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What Is The Ideal GMAT Preparation Time? How Long Does The GMAT Prep Take?

What Is The Ideal GMAT Preparation Time? How Long Does The GMAT Prep Take?

Short answer: 2 to 4 months for most candidates.

Generally, candidates preparing for GMAT do so alongside full-time employment and preparing for a competitive exam while simultaneously handling responsibilities at work is not easy. Hence, no one span can be defined as the “ideal preparation time” for all GMAT test-takers around the world. The ideal GMAT preparation duration, rather, depends upon such critical factors as your target GMAT score, your understanding of concepts tested on GMAT, and your work schedule. Thus, while a month may be enough GMAT preparation time for some, four months may not be sufficient for others.

GMAT, or the Graduate Management Admission Test, is a computer-adaptive standardized test that helps the Admissions Committee of the B-schools determine the analytical, quantitative, and verbal skills of the incoming MBA class. While the GMAT’s importance is a stated fact, a significant question among GMAT aspirants is what should be the ideal GMAT preparation time?

GMAT Preparation Time

The table provides a basic sketch of the important steps that must be followed in preparing for GMAT and the approximate time required to accomplish each step.

# Step Time Needed Resource Some Reliable Resources Tip
1 Take a full length test 3 hours 30 minutes Any reliable full length test Experts’ Global, Manhattan Prep, Veritas Avoid official mocks; save those for later
2 Develop concepts 4-6 weeks Any reliable GMAT course Experts’ Global, Veritas, e-GMAT, Magoosh Take free trials before finalizing a course
3 Practice regularly 4 weeks Any reliable GMAT course Experts’ Global, Veritas, e-GMAT, Magoosh Save official guides for final month of prep
4 One full length test every ~10 days 3 hours 30 minutes/ test Any reliable GMAT test series Experts’ Global, Manhattan Prep, Veritas Avoid too many private test series
5 Periodically revise the concepts 1 day / 15 days The GMAT course you opted for The GMAT course you opted for GMAT concepts take time; revision matters
6 Analyze the mistakes 1 day / 15 days The GMAT course you opted for The GMAT course you opted for Mistakes are your good friends
7 Solve all 3 official guides 2-3 weeks Latest Official Guide, Math Review, Verbal Review If you need extra official questions, buy “Question Pack”
8 Revise and consolidate your prep 1 week The GMAT course you opted for + Official guides The GMAT course you opted for + Official guides Re-attempt questions you got wrong earlier
9 Take the official mock tests 3 hours 30 minutes/test GMAT Prep from MBA.com If you need extra official mocks, buy “Exam Pack- 1 and 2″
Give the GMAT with a calm mind!

 
GMAT Prep Time: 30 Days
The following section suggests the ideal 30 days GMAT prep plan for both first time test-takers and test re-takers.

GMAT 30 Days Study Plan: For First-time Test Takers

Always begin your GMAT Prep process with a diagnostic test to understand your strength.

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, practice.
2 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
3 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, attain accuracy, time yourself.
4 Take 3 practice tests, refer to the Official Guides, work on accuracy and time.

To make better use of the limited time and avail of robust assistance with your GMAT prep, get the free GMAT prep mobile app for Android/ iOS.

GMAT 30 Days Study Plan: For Test Re-takers

That you are re-taking your GMAT clearly indicates that you are not satisfied with the scores you have received. Hence, this time, start your GMAT prep process by introspecting on the possible areas of improvement. For the same, start by acquiring the GMAT Enhanced Score Report to analyze your performance.

Week Action
1 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
2 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, attain accuracy, time yourself.
3 Take 3 practice tests, reach perfect sync of accuracy and time, revise concepts.
4 Take 4 practice tests, refer to the Official Guides, maintain accuracy and time, revise concepts.

GMAT Prep Time: 60 Days

The following section suggests the ideal 60 days GMAT prep plan for both first time test-takers and test re-takers.

