So you have two months to prepare for the GMAT. If you’re unsure how to build your 2019 GMAT study plan, worry not: this blog will tell you all you need to know! Keep reading, and 61 days from now you’ll be taking a much-deserved vacation after having completed your GMAT.
A 60-day GMAT study plan might sound ambitious, but actually – it’s exactly what we recommend: two months is an ideal amount of time to prepare for the GMAT. It’s not too short: two months gives you enough time to both study and breathe a little, so prevents the over-stressing caused by high-intensity 30-day study plans. It’s also not too long: you won’t have enough time to start forgetting the material you learned at the beginning of your studies or to become exhausted from months of putting your life on hold and preparing for the test. For some statistics on GMAT-prep times, see here.
So, 60 days is the time frame we recommend for GMAT prep. However, it is important to note that if you are a non-native speaker, or if English is in any way a challenge for you, it would be best to take a full month to boost your English skills by reading GMAT-style writing (such as The Economist) and studying vocabulary before embarking on the 60-day plan. If 60 days is all you have, but you feel that your proficiency in English is insufficient, consider taking a month purely for English prep and then going for the 30-day GMAT prep.
First Things First
So – how should you go about building a GMAT study plan? Whether you’re taking 60 days, more, or less, the first thing you’re going to need is a reality check:
- First-time test-taker?
You need to learn the GMAT’s format. Check out the following blog to learn what subjects the GMAT tests on, what types of questions you’ll see, how much time the test will take and a few general tips for first-timers.
- Retaking the test?
Start by learning from your past experience! The first step in building your study plan is analyzing your last GMAT attempt.
- Were there specific topics in which you didn’t know the material well enough?
Go back to the basics! It is not enough to just practice the ‘harder’ questions, you must have a firm grasp of the fundamentals to improve. Only when the basics are solid should you move on to advanced topics.
- Did you run out of time?
If so, you need to develop a guessing strategy to use on the exam, based on the fact that it is much more beneficial to skip a question every once in a while than to have to guess a few questions in a row at the end of the exam. In particular, is there a specific question type that takes you a long time, or that you have a tendency to make mistakes on? If you recognize such a question on the exam, and see that you are behind schedule, skip it! Focus on those questions you can solve.
- Did you make ‘silly’ mistakes, such as calculation errors?
Think of techniques that can help you overcome them, such as writing clearly on your scratchpad, rereading the question to make sure you haven’t missed any small details, and building the guessing strategy so that you have enough time to think about each individual question.
- Finally, you may want to order an Enhanced Score Report from the GMAC. This report will break down your performance on the exam by subject, and help you to focus in on your weak points.
- For more tips on debugging and learning from your past GMAT see here to learn how to build an improvement plan
Most important rule for first-timers: mastering the GMAT is not about knowledge, it’s about developing cognitive flexibility! Don’t just practice thousands of questions, make sure to build up your ability to recognize the type of question, the types of approaches that can solve it, and to figure out which approach works best for you.
Most important rule for retakers: improving means doing everything you already did again, but better! Don’t assume you can jump directly to the hard problems without first going over
Let’s Build Your Study Plan
Once you have an idea of what the GMAT is all about and what you need to focus on, you can move on to the actual planning:
First, ask yourself: what are all the non-GMAT things you have to do over the next 60 days? Be thorough – we are often overly optimistic about how much study time we actually have, and tend to forget things we actually have to do that take away from our study time.
Budget about 100-120 study hours over a 6-8 week period. This comes to about ~15 hours a week, which as discussed above is the recommended amount of study time. For most people, 15 hours a week is a good balance between sufficient intensity so that you really ‘get into it’ without being so intense that you have no time for work or school. If you are extremely busy or extremely free, you can consider increasing or decreasing the amount of time proportionately. Additionally, and as mentioned above, If you’re not a native English speaker it is advisable to allow at least another month to improve your reading pace, vocabulary, and general familiarity with GMAT-level texts.
Last but not least, it is usually best if you can schedule specific times of day for studying. Try to schedule prep hours for time when you don’t have external distractions and have sufficient energy to be able to focus. Budgeting two hours of studying every night won’t help much if you are completely exhausted after a long day of work.
Below is a general overview of what your study plan should look like, note that when you set up a free trial with us we will build your schedule automatically! That way all you’ll have to do is to follow our Course Trail. Of course, the below suggestion can change based on your personal situation.
