With everything going on in your busy life, when should you schedule the GMAT? Should you take the test months before your application deadlines or give yourself as much time to study as possible? Would you do better bright and early in the morning, or should you opt for an appointment in the afternoon?
Selecting the right date and time for your GMAT is an important step along the path to business school. To help you choose, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about GMAT test dates, how to pick one, and when to register.
First, when is the GMAT administered?
When Is the GMAT Administered?
The GMAT is administered on an on-demand basis most days of the year. There are no set GMAT test dates. Instead, you can pick out almost any date and time that works for you. Many GMAT test centers offer the test nearly every day of the year.
Some test centers aren’t open on Sundays or holidays, so you’ll have to check with test centers in your area to see their exact GMAT schedule. University-based test centers, for instance, might be closed for extended periods around holidays or other campus breaks.
Wherever you are in the world, most test centers offer morning, midday, and evening appointments. Appointment times vary by test center. At one of the Pearson VUE centers in Boston, to give one example, the GMAT is administered Monday through Saturday at 8 AM, 12 PM, and 4:30 PM.
You can look for GMAT exam dates and availability online at MBA.com. At MBA.com, you can explore test locations, GMAT dates, and times before committing to one. When I look up the Pearson VUE Test Center in Boston, for instance, I see three available time slots on February 18 —
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You’ll see a similar feature when you explore test dates. GMAT test dates with availability show up in green, while dates that are all filled up appear in gray. A date will be green as long as it has at least one open time slot.
Once you’ve taken some time to explore your options, when should you choose a GMAT exam date and time and officially register?
When Should You Register for the GMAT?
You can register for the GMAT online or by phone (for $10 extra) anywhere from six months to 24 hours before a test date. If you decide to register by mail, then your request must arrive at least 10 days before your preferred test date.
Hundreds of thousands of students across the world take the GMAT every year, and spots at testing centers can fill up fast. To make sure you get your preferred test date and time, a good rule of thumb is to register at least two to three months in advance.
You may want to register even earlier if you’re looking for an appointment during peak times. The months right before application deadlines are popular, like August, November, and February, as are Saturday GMAT test dates.
It’s also been my experience that afternoon time slots fill up faster than morning ones. If you’re looking to take the GMAT on a Saturday afternoon in November, then you should make sure to complete your registration well in advance.
That being said, what if you’re reading this article and panicking that you waited too long to sign up. Can you still register for the GMAT at the last minute?
Can You Register for the GMAT Last Minute?
As mentioned above, you can technically register for the GMAT online or over the phone up to 24 hours in advance of a test date, assuming that date is available. If you wait until just 24 hours before, though, you may find there are no available dates left, especially if you’ve only got one or two test centers in your area.
The Graduate Management Admission Council and Pearson VUE state their commitment to ensuring that you can find a testing appointment within 30 days, wherever you are in the world. Try your best not to wait any longer than 30 days before a test date, especially if your application deadline is just around the corner.
Whenever you decide to register, how can you zero in on the GMAT exam date and time that will work best for you? You should start by asking yourself five key questions.
How to Choose the Best GMAT Test Date: 5 Key Questions
Just as you should be strategic about how you take the GMAT, you should also be strategic about choosing your GMAT exam date and time. First and foremost, you need to make sure you take the test in time for your application deadlines.
Beyond deadlines, you also want to think about ways to optimize your performance. If you choose a date in the midst of a big work project or right around a holiday, then you might find yourself distracted. If you choose an 8 AM time slot but are useless before your late morning latte, then you won’t be able to give it your all.
The right exam date and time for your GMAT vary by individual. To do some digging into your personal preferences, you should ask yourself these five questions.
#1: When Are My Business School Application Deadlines?
No matter how much you enjoy strictly-timed, computer-adaptive exams, you’re probably not taking the GMAT just for fun. People take the GMAT to get into business school, and they need to make sure that schools receive their scores before an application deadline.
Most business schools have three rounds of admissions deadlines. Round one deadlines tend to land in September or October, round two is in early January, and round three is in March or April. A general rule of thumb for applying to business school is to apply as early as you can as long as you can send off the strongest application possible.
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Ideally, you can apply by a round one deadline when the largest number of spots are open. If you’re frantically rushing to meet this deadline, though, then you might wait for a later round or plan instead for the following year.
Official score reports are sent to schools about 20 days after you take the GMAT. You should schedule your test at least a month before your first deadline, or even further out if you think you might retake the test. So for example, if you’re applying to Harvard Business School by its 2017 deadline, September 7, then you should take the GMAT by August 7 at the latest.
You also need to consider all of the other work you have to do on your graduate school application, like writing essays and gathering letters of recommendation from former professors and managers. Taking the GMAT in time for your application deadlines is just one piece of the puzzle. You should also think about your other commitments and application requirements.
#2: Is There a Possibility I’ll Retake the GMAT?
When you finish up the last section of the GMAT, you’ll get a preview of your scores. This unofficial score report will tell you how you did on the Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal scores, plus you’ll get to see your total scores. The only score you won’t see yet is your Analytical Writing Assessment, or essay, since it needs to be assessed by two graders.
At this point, you’ll be asked whether you want to keep or cancel your scores. If you fall short of your target scores, then you may choose to cancel the scores completely. They won’t be sent to any schools, and it will be like you never took the GMAT — except that your bank account will be $250 lighter.
If you’re not satisfied with your scores, you can retake the GMAT after waiting a couple of weeks. You can schedule a retake up to five times per year, but your next test date must be at least 16 days after the first one.
Ideally, you’ll be satisfied with your scores and won’t have to take the test again or pay another registration fee. If you want to leave yourself the option, though, then you should register for your first test at least two months before your application deadline. That way, you will have time to retake the test and make sure your retake scores arrive at schools before the deadlines.