GMAT 60 Days Study Plan: For First-time Test Takers

Always begin your GMAT Prep process with a diagnostic test to understand your strength. Further, you may also consider enrolling for a GMAT classroom prep program.

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, develop concepts.
2 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
3 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
4 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, develop your speed.
5 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, focus on accuracy, attain speed.
6 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, attain speed and accuracy.
7 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, refer to the Official Guides, maintain speed and accuracy.
8 Take a practice test, refer to Official Guides, analyze mistakes, and relax!

To make better use of the limited time and avail of robust assistance with your GMAT prep, you can also partake of an online GMAT preparation program.

GMAT 60 Days Study Plan: For Test Re-takers

That you are re-taking your GMAT clearly indicates that you are not satisfied with the scores you have received. Hence, this time, start your GMAT prep process by introspecting on the possible areas of improvement. For the same, start by acquiring the GMAT Enhanced Score Report to analyze your performance. You may also consider enrolling for a GMAT classroom prep program.

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, develop concepts.
2 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, focus on gaining accuracy.
3 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes,revise concepts, attain accuracy.
4 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, develop your speed.
5 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, focus on accuracy, attain speed.
6 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, attain speed and accuracy.
7 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, refer to the Official Guides, maintain speed and accuracy.
8 Take a practice test, refer to Official Guides, analyze mistakes, and relax!

To make better use of the limited time and avail of robust assisstance with your GMAT prep, avail of a GMAT guidance program and improve upon your weak areas.

GMAT Prep Time: 90 Days

The following section suggests the ideal 90 days GMAT prep plan for both first time test-takers and test re-takers.

GMAT 90 Days Study Plan: For First-time Test Takers

A period of 90 days for GMAT preparation is the perfect GMAT prep time. 90 days gives the students enough time to prepare the concepts, revise, practice, work upon their weak areas, and attain the sync of accuracy and time. At the same time, 90 days is the perfect duration to keep the GMAT aspirant from becoming impatient and to prevent them from getting bogged down by the pressure of performance.
Always begin your GMAT Prep process with a diagnostic test to understand your strength. Further, you may also consider enrolling for a GMAT classroom prep program.

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, develop concepts.
2 to 4 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
5 to 7 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, develop speed, attain accuracy.
8 to 10 Take 4 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain speed and accuracy.
11 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, maintain speed and accuracy.
12 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, refer to the Official Guides, maintain speed and accuracy, and relax!

GMAT 90 Days Study Plan: For Test Re-takers

Do not wait for as long as 90 days to re-take your GMAT unless you desire intensive practice and revision of concepts. If only either of the following circumstance hampered your GMAT performance, should you consider a study plan of 90 days prior to re-taking the test:

  • You obtained poor GMAT score because you did not get enough time to prepare and practice the first time.
  • You are fairly out of touch with the learning environment and need time to acquaint yourself with the rigorous prep schedule.

In either case, your GMAT prep plan will start with the acquisition of the GMAT Enhanced Score Report to analyze your performance and enroll for a GMAT classroom prep program.

Week Action
1 Take a mock test, analyze mistakes, develop concepts.
2 to 4 Take 2 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain accuracy.
5 to 7 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, develop speed, attain accuracy.
8 to 10 Take 4 practice tests, analyze mistakes, develop concepts, revise concepts, attain speed and accuracy.
11 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, maintain speed and accuracy.
12 Take 3 practice tests, analyze mistakes, revise concepts, refer to the Official Guides, maintain speed and accuracy, and relax!

GMAT Prep Strategy: What is the Ideal GMAT Prep Time?

The ideal GMAT prep duration varies from student to student. To garner a positive understanding of this difference in time required for GMAT prep and thereby arrive at a definite answer to the question, GMAC conducts a survey each year. The data collated and spread, as per geography, suggests that irrespective of the external conditions, on an average every GMAT test taker has taken up to 9 weeks to prepare for GMAT.

