A 8 minute read

When is the right time to take the GMAT?

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

The above quote holds true for all GMAT aspirants on their journey to business school. Unlike the CAT which is conducted once every year, the GMAT can be taken around the year. And while this provides the test takers much-needed flexibility, it can also be a source of confusion for many as the question arises – When is the right time to take the GMAT?

Right time to take the GMAT - Plan to avaoid nasty surprises and setbacks

In this article, we answer the above question and present all the factors that you should consider in the process of deciding your GMAT test date. Planning at this stage ensures that there are no nasty surprises which may cause setbacks in creating a compelling business school application.

Here is a brief outline of the article:

Factors that determine the right time to take the GMAT

At e-GMAT, we advocate a data-driven approach to preparing for the GMAT, since with the right data you can derive meaningful insights that allow you to estimate your GMAT preparation with precision and thus the right time to take the GMAT. Similarly, consider the factors that follow as data points required for you to estimate the right time to take the GMAT.

  1. Factor 1: Deciding Target Business Schools
  2. Factor 2: Application Deadlines of Target Business Schools
  3. Factor 3: Number of Hours of Preparation Required
  4. Factor 4: Including Time for a GMAT Retake
  5. Factor 5: Other Components of your MBA Application
  6. Factor 6: Time Required to Take Other Tests (TOEFL etc.)
  7. Factor 7: Test Center Availability

If you are looking to book your GMAT test date and commit yourself to GMAT preparation, read this article on how to choose your GMAT test date where we explain the “looking backward” approach.

Right time to take the GMAT - Select target business schools

Factor 1: Deciding target Business Schools

On test day you have the option to report your GMAT score to 5 business schools. The cost of forwarding your score to these business schools is included in your GMAT application fees. It is prudent to report your scores only to those schools to which you’ll be actually applying, as each additional GMAT score report costs $35.

For GMAT Online, you can send an unlimited number of score reports to business schools

Thus, you should finalize your target list of business schools before you decide when to take the GMAT.

Confused about how to select business school? Read this article to kick-start your business school research and develop a list of target business schools

Factor 2: Application Deadlines of Target Business Schools

Once you have finalized your target business schools, you need to find out their application deadlines. A rule of thumb is to have your GMAT score ready at least 3 months in advance of your target business school application deadline. Also, most business schools have multiple application rounds. Thus, you have to determine which application round you will be applying to along with the application deadline for that round.

Right time to take the GMAT - Target business school application deadlines

Most business schools have the following application cycle:

Application Round  Deadline
Round 1 September/October
Round 2 Early January
Round 3 April

For your reference, we have compiled the application deadlines for the top business schools in this article.

Having your GMAT score ready at least 3 months in advance of the application deadline ensures that you have enough time to complete the other parts of your applications such as essays, recommendations, etc. It also ensures that you do not have to worry about preparing for the GMAT during this crucial time as creating compelling essays requires focus.

Not sure about when to take the GMAT? Use this study planner to decide. We can also help you with quality online content to prepare. We are the most reviewed GMAT prep company on gmatclub with more than 2000 reviews.

Why don’t you take a free trial and judge for yourself? Write to us at acethegmat@e-gmat.com in case of any query.

Factor 3: Number of hours of preparation requiredRight time to take the GMAT - When should you take the GMAT

Now that you know your target business schools and their application deadlines, it is time to estimate the number of hours required for your preparation. You can estimate the number of hours of preparation required using the following formula:

Time required for GMAT Preparation (in hours) = [Target GMAT Score – Current estimated GMAT score] X [7/10] X [1 + CBT]

Where:

  1. Target GMAT Score = Final score that you are aiming for
  2. Current Estimated GMAT score = Starting score from GMAT Mock Test
  3. 7/10 = 7 hours of effort for every 10-point score improvement
  4. 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.

