assignment.

If one Businessville resident is selected at random, the chance that such a person will not be a millionaire who holds an MBA degree is

If Businessville statistics are representative of an overall trend, then the probability of a person without an MBA degree becoming a millionaire is


Question 1

If you have already studied for the Quantitative section of the GMAT, you will be familiar with the basics of probability and overlapping sets. You can see that the new GMAT Graphics Interpretation questions therefore do not require mastery of any new math concepts; they just require ability to read graphs, charts, and diagrams—a skill most of you already use and one that those of you who make it through business school will definitely need.

In Question 1, you need to find the probability that a person selected at random from the set of 150 residents of Businessville will NOT be a millionaire who holds an MBA degree. To find the probability of an event not occurring, you calculate the probability that the event will occur and subtract that probability from 1.

So P(not a millionaire with MBA) = 1 – P(a millionaire with MBA)

Millionaires with MBAs are marked in the overlapping area of the Venn diagram, where you see two marks. Since each mark represents 10 persons, there are 20 millionaires with MBAs among the 150 residents, making the probability 20/150 or 2/15. This is not the final answer however; this is the probability of a person being a millionaire with an MBA. Now you need to subtract this from 1 to get the probability of a random resident not being a millionaire with an MBA: 1 – 2/15 = 13/15.

Question 2

The second question asks you take the diagram as universally true and calculate the probability of someone without an MBA becoming a millionaire. Divide the number of millionaires without MBAs by the total number of residents without MBAs. There are five marks in the millionaire circle outside the MBA circle, and another five marks are in neither circle. Altogether, there are 10 marks outside the MBA circle, so 100 people do not have MBAs. Of those, 5 marks, or 50 persons, are in the millionaire circle. The probability, of a non-MBA becoming a millionaire, therefore, is 50/100 = 1/2.

What do GI questions test?

Like this one, most Graphics Interpretation questions test exactly the same concepts that are tested on the Quantitative section only in a different manner. You do not need any new skills; the only difference is that instead of stating the numbers, GI questions illustrate them graphically.

These questions will deal with real life data, the kind most likely to be presented graphically in business practice. Therefore, the most common math concepts tested by GI questions are those most susceptible to this sort of depiction: percentages, statistics, probability, profits, losses, etc

What's the best approach to GI questions?

The approach should be obvious: learn well all the math concepts you will need for the Quantitative section, making sure you familiarize yourself with various types of graphical information: graphs, charts, diagrams, etc. Then approach individual GI questions systematically, as you do all the others.

Start analyzing an illustration only after you have read the questions and know what kind of information you need to find. A single graph or chart can be a source of all sorts of information, including percentage distribution, percentage increase, general trends, etc. So read the question, determine what information to look for, and then study the graphic representation of the data.

Read any explanation or key that accompanies the data, so that you know what information is depicted and how it is represented. It's almost impossible to understand what's going on in complex graphics until you have read the descriptions and definitions.

A final word

These questions are not especially hard. If your math is good and you're paying attention, you shouldn't have any problems. In fact, they also give you a calculator, but it is usually quicker to approximate, estimate, or calculate by hand. Remember, the GMAT is not testing your skills to handle complex calculations; it's testing your ability to see trends, grasp comparisons, and find better alternative solution methods.

If this post was useful, let us know, and keep coming back for the most recent information about GMAT Integrated Reasoning questions, GMAT samples, and other updates to make sure you're prepared to do well on your GMAT.

Good Luck!

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