Median GMAT Prep Hours

The following tables depict the median time taken by students to prepare for GMAT:

GMAT Preparation Region of Residence (% of test takers)
East &SE Asia Canada Central & South Africa Europe Latin America Middle East/Africa USA
Less than 1 week 7% 6% 7% 8% 6% 12% 10%
1 to 3 weeks 29% 26% 21% 26% 19% 28% 22%
4 to 6 weeks 32% 33% 29% 30% 23% 23% 28%
7 to 9 weeks 14% 1% 26% 19% 21% 13% 17%
More than 10 weeks 13% 12% 18% 13% 25% 15% 16%
Median GMAT Prep Hours 100 hours 75 hours 90 hours 80 hours 100 hours 60 hours 50 hours

Source: GMAC 2017, mba.com, Prospective Students Survey, 2015 – 16

Factors Determining the Time Required for GMAT Prep:

  1. Core Skills – Take a free mock test to identify your core strengths. Understand the amount of time you will need to spend on improving your weaknesses and honing your strengths; accordingly plan your GMAT preparation time.
  2. Target Score – If your mock score has been 560 and you are targeting a 730 in GMAT, time and study plan becomes of crucial importance. You are looking to bridge a gap of at least 200 points in your GMAT score. You may achieve your target score in 30 days, 60 days, or even 90 days if you plan your time wisely. However, do not target an improvement by 200 points at once, break down your target score into achievable targets. For instance, aim for improving your score by 100 points at the first go. Once your mock results depict a score improvement to 670, you are not far from your target score! But, if you are thinking of the time that you will need to invest to gain this objective, you must take into account your ability to absorb information and work at equations at one-go.
  3. Concepts and Techniques – For some, quantitative reasoning may be the core strength, while for others verbal reasoning may be the core competency. Regardless of your strengths, an important factor to consider is your stronghold of the concepts. Do not fall for the shortcuts and the tricks, or do not spend time solely familiarizing yourself with the nature of the questions. Rather, try to understand the concept for solving each question. Shortcuts may come in handy to save time, even familiarity with question types will help in obtaining a fast resolution of the problem. However, concept is the key. Without a sound knowledge of the concept, one can only attain so much. Keep time to accomplish grasp of the basic concepts. Only then, focus on the techniques to solve the problems.
  4. The Effective Productive Time – How does your attention span determine the time required for preparing for GMAT? We may tell you that 4 hours each day, for 2 months, is enough preparation time for someone targeting a 700 in GMAT. However, what is the effective productive time? You may diligently invest 4 hours each day, for 2 months, in your preparation, but how will that benefit you? Hence, figure out what works best for you: if you need a 5-minute break after 1 hour of intense concentration, take that break and proceed again. Leverage upon the total productive time in your preparation for GMAT.

What Is The Ideal GMAT Prep Time For You?

However, the question still remains – What is the ideal preparation time for GMAT? Answers such as “as long as you can study for it”, or “till you master the concepts”, or “till you get your target score” are vague and frustrating to be heard by someone seriously considering taking up the test. To help you, we have outlined a few crucial points, elaborating on the ‘factors’ already discussed, that you can keep in mind while planning your study time:

How Many Hours Should You Spend In Preparing For GMAT?

Attention span and study plan can never be the same for each person. Hence, if a GMAT prep time of 2 months works for few students, it will not work for the other group of students. The ideal step, in this regard, would be to begin with identifying your particular strengths and weaknesses and the number of hours that you can sincerely dedicate to preparation. For professionals, again, the issue of work-life balance becomes a pertinent issue. Thus, the beginning plan should be:

  • Start with analyzing your profile for MBA admissions – This will help you assess your GMAT score requirement to fulfill the admission criteria of shortlisted schools.
  • Plan your Day – You need adequate rest, you need to look after your professional and personal responsibilities, and you need to study. The schedule may seem overwhelming at first. Don’t worry, start gradually. Try keeping aside ~ 3 hours per day, on weekdays, and ~ 5 hours on weekends, to be absolutely dedicated to your preparation time.
  • Take the Mock – Once you become fairly acquainted with the scope of the curriculum for GMAT, take the first mock test. The diagnostic test will help you aptly understand your weak areas that require much more practice.
  • Time your Day to Work on your Weakness – Now, your preparation plan will be divided to accomplish two major tasks – improve your weakness and keep practicing.