2-month study plan
|Week||What to focus on||Suggested Topics|
Algebra Basics, Integers, Number Properties
Geometry BasicsVerbal –
Vocabulary & Memorization, Sentence Correction basics
Rate and Work, Positive & Negative numbersCircles, PolygonsVerbal –
Advanced Sentence Correction
Integrated Reasoning, 1 practice AWA
|2 full practice exams + review
Review all material
2 full practice exams + review
Take a day off before test day!
When implementing the above suggestion, we recommend you divide each topic into 2-day mini schedule:
- The first day: review fundamental material. With examPAL, this entails watching the Intro and Lesson. While watching, compile two separate lists:
- A summary of the material, if it helps you absorb the subject matter.
- A list of practical tips for question-solving.
- The second day: solve subject-related questions. With examPAL, this means completing the Practice phase: Diagnostic, Improvement and Optimization. After each section make sure to review your mistakes and update your practical tips list based on these mistakes and successes.
Additionally, you might want to divide your time among the different sections differently than the above suggestion, and in accordance with your situation. The above plan allocates about 3 hours per section, but if you feel you need more or less, adjust accordingly!
When you get to the last two weeks, your main focus will be on review. There are two separate parts to the review:
- Reviewing the material:
- Fundamentally reviewing sections or subject matter that the practice tests have proved are problematic.
- Going over your material summary. The goal is to get to the point at which this list bores you, because what’s in it is obvious (and not because the material is totally boring…).
- Going over your practical tips list. The idea is not only to make sure you remember the tips, but also to check that you in fact implement them.
- Practice tests: take 2 to 3 GMAC CAT’s per week, from start to finish. If you can take a few days off work, do a test at the exact same hour your real test is going to be, and then spend the afternoon reviewing it. The rest of the day will be used for solving questions similar to those you got wrong (either on examPAL or in the Official Guide for GMAT) and figuring out how not to repeat similar mistakes again.
Additionally, and this isn’t mentioned in the above schedule, create a daily routine of reading magazine articles (preferably economics magazines, popular science, or light social science) and going over your vocabulary lists (taken from the Vocabulary and Memorization section). If you’re a non-native speaker, this part is essential in coping with the Verbal section, and should take up at least 1-1.5 hours daily.
Last, but certainly not least, take at least one day off a week – you’ll need it!
All of the above instructions are general guidelines; turning them into a personalized, detailed study plan requires taking into account your level of performance in the different sections and your schedule over the next two months.
Study for the GMAT in 2 months using this study plan template
Based on all of the above, and to make it easier for you to implement this schedule, we created a template you can use. Enter your email and the date in which you plan on starting to prepare.
You can either download the template as a spreadsheet file and adjust it to your schedule, or simply add it to your Google Calendar with just a few clicks.
The plan will always start on Monday in order to make it easy to grasp what needs to be done every week. You can, of course, choose to start your preparation whenever it works for you.
- Silence is golden. Your phone needs to be silenced in a different room under a pillow, your browser should have no other tabs open (but examPAL.com), and you need to find a study space without many other people. There’s no need to go over to the fridge every twenty minutes to see whether there have been any updates since your last visit.
- Having trouble grasping something?
- It is something small, related to technique, for example? Don’t get derailed; postpone it till the review days.
- Feel you have a fundamental gap in your understanding of some material? Prolong the time devoted to it, shortening the time given to some other subject. However, by no means should you erase any subject from your schedule entirely, even one you feel confident about. Being good is nice, but why not be great?
- Mistakes are opportunities: research every mistake – why did it happen? What needed to be done differently? Keep a running list of different mistake types, examples, and tips on how to approach them correctly. You’re better off doing 500 questions and really understanding them than doing 10 thousand robotically.
- Get 8 hours of sleep. Every night. Exercise is highly recommended.
A two-month preparation time is ideal: it should give you enough time to study comfortably, comprehensively and calmly, while maintaining some semblance of having a life. The more detailed your study plan when you build it, the more structured and efficient the following two months will be. A good plan prevents stress and the feeling that you become overwhelmed by the amount of uncompleted tasks, but this doesn’t mean you must be rigid: on the contrary, it gives you a basis you can play with and build on. Finished something quickly? Bring forward another task. Taking longer than you thought? Update your plan, and shorten something less important. Who knows; if you work in an organized manner, you might even enjoy the next two months….