How long does it take to prepare for the GMAT?
Thus, the answer to this question – it depends on you! There are a lot of factors to consider and evaluate to answering this question. If you are in the starting stages of your GMAT preparation journey, this article will cover all the factors you should consider in estimating your preparation time for the GMAT and much more.
Following is a brief overview of the things we will cover:
- Factors on which your GMAT preparation time depends
- The process to determine your required time for preparation
- How to create a study plan to suit your preparation strategy?
- How to measure your progress?
1) Factors which determine how long does it takes to prepare for the GMAT
Before you can estimate the amount of time you will require to prepare for the GMAT, you should know the factors that affect preparation time and have quantifiable answers to the following questions
- What is your current level of preparation?
- What is your target GMAT score?
- Which resources you are going to use for your preparation?
1.1) Your current level of GMAT Preparation
As with any journey, the amount of time you take to reach your destination/target score depends on where you currently stand. Thus, the first step is to estimate your current level of preparation/readiness to take the GMAT.
If this is the first time you will be taking the GMAT, you can use one of the following methods to estimate your current level of preparation:
- GMAT Official guide Diagnostic Quiz
- GMAT Prep mock tests
If you have already taken the GMAT, learn how you can use your GMAT Enhanced Score Report to estimate your current level of preparation.
Next, we will take a quick look at each of the above methods and their pros and cons and suggest the most accurate approach that combines both of the above resources.
1.1.1) OG Diagnostics: The GMAT Official Guide includes a diagnostic test in both the printed and online versions. These guides are prepared by the GMAC, the organization that owns and has designed the GMAT test. The diagnostic test serves as a good starting point to understand your strengths and weaknesses and will help you in prioritizing your areas of focus during preparation and while creating your study plan. It contains 48 Quant and 52 Verbal questions.
However, there are a few caveats that you need to be aware of:
- Not adaptive: The diagnostic test is not adaptive; thus, you have the freedom to go back and forth between questions, something that is not possible on the real test.
- It does not give you a raw GMAT score: The diagnostic test does not give you a final score in the same way that the GMAT does.
The GMAC itself has the following to say about the diagnostic test:
The Diagnostic Test is designed to give you guidance on how to prepare for the GMAT exam; however, a strong score on one type of question does not guarantee that you will perform as well on the real GMAT exam. The statistical reliability of scores on the Diagnostic Test ranges from 0.75 to 0.89, and the subscale classification is about 85%–90% accurate, meaning that your scores on the Diagnostic Test are a good, but not perfect, measure of how you are likely to perform on the real test.
1.1.2) GMAT Prep Mock Tests: GMAC also provides the GMAT official starter kit + Practice exam 1 & 2. This kit contains 90 questions along with two practice exams. These practice exams contain questions which were used in past GMAT tests and are now retired. Also, they use the same scoring algorithm as the actual GMAT tests.
However, there are a few reasons why you should not use them for estimating your current level of preparation:
- Requires proficiency in all sections: Since a mock test will consist of all sections that are tested in the GMAT, before taking the test, you should be familiar with all the sections and question types tested on the GMAT test. Thus if you have just started your preparation, this may negatively affect your score and lower your confidence.
- Impacted by timing: Your GMAT mock test score will be affected by your time management skills. In a standardized test like the GMAT, time management serves a crucial role in your final score. And since you may not have developed any time management strategy for your GMAT test, at this point, your score may be heavily skewed due to this.
Thus, to estimate your current test score, the Official GMAT mock tests would be overkill and an inefficient use of both your time and the official mock tests.
How to best use mocks to get an accurate baseline score?
For best results, use the following process to estimate your current GMAT scores:
- Attempt OG Diagnostic test
- Review attempt to determine weak areas
- Review concepts related to weak areas
- Attempt mock test.
This way you would get the most accurate assessment of your current level of GMAT preparation.
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For Retakers – How to estimate preparation for GMAT using Enhanced Score Report (ESR)?
If you have already taken the GMAT, your previous GMAT score would serve as a good estimate of your current level of GMAT preparation. You can order and access your GMAT Enhanced Score Report till 5 years from your test date.
However, there are a few things you need to be aware of while analyzing your GMAT ESR. Read this article on ESR analysis to learn more.
The accuracy of your current estimate will play an important role in determining how long will you take to prepare for the GMAT. Thus, make sure you choose an efficient and reliable method depending on the resources available to you.
1.2) Your target GMAT score
How do you decide what is good target GMAT score for securing an admit from your dream business school?
A good target GMAT score helps you stand out from the candidate pool. In our article on What is a good GMAT score? We show a 5-step process to help you determine the same.
Generally, you should aim for 20 points greater than the school’s/program’s average that you will be applying to. However, if you belong to an overrepresented demographic pool, you should aim for 30+ points more than the median score of your target school/program.
1.3) Which resources you are going to use in your preparation?
Depending on whether you are using books, video lessons or instructor-led classroom coaching, the time required for GMAT preparation may be different.
90% of students who approach their GMAT preparation with dedication, are consistent, use a data-driven online course, and need approximately 7 hours of study for every 10-point Improvement (on a scale of 800) in their total GMAT score.