According to a survey conducted by GMAC 90 hours is the median amount of time taken by students who score 700+ in the GMAT. Thus, the right time to take the GMAT is when you have 3 – 4 months of uninterrupted preparation time or approximately 90 – 120 hours for GMAT preparation.

Learn more about how long it takes to prepare for the GMAT in this article.

The above formula requires you to manually calculate the estimated amount of preparation time required.

Alternatively, you can use the Personalized Study Plan tool to create a milestone-driven personalized GMAT study plan in less than 5 minutes.

A personalized GMAT study plan not only increases the likelihood of hitting your target GMAT score by 200% but also reduces your preparation time by 25%.

Click here to access the Personalized Study Planner tool and get your own GMAT study plan in less than 5 minutes.

Factor 4: Including time for a GMAT retake

The GMAC reports that out of the 250,000+ GMAT exams taken every year, a fifth are retakes. There can be many reasons for retaking the GMAT such as:

  1. Target business school has a higher average GMAT score.
  2. You belong to an over-represented applicant pool
  3. Anxiety led to a low GMAT score on the first attempt.

According to the GMAT terms and conditions, you have to wait 16 days between consecutive GMAT attempts and cannot take the GMAT more than 5 times a year. Also, there is a lifetime limit of a maximum of 8 GMAT attempts.

Considering all the above factors and while 3 months may seem enough time to prepare for the GMAT, you should build some time into your plan for a retake. Thus, along with time for a retake, you should ideally get done with your GMAT at least 6 months before the application deadline of your target business school. This builds in enough time for retaking the GMAT if required.

Read more about how to create a perfect GMAT retake strategy to hit your target GMAT score

Factor 5: Other components of MBA applicationRight time to take the GMAT - Other components of business school application

The MBA application process is not a sprint but a marathon. From taking the GMAT to getting the interview call and eventually, an admit from your target business school may span 8-12 months.

Besides the GMAT, you have to create compelling essays, work with recommenders on putting together a stellar recommendation, and prepare for business school interviews. Not to mention the paperwork and processing time required for visa formalities for international students.

Depending on whether you are a working professional or a student, all this can take anywhere up to 3-6 months.

Did you know? – The GMAT score constitutes 22% weightage in your b-school application. Learn all about the MBA application process – factors and their weightage in this article.

Thus, factoring in all the above information, the right time to take the GMAT is 12 – 18 months before the start date of your target business school program. E.g. if you are applying to a program that starts in Fall 2021, you should ideally have your GMAT score ready before August 2020.

Factor 6: Time required to take other tests (TOEFL etc.)

If you are a non-native English speaker, you may be required to take ESL tests such as the TOEFL or IELTS. This also depends on the requirements of your target business school and hence is something to figure out and factor in while deciding the right time to take the GMAT.

Factor 7: Test center availability

Right time to take the GMAT - Include time for a retake

As the business school application cycle is fairly predictable, GMAT test centers tend to be extremely busy during certain times of the year. Thus, to ensure that you can stick to your MBA application timeline, you should book your GMAT test date 2-3 months in advance of your target test day.

As of now, you can take the GMAT Online from your home at any time of the day.

Confused about how to select a GMAT test center? – This article contains all the information on how to select and book a slot for your GMAT test at any testing location.

If a suitable time-slot is not available for you to take the test, you may be required to travel to another city or wait out the delay in testing at your present location. In either case, you need to account for this in deciding the right time to take the GMAT.

Now that we have covered the factors that determine when you should take the GMAT, let us address related common questions.

Common questions about when to take the GMATRight time to take the GMAT - You should take the test while in school

Should I take the GMAT while I am completing my undergraduate or postgraduate studies?

There are many advantages to taking the GMAT while you are still a student, including:

  1. Concepts are fresh in your mind
  2. You’re still in study mode and hence are not averse to testing in timed conditions
  3. The GMAT score is valid for five years
  4. You have greater flexibility and availability of time

However, the above only applies if you are serious about pursuing a graduate management education down the line.