What Should Be Your GMAT Preparation Schedule?

Your preparation schedule should be compartmentalized to ensure that you are regularly practicing all four sections and spending reasonable time on each. Key points to be kept in mind, in this regard:

  • Regular Practice – Irrespective of your weak areas and your strengths, you need to ensure investing time, each day, to every four sections. For instance, if Verbal Reasoning is your weak area, and you are spending 3 hours daily on your GMAT prep, you may choose to spend 1 hour on Verbal Reasoning alone, but do not ignore practicing the remaining 3 sections of the test.
  • span class=”highlighter”>Take Breaks! – The most crucial factor to consider while planning your study time. You will need your intellectual faculties to be aptly energized and performing when studying. Do not force yourself to study beyond what your health permits. However, considering the limited amount of time you will have to prepare for GMAT, weave in 5 minutes break between each practice tests/revision sessions to ascertain better productivity of your intellectual faculties. You do not want to strain yourself and you do not want to lose out on precious time, hence, your schedule needs to be smartly planned!

Shortlist your schools, set your target GMAT scores, take the GMAT mock test to determine your learning needs, and select the study plan that best meets your learning need.

To sum up, consider the following in planning your GMAT prep time:

  • Regardless of the GMAT prep time that you decide upon, regular GMAT practice tests and proper review of your performance is mandated.
  • Do not panic if you are unable to invest “extra” prep hours because the amount of time is not the determining factor, rather the smart utilization of the available time is significant.

Know All about GMAT, Before You Time Your GMAT Preparation

The first step to acing the 3 hours and 30 minutes long GMAT test is to understand the test thoroughly. Before you can start with your preparation or even chalk out a GMAT prep routine for yourself, understand the pattern, the syllabus, and the scoring pattern of the GMAT test.

Sections Number of Questions Time per Section Types of Questions Scoring Mean Score
Analytical Writing Assessment 1 30 minutes Analysis of an Argument 0 to 6 (in 0.5 increments) 4.48
Integrated Reasoning 12 30 minutes Graphic Interpretation, Table Analysis, Multi-source Reasoning, Two-part Analysis 1 to 8(in 1 increment) 4.29
Quantitative Reasoning 31 62 minutes Data Sufficiency, Problem Solving 6 to 51 (in 1 increment) 39.93
Verbal Reasoning 36 65 minutes Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction 6 to 51 (in 1 increment) 27.04

 
GMAT: Sections and Type of Questions

Divided into 4 distinct sections, Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning, GMAT aims to understand a candidate’s ability to read and analyze multi-source data, interpret graphics, and evaluate and represent information in a coherent form.

The following table highlights the broad concepts tested in the GMAT Verbal and Quant Reasoning sections:

GMAT Quantitative Reasoning GMAT Verbal Reasoning
Arithmetic Subject – Verb Agreement
Permutations and Combinations Pronouns
Ratio and Proportion Modifiers
Linear Equations Parallelism
Roots and Exponents Idioms
Algebra Reading Comprehension
Geometry Redundancy

Scoring on GMAT

GMAC follows a particular scoring algorithm for GMAT, a piece of information that is not publicly available. However, there are definite factors that the scoring on GMAT depends upon – the number of questions answered, the number of questions correctly answered, and the difficulty level of the questions answered are crucial components that determine the final scores received on each section. Besides, only the scores obtained in the Quantitative and the Verbal Reasoning section on GMAT add to form the total GMAT score; the scores obtained in the Integrated Reasoning and the Analytical Writing Assessment sections are not added to the total GMAT score and are separately provided.

What Is A Good GMAT Score?

