How to Build Your GMAT Study Plan? Sample Study Plans for Ideal GMAT Preparation

by Maximilian Claessens
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How to Build Your GMAT Study Plan - Sample Study Plans for Ideal GMAT Preparation

So you’ve decided that you’re taking the GMAT exam, and you need the perfect study plan that’s going to get you the result that you need. For most people, the result that they’re hoping for is a minimum of 700, and hopefully a lot more than that. If this is a GMAT target score goal you share, you’ll need to ensure that you’re operating with a highly efficient GMAT study plan. There’s a famous saying that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail, and this couldn’t be more true, especially when it comes to the GMAT. The first thing you’ll need to accept is that the months leading up to the exam are going to require a lot of sacrifices. Before jumping into it, it is critical to develop a plan to make efficient use of the time left. Therefore, in this article we explain how to build your GMAT study plan.

It’s not uncommon for people to commit to studying several hours per day in the lead-up to the exam, even comparing their workload to a full-time job during the final few weeks before the exam. The way the exam is structured anticipates that you will have studied this hard, so the questions are geared for those who have put in the work. This means that if you’re the rare person who hasn’t committed to this level of study, then you will probably find the exam to be too intense. So before you begin your study plan, look within yourself and ensure that this is really what you want. Decide whether you want this badly enough that you’re willing to devote an enormous amount of time to study, and if you are, then it’s time to start writing your plan.

Building Your GMAT Study Plan Depending On How Much Time You Have

You may already have a fixed GMAT date, or you may still have some degree of flexibility. Either way, at this stage, review how many days you have left before you take the exam. This will determine the length, structure and focus of your GMAT study plan. Of course, more time is usually better, although we do not recommend studying for more than six months as this may easily lead to mental exhaustion and loss of focus. In the following, we go through how to build your GMAT study plan depending on how much time you have until test day.

6 Month GMAT Study Plan

The first type of plan is geared toward those who are six months away from their testing date and is called the ‘mock test’ approach. This approach is a common strategy for many who are preparing for the GMAT exam and is very efficient in gauging your progress, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and charting your growth and improvement over time. So, how do you build this GMAT study plan? For this strategy, you’ll need to set yourself a number of practice questions every weekday, Monday to Friday. For some people, this is 50 questions; for others, it’s 70. Figure out how many practice questions you can answer per day, and commit to doing them every single day of the week, keeping a record of your progress in a spreadsheet along the way. You can source these questions from numerous online resource websites and GMAT training studios[1]. For instance, you can use our free GMAT quant practice exams.

You’ll figure out over time which studios produce questions you enjoy taking, which are more difficult, and which reuse their questions too often. This is an excellent habit for weekdays and will give you data on your progress that is easy to track, and soon you’ll start to understand where your consistent strengths and weaknesses are.

On the weekends, it’s time to take mock exams. The official GMAT exam provides two free practice tests, but it’s best to save them until the final weeks of your exam preparation so that they’re available once you’ve exhausted all other resources. Instead, use the practice tests that have been made by learning studios and, of course, chart your results and progress over time. As your various strengths and weaknesses become more apparent, it’ll become easier to seek out tuition to address the weaknesses you have. By constantly taking practice questions and sitting for mock exams, identifying and training weak points, and keeping consistent data; it’s scientifically impossible that you won’t improve over the course of 6 months. This will inevitably result in incredible marks when it comes time to take the official GMAT practice exams, and finally, the GMAT itself.

3 Month GMAT Study Plan

This plan is for those who are beginning their study with three months to go before the exam is scheduled to take place. How do you build a three month GMAT study plan? This plan is the ‘accelerated variance’ approach and calls for you to take practice exams and have study sessions that address the quantitative portion of the exam on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, and focus on the verbal portion of the exam on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and on weekends.

With this strategy, you’ll focus on theory each day in the morning, then work on mock exams and problem solving the rest of the day. The verbal portion of the exam has an extra day of focus because the way the GMAT is formatted, the verbal portion of the exam is more heavily weighted in calculating your final score. This is because you’re graded in relation to how others are scored, and a lot of test-takers generally score higher marks on the verbal section. This is especially true for American and other native English-speaking test-takers. 

As the exam looms closer, you’ll need to stay vigilant in ensuring your productivity stays as high as possible[2]. This means planning study activities that vary up the parts of your brain being used for study. Focusing on the verbal portion of the exam on alternating days will give a rest to the portion of your brain that’s focused on math, while also working on your deductive reasoning and logic abilities which are tested during all portions of the exam. 