Thus, if you are planning to pursue an MBA in the near future, i.e. in 3-4 years, or if you are applying for programs such as the ISB YLP or HBS 2 + 2 programs you should take the GMAT now. These programs offer the opportunity to secure an admit while you continue building on your work experience and refining your post-MBA career goals.

When should I take the GMAT if I am a working professional?

Right time to take the GMAT - Building blocks of GMAT application

If you are a working professional, it is important to factor this in your decision of when to take the GMAT. Ideally taking the GMAT 12-18 months before your target program start date should leave more than enough time for the other activities in the application process.

Arjun Bardhan, a working professional, spent a year in GMAT preparation. He scored a 730 in his 4th attempt, read more about his GMAT journey in this article.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Planning is key to a successful GMAT attempt
  2. Work backward from the start date of your target program to estimate the right time to take the GMAT.
  3. Since GMAT scores are valid for five years, it is prudent to take them while you are still a student and in study mode.
  4. As a working professional with a busy schedule, you should build in time for a GMAT retake in your decision about the right time to take the GMAT. You should have your GMAT score ready ~12 – 18 months in advance of your target program’s start date.

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6 thoughts on “When is the right time to take the GMAT?”

  1. I am working for a reputed power generating station in Qatar. My job pays me reasonably well. But I am faced with career stagnation and night shifts (that take a toll on my health). I want to start with my preparation for GMAT. Given my irregular shift patterns, it would be really tough for me to prepare for the exam as a working professional. I am toying with the idea of quitting my job to start preparing for GMAT as I am looking forward to switch my industry. My idea is to settle down in an Indian city with a well paid job. I would appreciate if you could help me in suggesting the way forward. I am 34 years old with an experience in various power generation facilities in India and Middle East spanning 10 years.

    1. Hey Kiran

      You’ll be relieved to know that you’re not alone in this conundrum and we’ve helped many professionals with hectic work schedules, score 740+ on the GMAT. In fact 95% of our students are working professionals.
      Anuj, one of our students, who had a 60+ hour work week scored a 770 on the GMAT( https://bit.ly/2JNC6Zu ). That’s a 99 percentile score.
      Dhananjay is one other student whose daily working hours sometimes exceeded 12 hours. Guess what? He scored a 760. ( https://bit.ly/38jnHxz )
      So, the first thing you need right now is a study plan that can help you prepare for the GMAT in an optimised way.
      So, do these 2 things:
      1. Read this article to understand how to create a study plan if you’re a working professional – https://bit.ly/2Myy8Vz
      2. Please write to us at support@e-gmat.com and one of our strategy experts will guide you and help you formulate a plan that suits you

      Best

  2. Thanks for this wonderful Article. Much Appreciated. Details about Financial Aid would be helpful as much as this piece for me as a Beginner planning to take my GMAT next year.

  3. If the deadline for a B-school in round 2, is 5-6th jan 2021, and I am yet to take my GMAT, including a retake, by when should I have taken the gmat (the latest)?
    I read multiple articles on this platform, it suggested 3-4 months prior, I know I am late, but despite that I need help regarding this.

    1. Hey Akanksha

      It’s true you’re a bit late, but this realization will help you prepare pragmatically for your application.
      Now, the first thing you need to do is find out the average GMAT score of your target business schools and try to achieve a score which is 20+ points higher. You can find out the average GMAT scores here – https://bit.ly/2GKSp80
      Once you’ve identified your target GMAT score, you need to know your baseline score. Take a free mock to know where you stand right now. – https://e-gmat.com/sigma-x/
      This baseline score will give you a realistic picture of how much time you need to fill the gap between your current and target score.
      Moreover, you’ll need to account 1-2 months for other parts of your application like essay, LOR, etc.
      So, identify a target score and take a mock to know your baseline score.
      Once, you have this information, you’ll have a very clear picture of how you should proceed. Please write to us at acethegmat@e-gmat.com to discuss further once you complete these 2 steps.

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