Planning your GMAT prep schedule is the first step to success on the exam. But what should be on that schedule? How much time should you dedicate to certain topics? When should you implement specific strategies, like GMAT practice tests or study groups? How should you maximize your prep in the weeks close to the test?
Let’s look at a template for GMAT prep over a two-month schedule, which can be extended or compacted for your personal study needs.
Take a practice exam to determine your current starting point, even if you have taken the GMAT previously. Once you get your results, go back over the test to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Did you perform better in the Quantitative section than you did in Verbal? Did you have difficulty with the Analytical Writing Assessment? Was it tough to put the pieces together for the Integrated Reading section? Figure out what areas need the most attention.
Next, register for the GMAT. This will give you a definite end point to work toward. (For this template, the exam day will occur two months from the start date.) Then, create a study schedule. Dedicate consistent blocks of time on your calendar specifically for preparing for the GMAT, ideally two to three hours every other day.
Start reviewing how to approach each question type, and complete practice questions from each section of the exam: AWA, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. Note your performance on each question type and review the questions you answer incorrectly. Also, make a trial visit to the testing center. Plan alternate routes as well, in case there are any unexpected impediments on exam day. Introduce yourself to the center manager. Find out the locations of the lockers, water fountains, and restrooms. Advanced preparation is key to experiencing a smooth test day.
Take your second practice exam. You should concentrate on building your familiarity with the material and applying the approaches you have developed to answer different question types. Based on your results, decide whether you should continue getting ready for the GMAT on your own or seek outside help with your preparation by possibly joining a study group or enlisting assistance from a GMAT tutor. Once you have made your decision, adjust your schedule accordingly and stick to it.
Continue studying each section of the GMAT. Begin to spend more time on challenging sections while maintaining your skills in areas in which you have more proficiency. For instance, if you have mastered the art of sentence correction, but still have difficulty with the math covered on the exam, consider moving on to data sufficiency and problem-solving. You should notice some progress as you increase your understanding of the exam.
Sit for your third practice GMAT. Now that you have more experience with the question types, take this opportunity to increase your stamina and further develop your test-taking abilities. Pace yourself as you move through the sections, and stay on track. Don’t worry about getting every question correct. Focus on maximizing your score. Use your time wisely, and use all of the time provided. After you tabulate the results, compare your performance on this practice exam to your previous work. Determine where you are improving, where you still need work, and what changes you have noticed over your studying period.
Keep going—don’t give up! As you continue working through practice questions, take the time to look at where you started and where you are now. In addition to checking whether you answered a question correctly, examine the construction of the questions with which you have trouble. Are lengthy questions more challenging for you, or questions with variables, or ones involving inference? Patterns should emerge regarding your test-taking habits.
Take your final practice exam. Simulate the testing center experience as well as possible by tackling all of the sections over a specific time period and taking your timed breaks. After completing the test, compare your results to your previous attempts. Look at what has changed and what has stayed consistent. Decide which areas you can improve over these last two weeks before your GMAT.
During this last week of GMAT prep, focus your attention on fine-tuning your skills for the next six days. Then stop—do not cram on the day before the exam. You can feel confident that you’ve done tons of substantial preparation up to this point. Instead, use this time to rest or engage in an activity you enjoy. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep on both the night before the exam and the previous night. You need to retain your energy for the big day.
On the day after exam, celebrate! You survived the GMAT. It is now time to plan your next move in the MBA application process. If you are happy with your scores, start working on your essays or plan a campus visit. If you would like to increase your scores, then take a short break before you jump back into study mode and take the exam again. Either way, following this eight-week GMAT prep schedule can help make this standardized test experience less intimidating and more manageable.