However, if you are using books for GMAT preparation, you would require approximately 12 hours per 10-point improvement (on a scale of 800).
The above figures are calculated, assuming the following about your preparation:
- You study consistently without taking long breaks between your preparation i.e., give up preparation for more than a week due to other commitments
- You study using one resource.
- You don’t change your study plan frequently; i.e., you don’t follow a strategy to study Sentence Correction for 3 days, and then switch to studying Critical Reasoning or Quant without completing Sentence Correction.
Besides the time required for learning the concepts tested in the GMAT, you also must account for the time required for taking mock tests for conditioning and fine-tuning preparation strategy.
Thus, choosing the right resources for GMAT preparation would reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare for the GMAT.
2) How long will it take to prepare for the GMAT?
Now that you have understood the factors which determine the amount of time it takes to prepare for the GMAT and hit your target score, use the following formula:
Time required for GMAT Preparation (in hours) = [Target GMAT Score – Current estimated GMAT score] X [7/10] X [1 + CBT]
- Target GMAT Score = Final score that you are aiming for
- Current Estimated GMAT score = Starting score from GMAT Mock Test
- 7/10 = 7 hours of effort for every 10-point score improvement
- CBT = Confidence Building Time factor; its value can be 0.0 or 0.25
The CBT or Confidence Building Time Factor can be thought of like the additional time required to build up the foundational conceptual knowledge tested in the GMAT. The GMAT is a test of Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning. Thus, if you are extremely weak in either (determined based on your mock test score) the value of CBT would be 0.25.
However, if you are scoring 700 or above in your mock test attempt, you need to analyze your sectional and subsectional abilities to determine the CBT.
So, let us consider, the following scenarios and understand the usage of the above formula:
2.1) Working Professional (devoting 16 hours per week for GMAT preparation)
A working professional has found the answers to the questions that determine his preparation period. His required target score is 750, he gave a GMAT Prep mock test after some basic concept review and scored 600. Thus to reach his target score, he requires a 150 point improvement.
The time required for GMAT preparation according to the formula above would be 150 X 0.7 X [1 + 0.25] = 131.25
It would require ~130 hours of quality study time using online video-based resources to reach the target score of 750.
Now if you were to use books as your choice of preparation resources, the study time required would be ~ 225 hours.
Taking this a step further, since a working professional would not be able to allocate more than 2 hours of time on weekdays and around 3 hours of time on weekends, his preparation period will be spread throughout 8 – 10 weeks.
Thus, even though the preparation time required is around 130 hours, due to scheduling constraints, the time required to reach the GMAT score would be 2 – 2.5 months.
2.2) Student (devoting 28 hours per week for GMAT preparation):
If you are a student and thinking of giving the GMAT, then based on the time you can dedicate to GMAT preparation, it may take 4 – 6 weeks for your GMAT preparation.
The above estimate assumes that you will be putting in 4 hours of study time towards GMAT preparation daily for 7 days a week.
Now that you know the time required for achieving your target score improvement, it is essential to structure and plan your studies and measure your progress at regular intervals. This ensures that you are on track to hit your target score on test day. In the next section, we will look at the benefits of following a study plan.
3) How to create a study plan for GMAT preparation and measure progress?
A personalized GMAT study plan will help you reduce your preparation time by up to 40+ hours if you are short on time and application deadlines are close by. Otherwise, if you have ample time for preparation, a study plan can help you score 50 points more than what you could score, in case if you study without a study plan. It will also improve your chances of admission to top colleges and help you in getting scholarships and fellowships for your MBA.
To know more about how to create a study plan and decide your GMAT strategy, read our article on how to create a personalized GMAT study plan.
We have already created the following study plans for your reference:
How to measure your progress while following the study plan?
Now that you have created your study plan, it is important to check your progress towards your target GMAT score. This ensures that the score that flashes on your screen when you finish your actual GMAT is one you are pleased with.
There are 2 ways to measure and keep track of your progress:
- Ability Quizzes
- Mock Tests
Ability Quizzes: As the name suggests, ability quizzes are designed to measure your ability percentile in the different sections or subsections. These are designed to test both the knowledge and application of concepts across a spectrum of easy, medium and hard questions across any topic. And, rather than accuracy, it helps in measuring ability, which is what even the GMAT aims to measure.
Thus, to get a quick and accurate estimate of your progress, use ability quizzes to reduce the time required for preparation. Learn more about how to use ability quizzes to measure your progress.
Mock tests: The GMAC offers 2 free mock tests, and another 4 are available for $100. However, we recommend using these mock tests towards the final phase of your preparation journey.
In either case, it is important that you extract the maximum information and data from your quiz or mock test attempt. Our article on how to review mock tests shows you the correct way to review mock tests for maximum score improvement.
Thus, the time required for your GMAT preparation depends on:
- Your current GMAT score
- Your target GMAT score
- The resources you use
- And lastly, your schedule and pace of learning
The more definite answers you have to the above variables, the more accurately you’ll be able to predict the time required for GMAT preparation.
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