By allowing yourself 3 months to prepare for the GMAT, you have an excellent opportunity to put in the time necessary to get your best possible score. Your biggest challenge may be maintaining your motivation and momentum over this period. Think now about possible disruptions to your study schedule, such as busy periods at work or school or family commitments, and plan accordingly.
With 3 months to prepare, you can think about dividing your study time into two parts. During the first two months, focus on mastering the strategic approaches to each type of question on the GMAT, as well as the grammar and math content knowledge you’ll need to get questions correct. During the last month, build up to maximum performance on Test Day: focus on answering questions more quickly by doing timed practice and challenge yourself with tougher questions.
GMAT Study Essentials
Before you begin prepping for the GMAT in three months, you’ll need to identify which study materials will help you achieve your target GMAT score.
GMAT Study Essentials Step 1: Take a GMAT Diagnostic Test
Take a full-length, realistic GMAT practice test to find out what your Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning scores are now. Your Manhattan Prep practice test results will include not just your scores but also information about what types of problems you did well on and which ones gave you trouble. This information will help you design your study plan.
Another benefit of taking a GMAT practice test is that you will become familiar with the test’s format and timing. Then as you study, you will know exactly how you’ll use what you’re learning to ace test problems. This is highly motivating!
You will also be able to review the test, and reading the explanations of every question will reinforce what you did right and help you understand your mistakes. Research shows that being tested on material not only measures your performance but actually helps you learn. After each practice test, you’ll know what to focus on in your studies, and you’ll be able to keep track of your progress as you get closer to test day.
Take GMAT practice tests under conditions as similar as possible to those you will experience on Test Day, without distractions or interruptions. Schedule 4 hours to take the test if you write the essay and 3.5 hours if you choose to skip the essay. Also plan to invest at least 1.5 hours in reviewing the test later the same day or in the next day or two.
The GMAT test maker, the Graduate Management Admission Council® (GMAC®), offers two free GMAT practice tests with its GMATPrep™® software at mba.com. Manhattan Prep Powered by Kaplan offers one free online practice test, which includes detailed breakdowns of your strengths and opportunities for improvement, as well as comprehensive answer explanations.
GMAT Study Essentials Step 2: Set Your Study Schedule
When Test Day is 3 months away, there is a danger of procrastinating. After all, you probably have a lot of things that need to get done today, so it can be hard to carve out the time and energy to study for the GMAT. However, the days and weeks will slip by faster than seems possible, and before you know it, the test will be a week away—and then tomorrow! Don’t let Test Day take you by surprise.
Studying most days of the week will improve your score more than studying one or two days a week. Many students find that studying 5 days a week in three 30-minute segments, for an hour and a half each day, helps them make significant progress. Because your test is in 90 days, try to study for fifteen 30-minute segments, or one and a half hours a day, to maximize your score gain.
In addition, if math facts and/or grammar are areas you have targeted for improvement, using a GMAT mobile app to work gives you flexibility and convenience to improve on those areas throughout the day.
Block out time to take six more full-length practice tests. Take a practice test after 1 month of studying, another one at the 6-week point, and then one a week for the 4 weeks leading up to the GMAT. You will take your last practice test 1 week before Test Day. Take practice tests to measure your progress, become more familiar with the test’s timing and format, and build your mental endurance. After each test, invest at least 1.5 hours in reviewing the answer explanations.
Schedule your study time and practice tests on your calendar and then keep those appointments with yourself. The same way you show up for class or work on time, you are going to “show up” for GMAT studying on time.
GMAT Study Essentials Step 3: Develop Your Study Plan
How should you study? An effective approach is to first use a resource such as a GMAT book or GMAT course to learn some strategies or content and then follow up by practicing what you just learned with test-like problems. Applying what you learn right away to the types of problems you’ll see on Test Day will help you solidify your knowledge so it sticks with you.
What should you study? That depends on the results of your practice test. For the next three weeks, focus on material that is
- difficult for you
- most often tested
In the Quantitative section, for example, exponents and radicals appear in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry problems. So, if you are not sure how to work with these numbers, you will have trouble throughout the section. Problems dealing with sequences or standard deviation may be tough for you, too, but these topics do not appear on the test nearly as often as exponents and radicals, so you should focus on the content with the higher payoff.
During the last week before your test, emphasize your strengths. For example, if you get most Reading Comprehension problems correct, then practice Reading Comp several times this week to boost your confidence and ensure that you can count on this skill.
Two sample GMAT Study Plans
One study plan for Christopher and one study plan for Ashley.
|Goals||Plans to earn an MBA while working full-time as a product manager and wants to attend the best-ranked program in his city. His target score is a 600.||Will take leave from her engineering job to earn an MBA from a school with a top national ranking. Her target score is a 720.|
|Week 1||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Class 1 day × 3.0 hr (3 hours), Study 2 days × 1.5 hr/day (3 hours)|
|Week 2||Study 4 days × 1.5 hr/day (6.0 hours)||Class 1 day × 3.0 hr (3 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 3||Study 4 days × 1.5 hr/day (6.0 hours)||Class 1 day × 3.0 hr (3.0 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 4||In-laws visit from out of town! (0.0 hours studying)||Class 2 days × 3.5 hr (7.0 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (3.0 hours)|
|Week 5||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Class 1 day × 2.5 hr (2.5 hours), Study 2 days × 1.5 hr (3.0 hours)|
|Week 6||Study 4 days × 1.5 hr/day (6.0 hours)||Class 1 day × 2.5 hr (2.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 7||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Class 1 day × 2.5 hr (2.5 hours), Study 2 days × 1.5 hr/day (3.0 hours)|
|Week 8||Study 4 days × 1.5 hr/day (6.0 hours)||Class 2 days × 2.5 hr (5.0 hours), Study 2 days × 1.5 hr/day (3.0 hours)|
|Week 9||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Very busy at work! (0.0 hours studying)|
|Week 10||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 11||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)|
|Week 12||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5 hours)||Practice test + review (6.5 hours), Study 3 days × 1.5 hr/day (4.5)|
|Day Before the Test||Nothing!||Nothing!|
|Total Prep Hours||101.0||116.0|
GMAT Study Essentials Step 4: Practice Time Management
The GMAT gets scored differently than a traditional exam, so time management is an important strategy to develop on the GMAT. Because the exam is not based on the number of problems you get right, spending too much time on every problem will almost certainly result in you falling behind on time.
If you are planning on taking the GMAT in a testing center, you can develop special note-taking techniques using a GMAT test simulation booklet. This preparation tool can help you become comfortable with the laminated scratch paper that you’ll use on an Official GMAT administered in a testing center.
If you are planning on taking the GMAT Online exam, you can use both a digital and a physical whiteboard for your scratch work. Having a plan for when to use each type can help you optimize your question times.
GMAT Study Essentials Step 4: Rock That Test!
Feel nervous? Just remind yourself that thanks to all the hard work you’ve put in, you are ready for the GMAT.