Studying for the GMAT is not something that most test-takers take lightly and is usually a commitment of 2-3 months or more. While most of you studying for a test like the GMAT often know what to study, you probably have many questions about how to study. Study schedules can definitely vary depending on your particular situation such as goal score, starting score, work schedule, school schedule, and family obligations, but, based on a long history of working with students and studying how we learn, here are some general rules of thumb to remember as you begin to form your personalized study schedule.
The first thing to know about studying for the GMAT is that this is not a test that you can cram for. Studying for the GMAT is like preparing for a marathon. You want to build up to test day with a plan that builds your skills and stamina. Because the GMAT tests your critical thinking skills and various content skills, you need to know how to think flexibly and thoroughly about the material tested. Flexibility and critical thinking are skills that ideally require knowledge of the patterns in the GMAT. Therefore, it is best to build this type of depth and flexibility in a gradual way.
Next, remember to be deliberate in your study schedule. Make dates on your calendar with your GMAT books and practice tests and keep them! It’s easy to procrastinate when the deadline is weeks away, so find a way to stay accountable by setting a date reminder and/or having someone help you stay on track with your schedule.
Along with deliberate study times, be purposeful with your GMAT dates. Instead of just putting “study GMAT” on the calendar, add specifics about the purpose of the session; for instance, June 13th could be your night to spend some quality time with right triangles in geometry and subject-verb agreement in sentence correction. At the beginning, the purpose of your session should be aimed at mastery of specific topics. Closer to test day, start to incorporate pacing and mixed practice into the goal of your sessions.
Studying for the GMAT takes time. As Lucas mentioned previously, plan to spend about 2-3 months and 100-120 hours studying for the GMAT. The top scorers on the GMAT spend 120+ hours, on average, studying for test day over a period of time. The length of each study session will vary based on your specific situation; however, most students aim for sessions between 1 and 3 hours in a sitting. If you take the average 120 hours of studying for a top scorer and divide that over the course of the average 10 weeks of studying, you get approximately 12 hours per week. This includes time spent in class sessions and tutoring sessions for the GMAT. If you spread those hours equally, it’s best to do about 2-3 hours per day, 6 days per week and to take one day off per week.
Next time, I’ll go into detail about how to organize each individual study session. Until then, happy studying!