When it comes to GMAT preparation, planning is the key. But how much time do you actually need? This is a story about quality over quantity.
It’s the question everyone asks: how much time should I set aside to prepare for the GMAT?
On average, 65% of GMAT test takers spend more than a month studying for the GMAT. 48% of students spend between 4 and 9 weeks preparing for the GMAT.
Although it seems as if the GMAC really invested effort into creating this impressive pie chart, the number of weeks you spend preparing for the GMAT doesn’t really help you understand the amount of time required to prepare.
Amount of time needed to prepare for the GMAT (in hours)
Using data collected from nearly 8,000 GMAT test takers, we calculate that 44% of the test takers spend at least 51 hours preparing for the GMAT.
As one would expect, those who do better tend to spend more time studying. But, studying over 100 hours does not guarantee that you will score in the 600 range. As in other cases in life, it’s the quality of what you do with your time, not just the quantity.
I mean, if you sit in front of a piece of paper or a device and only stare at the question without knowing what to do, that will obviously get you nowhere.
Please note: These charts are just a guideline, as the times are self-reported and only estimates.
“Depending on your level of English, 100 to 120 hours of effective learning should suffice,” argues our own Oren Jackman, one of the founders of examPAL. “The optimal time is between 6 to 8 weeks, but score improvers can do with 4 weeks of preparation. Less is not sufficient, and, on the other hand, if you give yourself too long, 3 to 4 months, you’ll start forgetting what you learned at the beginning. This is important, because all the knowledge is interconnected.”
So 100-120 hours is a ballpark range, but as with every question on examPAL, we like to personalize the answer. So…
What are some factors to think about when deciding how long to study for the GMAT?
How good am I at standardized tests? What’s my level in math and verbal skills? I’ll take a practice test and see how much I actually need to improve. And, on a practical level, how many hours do I have every day to study? If I have a demanding job and a family and few free hours to study every day, it would be better to study for fewer hours over a longer time period (but not over too-long a period).
I need to determine how much I should prepare, but make sure that I allow enough time to ensure improvement, so that the results reflect my ability.
And here are 5 things to consider when setting up a plan:
- Familiarize yourself with the exam – What is the test structure? What are the formats of the questions?
- Focus extra practice time on your areas of weakness – What matters is getting to the correct solution, fast: the problem is that just solving lots of questions (with practice tests or coaching) is not sufficient in terms of improving mental flexibility. Actually, the opposite is true. Solving thousands of questions without improving your mind’s flexibility will only cement the wrong thinking patterns.
- Train yourself to find YOUR best solution approach to answering GMAT questions – The GMAT measures your ability to flex your mind. That’s why examPAL helps you find your fastest way to solve each GMAT question, making your GMAT preparation process as efficient as possible.
- Researching your errors is even more important than solving new questions – Which tools am I using betters than others? What are the main reasons for my mistakes? Which other tools should I learn to apply better? And when it comes to verbal questions, it is also crucial to analyze the answers: why is the correct answer correct? What is wrong with the wrong answers?
- Practice test should be used as tools for improvement, not just to see “where I stand,” which means that you should allow 4 hours of research for every test, and not take two tests in one day, one after another, so as to allow yourself some time to strengthen your weaknesses and prepare for your next opportunity to improve.