Online and in-person GMAT testing slots are available year-round. However, you can only test once within a 16-day period, five times in a single year, and eight times in your lifetime. Because of this, aspiring business school students often ask, "When is the best time to take the GMAT?"
Reviewing application deadlines for your chosen business school program is essential when answering this question. However, test takers will also need to consider other important details.
Popular GMAT Exam Dates
As a general rule, aspiring business school students should try to take the GMAT two months before their chosen program's application deadline. Many business schools have a rolling admissions process and accept applications three months out of the year:
- Round 1 Deadline: September
- Round 2 Deadline: January
- Round 3 Deadline: April
Most people complete their exams in November and submit their GMAT scores and applications before the round two admissions cycle in January. However, you could also choose to take the GMAT in July or February if you're aiming to apply before the round one or round three deadlines. Consider sticking to one of the following test-taking timelines depending on your chosen program:
- Late Summer to Early Fall Deadline: Round 1
- Study from April or May to June
- Test in July or August
- Submit GMAT scores and business school application in September
- Winter Deadline: Round 2
- Study through September and October
- Test in November or December
- Submit GMAT scores and business school applications in January
- Spring Deadline: Round 3
- Study through December and January
- Test in February or March
- Submit GMAT scores and business school applications in April
Latest GMAT Testing Date
At the latest, people might plan to take the GMAT one month before their chosen program's application deadline. Those planning to study for the GMAT in one month must take their exams in August, December, or March to ensure they meet the required deadline. Otherwise, they risk missing the deadline and will have to wait for the following admission cycle.
Early GMAT Testing
If you want to apply to several business schools with different application deadlines, you might consider taking the GMAT early. Choosing an early test date is an excellent option for those who might struggle with the GMAT difficulty and want extra time to prepare using:
- Personalized study plans and schedules
- Sample questions for each section of the GMAT
- Effective pacing and test-taking strategies
- Practice tests
Taking the GMAT early also gives you a broader time frame to receive your test results, decipher your GMAT scores and percentiles, and register to retake the exam if necessary.
How Early Can I Take the GMAT?
Some experts suggest taking the GMAT three to six months before your preferred school's application deadline, which typically involves testing during the round one admission cycle and submitting your applications during round two. Others recommend taking the GMAT up to a year in advance, preferably during the summer or early fall, before completing your undergraduate degree.
While following the typical testing and application submission schedule can help candidates meet their chosen business school's admission guidelines, the popular GMAT exam dates may be inconvenient for some test takers. Depending on your situation, you might want to make the following adjustments to determine when to take the GMAT exam:
- Students: Complete the GMAT during spring or summer vacation to avoid overwhelming yourself with GMAT test prep, class assignments, and final projects and exams.
- Employees: Schedule your GMAT exam for whatever time of year requires you to work the fewest hours or use saved vacation time to take a few days off for last-minute test prep.
Picking Your GMAT Test Date
When it comes to choosing the best time to take the GMAT, you'll want to select a date that allows for ample study time, leaves room for retakes, and keeps you on track to meet your chosen business school's application deadlines.
Your GMAT exam date should also fit into your schedule without interfering with any other school, work, or family obligations. Once you determine the best exam date for you, you can register for the GMAT and begin the study and test-prep process to ensure you hit your target score.