How to study for the GMAT in 3 months

How to Study for the GMAT in 3 months

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.

[ RELATED: GMAT 2-Month Study Plan or GMAT 1-Month Study Plan ]

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 get started, you’ll need to identify and gather your study materials.

  • GMAT Handbook

    The GMAT Handbook includes all essential test information, including how to register, how to prepare, what to expect on GMAT test day, etc. This is a great place to get started on your GMAT prep. 

  • Full-Length Practice Tests

    Taking full-length practice tests is the best way to assess your readiness for the GMAT. The free GMAT Official Starter Kit includes 2 free practice tests with real exam questions and an additional 90 free practice questions. Additionally, you can take free On Demand Practice Tests with Manhattan Prep powered by Kaplan.  Some packages even include assessment reports to helpl you identify which areas of the test you shoul focus on. 

  • Practice Questions

    Manhattan Prep powered by Kaplan’s Adaptive GMAT Qbank saves you time with targeted questions by adjusting to your skill level as you work. With in-depth explanations, you’ll learn from your mistakes and raise your score.

  • Prep Books

    Manhattan Prep powered by Kaplan’s top-rated GMAT books come in a comprehensive set that delves into each area of the exam, giving you detailed and specialized instruction beyond tips and tricks. All Manhattan Prep books are written by their top-1% scoring GMAT instructors. These comprehensive study guides are the top-selling GMAT prep books in the world. 

  • Online calendar

    An online calendar can be a great tool for keeping track of and accessing your personal study plan from anywhere. Plus, you can share your calendar with others so they know your schedule and can help you stay on track.

  • Take a class

    If the idea of studying and making a schedule completely on your own seems daunting, consider signing up for a class—a set schedule and instruction from expert teachers can help you stay focused and keep you accountable. 
    If you learn best in person, consider enrolling in a Manhattan Prep powered by Kaplan In Person GMAT class. All Manhattan Prep instructors scored in the top 1% of the GMAT. Class sizes are kept small to achieve the right balance of individual attention and active participation.

    For a bit more flexible experience, you can attend class from anywhere you have wifi in Manhattan Prep powered by Kaplan’s Live Online GMAT courses. Learn in an interactive, online class with a team of teachers who are there to engage you, keep you on track, and even answer 1-on-1 questions. 

    If you’re looking for expert instruction that is completely on your own time, consider working with an expert tutor who can curate your study plan to fit your specific needs or enrolling in a Self-Paced course, which will allow you to prep on your own schedule.

Before you can know exactly what to spend the most time studying, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then, you can target your weaknesses while also building on your strengths.

GMAT Study Essentials Step 1: Take a GMAT Diagnostic Test

Take a full-length, realistic practice test to find out what your Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning scores are now. Ideally, the test results will include not just your scores but also information about what types of questions you did well on and which ones gave you trouble. This information will help you design your study plan.

Another benefit of taking a 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 questions. 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. 

Take the practice test 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.

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. Because you will be studying for 3 months, you want to set a reasonable pace and not burn yourself out. Many students find that studying for 4 days a week in three 30-minute segments, for an hour and a half each day, helps them make significant progress. In addition, if math content or grammar is an area you have targeted for improvement, plan to carry a quick reference of some kind, such as flashcards or a phone app, and work on commonly tested formulas and rules 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 class to learn some strategies or content and then follow up by practicing what you just learned with test-like questions. Applying what you learn right away to the types of questions 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! Focus mostly on material that is (a) difficult for you and (b) most often tested. On the Quantitative section, for example, many arithmetic, algebra, and geometry questions require you to work with proportions. If you are uncomfortable working with ratios and percentages, you will have trouble throughout the section. Combinations and permutations questions may be tough for you, too, but combinatorics does not appear on the test nearly as often as proportions, 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 Sentence Correction questions correct, then practice those questions 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.

Future MBAChristopherAshley
GoalsPlans 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.
Diagnostic Score540610
Week 1Practice 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 2Study 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 3Study 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 4In-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 5Practice 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 6Study 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 7Practice 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 8Study 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 9Practice 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 10Practice 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 11Practice 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 12Practice 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 TestNothing!Nothing!
Total Prep Hours101.0116.0

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.