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I hope you're doing well. I hope this question is by no means egregious. After doing a search on the forum, I couldn't quite pinpoint my answer on whether my target date was appropriate. I will be applying for admission for the fall of 2015 and I've just started studying for my GMAT. I currently plan on taking the GMAT between January and March of 2014 which will allow for re-take in July/August if necessary. I was hoping to obtain some additional thought on dates.
Additionally, I was wondering if anyone had experiences with sleeping less as a result of GMAT studying. In conjunction with work and personal, I'm averaging about 6 hours of sleep a night to wake up and study in the morning. I know that 8 is ideal, but I wanted to determine if anyone had similar experiences and would recommend an alternative strategy (Perhaps, 1 day on 1 day off?).
Newp - your question is not egregious, so no worries there!
Let's reverse-engineer some steps. Assuming you'd like to apply in R1, you'd have to do the following, in reverse chronological order:
* Submit applications --> Late Sep / Early Oct 2014 * Work on applications --> Early Aug - Deadline (note that most applications don't go live until early August, so there's really no point in exhausting yourself writing essays any sooner) * Take the GMAT --> anytime before mid-August would leave you more than enough time to work on applications.
Note that you're going to have to start thinking about the stories you'd like to tell in your essays (and maybe drafting responses to the previous years' prompts) much earlier - probably around May or June 2014...
Basically, taking the GMAT at any point prior to August 2014 would put you ahead of the game. Remember that you're gonna need time to decide on target schools and such, but you will have enough time if you follow the schedule above (or anything like it).
For what it's worth, I took my GMAT in mid-March 2013, and my deadlines are about a month and a half away. I started preparing in January of this year, and I was more than comfortable taking the test on two-and-a-half months of study.
On the sleep front - my theory is that it may be worthwhile to sacrifice personal time for study time. I couldn't really reduce my output at work, as this would jeopardize my applications. Instead, I isolated myself from my friends for a bit, but it was worth it in the end (everyone understood it was for a good cause). Sleeping 6 hours may or may not have an adverse effect long-term; everyone's different, but you're the only one that can decide whether or not you're getting enough sleep.
I would strongly advise you not to compromise your sleep. Sleep is essential for learning and locking in the memories you'll be building during your study/prep sessions. The advice to give up socializing (to some extent) is right on. You WILL have to compromise somewhere (as you know), and socializing has a relatively low "real cost" associated with it.
In my experience, many friends who had not been through high-stakes test prep didn't know how to understand the fact that I was less available (or not available at all). They took it personally, which I wasn't prepared for. You may want to think through how you'll explain your lack of free/social/fun time in a way that will be understandable to people in your life.
Also, if you have a significant other/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend, it's probably good to talk with him/her about how your priorities will change with regard to test prep. I know in my case that my girlfriend has been very supportive and accommodating of my study schedule, but that's also because we talked at length about my goals, why a high score matters so much, and other factors related to this process.
With regard to a schedule, you may want to try and get something in every day. Research on learning and the brain tells us that memories are often best formed through repetition. New neural pathways are "fragile" and can easily be lost, whereas ones that are more well-established are more durable. Think about it like a path in a forest. The first time people walk on it, you may not be able to clearly see their tracks. But over time, as more and more footsteps delineate a clear path, you'll be able to see it even if you are away from the path a while. Your new knowledge is like that: the path needs wearing in, and daily practice (and repetition, not just new material) will help the knowledge "stick." That way, come test day you'll feel like that knowledge is right there at your fingertips and will come in handy.
Your attitude seems good: this isn't about being smart, it's about being diligent. A friend of mine has been living in Korea (and is starting at UVA Darden this fall) and encountered many people studying for the GMAT who had been prepping for over a year. Their high scores are not because they're "good at math" or "smart," it's because they work incredibly hard for long periods of time. Good luck and stay diligent!