Whether you’re a day or a month into your GMAT preparation journey, you know how important it is to have a plan and to be able to manage your time well. If you start researching the GMAT online, chances are you’ll come across the following two questions pretty frequently:
1) When is the best time to take the GMAT and
2) How long should I prep?
You won’t find a short perfect answer to either question here (or a truly-helpful short answer anywhere), but you will find some guidance to help you identify the best time to prepare and some tips to maximize your preparation efficiency.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC®) will tell you that on average, candidates report spending 60 – 90 days preparing for the GMAT exam (based on self-reported candidate data) and that candidates who scored above a 700 reported spending more than 100 hours preparing for the exam (again, self-reported data). This doesn’t mean that 2-3 months is the magic number, nor is 1.5-2 hours a day. There is an infinite number of ways to slice the data, and what you also don’t see behind those numbers is how that time was truly spent. Rather than turn this into a pseudo-data sufficiency problem, let’s take a look at a few things you can do to maximize your prep time and find the best time to test.
Life. It Happens.
Business schools are counting on the fact that aspiring MBAs have lives; in fact, it’s one of the things that makes you a more attractive candidate. Schools want candidates who come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of professional and extracurricular experiences. However, those experiences might directly compete with finding time to prepare for the GMAT. Before you even crack open a book, take a look at your calendar 3, 6 and 12 months out. When you can find a window of 3-4 months where you have a more manageable schedule and are able to carve out 4-5 days a week to prepare, block that window off as your GMAT window. And then sign up for a test date right away. There’s nothing like having a fixed end date (especially one with some financial skin in the game) to motivate you. Next, create a prep schedule and physically block time on your schedule (just as you would for work meetings, kickball games or even workouts). Block off more time than you think you’ll need because like anything else, life will happen and, inevitably, you’ll likely have to miss a session or two. Creating a buffer early will allow you to have ample time to truly prepare.
Identify and evade distractions.
Knowing your enemy will help you manage your time better. If you know that you can’t study well at home because you’ll get sucked into what’s sitting on your DVR, meal prep in your kitchen, or even gabbing with a roommate, then find a place that’s your study space. Maybe it’s your office after hours or a public library; it might even be a coffee shop across town so you aren’t tempted to head home right after work. Regardless, find a space that’s going to set you up for success. And then prepare for those study sessions. For anyone who’s made one of those New Year’s resolutions to work out more, one of the first things you’ll hear is that you should pack your gym bag the night before an early morning workout so you’re more likely to do it. Pack your book, iPad or whatever else you’re using to prepare. Sign up for that GMAT prep course and make sure you enter every session on your calendar.
You’ve probably heard of distracted driving. It’s all the things (texting, talking, eating) that you shouldn’t do while operating a moving vehicle because it takes your focus away from your primary task: driving a large vehicle that’s capable of not only moving quickly but some pretty significant damage should it encounter the wrong objects. The same thing goes for prep. GMAT preparation should not be something you multi-task while preparing dinner or folding laundry. Chances are you won’t remember the reading comp passage you read … and you’ll probably overcook your spaghetti and undercook your meatballs. Do yourself (and your dinner guests) a favor and focus on one task at a time.
The road to GMAT success is a long but manageable one, but it’s important to identify your limiting factors: schedules, distractions and personal motivation. Once you identify the path, it won’t be 100% smooth sailing, but it’ll be much more focused sailing with one key target on the horizon.
The above article comes from Veritas Prep. Since its founding in 2002, Veritas Prep has helped more than 100,000 students prepare for the GMAT and offers the most highly rated GMAT Prep course in the industry.