It’s important to add variety to the way you study to ensure your brain remains capable of studying seven days a week. Remain focused on mock exams and practice questions as the cornerstone of your study, but ensure you’re changing between quantitative and verbal focuses each day. This will ensure you’re getting enough study in both areas and will make sure you’re not favoring the one you prefer and neglecting the other.

Here is a detailed guide to develop your 3 month GMAT study plan.

6 Week GMAT Study Plan

This study plan is best suited to those who are just getting started with only six weeks until the exam is scheduled to take place.

Those starting to study with this amount of time left can sometimes feel hopeless, but with the right mindset, you can still prepare well and succeed[3]. The important thing is that you know how to build your GMAT study plan to make maximum use of every single day leading up to the exam.

What matters most for this type of plan is that you’re answering questions and solving problems at a fast enough pace. Learning the information needed in six weeks isn’t the challenge that’s most concerning, it’s answering problems at the rate that the GMAT exam expects.

With the time given to complete the exam, you’re expected to solve problems in roughly two minutes without a calculator. None of the problems that the GMAT exam presents are overly difficult, they’re made difficult by giving you this limited timeframe.

Therefore, this study strategy is the ‘time trial’ approach. In addition to mock exams, you need to be solving problems each day and timing your answers. Not only do you need to track how often you’re getting them right, you’ll also need to track how long it takes you to get to the right answer.

The way to improve your speed isn’t anything magical, and it’s not something that can be taught; it can only be gained with practice. You need to train your brain to be faster through intentionality. Timing yourself and being hyper-aware of the timeframe given is what’s going to make the difference in making you faster in a short period of time.

As you practice, what you’ll find is that your brain starts making connections faster, and will apply theories to the answer and assume answers in record time, even before you’ve made your calculations. This comes from knowing the theory and practicing a lot. So make sure you always begin your morning by learning the theory, then start doing as many time trials as you can.

What’s very important to remember is that you must study every single day during these six weeks. If you’re truly committed to scoring well on the GMAT exam, this is non-negotiable. Before you get started you need to ask yourself, can you make this commitment? Are you prepared to study every day?

The best way to make the most use out of every day is to alternate studying for the verbal and quantitative exam portions. This will ensure your mind is fresh for each, and that you don’t favor one over the other. Weekends should be spent buckling down extra hard on mock exams that you can then use for result tracking each Monday.

During the final two weeks before your exam date, you should consider taking the official GMAT mock exams and ensure you’re completely ready. You should be taking mock exams two to three times a day at this point, and filling the rest of your day with questions and problems. If you still need to learn theory, do so early in the morning to ensure the rest of the day is more productive as a result.

Theory in the morning, then mock exams interchanged with practice questions throughout the day and night.

What matters most is that you’re tracking your data, working on your areas of weakness, and taking as many mock exams as humanly possible. If you’re doing all that, you will secure a high score.

Summary

Let’s review the key points for how to build your GMAT study plan.

  • Preparing for the GMAT exam is critical, and there are a lot of strategies that can be helpful in ensuring you get a great score.
  • The 6 Month Plan prioritizes collecting data and making maximum use of the time you have. However, stay calm – you have lots of time, and with the right study plan, you can achieve a great GMAT score making optimal use of every single day.
  • The 3 Month Plan ensures that the brain stays efficient by varying focus between the quantitative and verbal portions of the exam. 
  • The 6 Week Plan is focused on ensuring that you answer questions and solve problems fast enough to stay within the GMAT time limits, while also ensuring that you’re switching focus frequently enough to ensure maximum retention of information in a short period of time.

[1] The GMAT Team. Top 10 Study Tips for the GMAT Exam, MBA. 2022. https://www.mba.com/exams-and-exam-prep/top-ten-study-tips-for-the-gmat-exam

[2] MBA For Executives. GMAT Study Guide: How to Study and Prepare for the GMAT or GRE. Wharton University of Pennsylvania. https://executivemba.wharton.upenn.edu/gmat-study-guide-how-to-study-and-prepare-for-the-gmat/

[3] Kamat, Sameer. GMAT 780 Scorer Reveals Study Plan to Crack the Exam Without Coaching. MBA Crystal Ball. 2021. https://www.mbacrystalball.com/blog/2016/07/08/gmat-780-score-study-plan-without-coaching/

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