How to Study for the GMAT

A woman creates her GMAT study schedule and writes it in her planner.

GMAT Study Guide

How Important is Preparing?

While the GMAT may seem overwhelming, developing a structured study plan can ease test anxiety and maximize your results. Cramming for an exam a week or two before the test date often does more harm than good, especially when you need an above-average score for specific graduate programs.

When designing your study plan, focus on three factors to create a realistic schedule:

  • Study Plan Length: Consider how much time you'll need before test day to suit your busy schedule.
  • Select GMAT Test Prep Resources: Look for study materials that include everything you need to boost your score.
  • Stay on Track: Learn how to cope with unexpected changes, so unforeseen events don't derail your GMAT study schedule.

Where to Begin

How Long to Study for the GMAT

Every test-taker has a life beyond the exam, so you'll need to take your responsibilities into account. Most people typically spend three to six months studying for the GMAT, accumulating around 100 hours of prep time. While 100 hours is a good baseline, a customized routine and timeframe based on your needs is the best approach.

Designing Your Strategy

Set a Weekly Study Schedule That Works for You

In addition to knowing how much time you'll need to complete your GMAT test prep, developing a weekly schedule makes it easier to stay focused. Design your study plan in weekly increments and examine your daily routine to find time to study different test sections.

For example, if you're a working student, your weekly schedule might look something like this:

  • Monday: Begin with Analytical Writing practice in the morning and go to work in the afternoon. Practice several Verbal Reasoning questions before bed.
  • Tuesday: Go to work in the morning and attend class afterwards. Complete your coursework first and review Integrated Reasoning questions after dinner.
  • Wednesday: Use your day off from work and school to take half of a practice exam. Before going to bed, review the Analytical Writing work you completed on Monday.
  • Thursday: Attend classes in the morning and afternoon. Review and solve Quantitative Reasoning questions in the evening.
  • Friday: Take the second half of the practice exam in the morning, then head off to work. Spend an hour working on Integrated Reasoning questions before bed.
  • Saturday: Enjoy a day off from work, school and study!
  • Sunday: Review your practice exam in the morning and follow up with Integrated Reasoning questions after lunch. Continue your Analytical Writing practice in the evening.

Choose Your Resources

What Should I Study For the GMAT?

Once you have an effective weekly study plan, select test prep materials to help you reach your goals. Look for GMAT study materials that offer practice tests, sample questions, and simulated test-day experience to get you ready for the exam. Resources that offer personalized plans are ideal for tracking your weekly studies and seeing your progress over time.

Find Your Weaknesses

Learn What You Might Need to Study More

Before diving into your test prep materials, take a practice exam. Your initial scores can act as a GMAT study guide by helping you prioritize the sections or questions you find most difficult. Make sure the GMAT study materials you choose offer several practice tests so you can check in periodically as you work through your schedule.

Stay on Track

Coping with Schedule Conflicts

Your GMAT study plan should be realistic as well as comprehensive. Strict schedules with no time left for socializing or fun often result in burnout, and a sudden illness can completely derail the best study plans.

Consider different ways to balance your responsibilities with your social life and give yourself more time to deal with conflicts and potential pitfalls before test day:

Work and School

Making Time Around Mandatory Activities

Heavy class loads, research papers, or extra work hours can easily stress you out, so be generous when planning how long you study for the GMAT. Add a few weeks or a month to your prep plan if you can only study during breaks or you need some time off for mid-terms.

You're always better off having extra time to review rather than feeling pressured to prepare by test day.

Social Events

Give Yourself Room to Maintain Your Relationships

Stepping away from your study materials to relax and unwind is necessary but setting limits and planning ahead helps you stay on track. Create boundaries for yourself to avoid late nights out or impromptu plans.

If you're a social butterfly, extend the length of your GMAT study schedule so you can accept invites and compensate with an extra test prep weekend when you need to.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Plan for Disruptions & Adjust When Necessary

All the planning in the world can't take sickness, relationship problems, or car troubles into account. Building extra time into your schedule gives you more flexibility to cope with the unexpected.

Adding an extra week or two can allow you to recover from an illness, take a mental health break, or arrange repairs without breaking your study stride.

Study Resources

Online GMAT Test Prep

GMAT Strategies & Pacing

Registering for the GMAT

GMAT Test Day Checklist