GMAT score forms an important criterion of admission to B-schools. Any GMAT aspirant must conduct thorough research on the average GMAT score requirement of their shortlisted B-schools and accordingly proceed to prepare for GMAT. However, what may be a “good GMAT score” for one school may not be good enough for another school. For instance, among the top-25 globally ranked business schools, the average GMAT score requirement for IMD is 670, for Berkeley: Haas is 726, and for Harvard is 730.

Average GMAT Score: Top-25 B-Schools

School Average GMAT Score
Stanford 708
Harvard 730
INSEAD 700
Wharton 732
CEIBS 685
LBS 707
Chicago Booth 738
MIT: Sloan 730
Columbia Business School 732
Berkeley: Haas 726
Yale 724
IESE 690
Oxford: Said 690
Northwestern University 732
Dartmouth 722
Cambridge: Judge 696
NUS 662
HKUST 680
HEC Paris 690
Duke: Fuqua 704
Esade 660
IMD 670
Darden 718
ISB 7 09
NYU: Stern 716

While the MBA admission essays help to represent a holistic narrative of your profile, the GMAT score represents your quantitative and verbal proficiency. The GMAT score, therefore, testifies your deftness to analyze situations, reason, and solve critical problems, skills integral to pursuing your career in a senior leadership role, post-MBA. Thus, to understand which GMAT score is good for you, evaluate the student profiles of your target B-schools and accordingly, set your target GMAT score.

A Crucial Point: Stress and Performance

As we rush to fulfill our responsibilities and to achieve our targets, we often ignore the stressors that play a crucial role in determining our performance. Beyond the negative effects that the stressors are prone to have on our health, stressors also affect our task performances. According to psychologists, stress does not necessarily degrade but improves our performance, the stress and performance relationship, thus, taking the form of an inverted-U graph – a model developed by Robert Yerkes and John Dodson in 1908. Specifically, in the initial stages, the stress acts as an energizer, boosting our ability to perform. However, with the persisted exercise of the same stressors, stress becomes distracting, and our performance gradually drops.
 

The original Yerkes-Dodson Law. Image Source: Wikipedia

You are bound to experience high levels of test anxiety and performance anxiety throughout your GMAT preparation time. The trick to succeeding here is to actively recognize the stressors and disregard their existence. Hence, the importance of breaks! Your initial excitement and vigor to perform may also positively influence your test scores in your initial mocks. However, your final test results may reflect otherwise, you may not be even able to reach your target scores. Such discrepancies should be accounted for not only in terms of lack of preparation, but also failure to recognize the actual factors. Consider the situation: a 680 in your mock may make you confident of scoring a 700 in your final. You are confident of your preparation and you eagerly await the final test-taking day. When the results are declared, you find that you have scored only a 660! A very frequent complaint from students, this discrepancy is the result of text anxiety, and one poor performance is liable to further aggravating the text anxiety.

Combating the Stressors:

  1. Breaks at regular intervals – We cannot harp enough on the importance of taking breaks at regular intervals.
  2. Take practice tests regularly – Fix a particular day, preferably on weekends, to take a regular practice test. We would suggest alternative Saturdays as the best day to take your practice tests as it serves two purposes – one, the Saturday helps you approach your test in a refreshed mind; and two, basis your performance, you get time to duly analyze and boost your performance, thereby, negating the possibilities of inconsistent scorings.

To sum up, therefore, the GMAT preparation time that you ultimately decide upon should take into account the following:

  • Mocks set the pace for your preparation.
  • Give in your 100% but do not stress yourself.
  • Breaks are crucial – take rest and allow yourself some free time.
  • Do not be overconfident of your strengths and ignore them, rather keep practicing.
  • Identify your limits and improve them.
  • Stick to your plan but keep buffer zones to accommodate any unfortunate exigent situation.
  • Concepts are the key! Invest time in first honing the concepts, and then look for approaches to solving problems.
  • Do not compare yourselves with others when it comes to the total time invested in preparation. Remember, we need to focus on the productive time invested!
  • Study smart!

Apply with efficient MBA consultants and GMAT prep mentors to avail of proper guidance as regards to managing preparation time for GMAT and getting the desired GMAT score.

All the best!

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