#3: How Much Time Do I Have to Study?
According to GMAC, students who scored above a 700 on the GMAT studied for an average of 121 hours. The GMAT is a challenging test, and many test takers prepare for months. When you choose a date, you should leave yourself plenty of time to prepare.
Let’s say you set aside ten hours a week to get ready for the GMAT. After 12 weeks, you’d have accumulated 120 hours of studying. If this sounds like a study plan that would work for you, then you should choose a test date that’s at least three months from the time you start preparing.
Of course, you can start preparing even before you register so that you have a sense of your current scoring level and how much you need to study. Setting a date in stone, though, can help you get motivated. You’re more likely to commit to studying if you know your test date is swiftly approaching.
#4: What Else Is Going On in My Schedule?
Changing your GMAT registration can incur some pretty hefty fees, so you want to make sure you don’t have any competing commitments before you pick a date. Check your schedule for upcoming work events, social obligations, vacations, or holidays.
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You may want to get the exam done before a holiday break so you’re not studying while, say, everyone else is eating Thanksgiving turkey. Perhaps you’d do better taking the test on a Monday or Tuesday, rather than waiting until Thursday or Friday when you’re tired from the work week or thinking about a professional project.
If it were me, I’d prefer to take off a Tuesday for the GMAT after a three-day weekend, so I had a full three days beforehand to get ready and focus entirely on taking the exam. If you can’t take any time off work, then you may have to search for the best weekend date.
When you start thinking about a GMAT date, consider any competing commitments and the day of the week that would optimize your testing performance.
#5: Am I a Morning or Afternoon Person?
Just as you should be thoughtful about the day of the week you choose — I would be useless on a Friday afternoon, for instance — you should also think carefully about the best time of day. As long as you register early, you should have choices for taking the exam in the morning or the afternoon.
At this point in your educational and professional career, you probably know when you’re most alert, in the morning or the afternoon. If you heavily favor one time of day over the other, then the time slot you choose for the GMAT could have a big effect on how you do. Choose the time when you’ll be most focused and motivated to take on a three and a half-hour test.
Finalizing Your GMAT Schedule
Taken together, all of these questions prompt you to think about the date and time that would optimize your testing performance and chances of getting into business school. On the practical side, you need to leave yourself time to meet application deadlines and log some serious studying hours.
On the personal level, you should consider whether you’re most productive in the morning or afternoon, in the beginning of the week or at the end. By registering several months in advance, you can ensure that you have plenty of choices when it comes to taking the GMAT.
Let’s say you’re applying for a round one admission deadline in early September. You’d like to log about 100 hours of studying in total and can commit 10 hours a week to GMAT prep. As a peppy sunrise jogger, you’re at your peak energy in the morning and prefer to take the test early in the work week.
You also want to leave yourself one extra chance to take the GMAT, just in case you’re not satisfied with your scores. When should you register?
In the ideal scenario, you’re asking yourself this question in May. You schedule your GMAT in early July, leaving yourself three months to study. If you’re not satisfied with your scores, then you could take the GMAT again in August. Since you’re such a morning person, you opt to take the test on a Monday at 8 AM.
By considering your deadlines, study time, and personal preferences, you registered early for the GMAT and found your ideal testing time. Well done!
While everything’s looking rosy at this point, what if an emergency arises that forces you to change your GMAT date? Despite all your careful planning, what do you do if you need to reschedule your test?
What If You Need to Change Your GMAT Registration?
It is possible to make changes to your GMAT schedule. If you need to alter your test date, then you should try your best to do so more than seven days before your test date.
You can reschedule your test more than seven days in advance for a $50 fee. If you wait until the appointment is seven or fewer days away, then you won’t get any discount and will have to pay the entire $250 registration fee again.
If you need to cancel your GMAT, you can do so and get a refund of $80 if you cancel more than seven days prior to your test date. Again, if you wait until last minute, then you won’t get any money back.
If you’ve asked yourself the five questions above and thoughtfully chosen a GMAT test date, then you most likely won’t have to make any changes to your registration. If something unexpected does come up, though, then hopefully you can cancel or reschedule more than seven days in advance of your test date and get a bit of a financial break.
As we finish up this guide on choosing a date for your GMAT registration, let’s go over some key takeaways you should remember about when to take the test.
Choosing a GMAT Test Date: Final Thoughts
The GMAT is given continuously throughout the year, so you can take it on almost any day that works with your schedule and application deadlines. While you have a lot of choice of GMAT test dates, you should know that spots fill up fast. To make sure you get your preferred date and time, try your best to register two to three months in advance.
When you choose a test date, make sure to leave enough time for your official score report to reach business schools. Score reports usually arrive about 20 days after you take the test. If you want to leave yourself the option of retaking the GMAT, then you need at least an additional 16 days of buffer time.
You should also try to be strategic about taking the GMAT on a day and time when you can perform your best. That might mean signing up early in the week, like a Monday or Tuesday, before you’re tired from the work week. It might also mean choosing a morning or afternoon slot to take advantage of the time of day when you’re most energized and productive.
Once you’ve signed up for the GMAT, you’ll likely feel a boost in how motivated you are to study. Having that test date set in stone means you only have a limited amount of time to prepare and work toward your target scores. Register early so that you can score your preferred test date and start getting ready for this important business school exam.
Once you’ve chosen your GMAT test date, how do you sign up? Check out this full guide on registering for the GMAT, step by step.
Did you know that the math and verbal sections of the GMAT are adaptive, or that the Integrated Reasoning section always presents the same four question types? Check out this guide on the GMAT exam pattern to learn all about the format, structure, and question types of the GMAT.
Are you ready to start preparing? This complete GMAT study guide (coming soon) will help you design your personalized study plan and achieve your target scores.