How to Study for the GMAT in 3 Months: 5 Key Prep Tips

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Wondering how to study for the GMAT in 3 months? If you’re ready to start studying for the GMAT, you might not know how to schedule your prep. It can seem overwhelming to decide how many hours you need to study, what you should do in each study session, and how many months you should plan to prepare.

In this article, I’ll go over the reasons you might choose to take three months to study for the GMAT and the top study tips for getting ready for the exam in 90 days. You’ll also get two full sample 3 month GMAT study plans: one for 100 hours of prep and one for 200 hours.

 

GMAT Study Schedule: Why 3 Months?

The gold standard for a GMAT study timeline is three months; many admissions counselors, tutors, and GMAT course instructors advise applicants to study for about that long.

Why? Simply put, three months isn’t too long or too short for most students. With two months or less to cram, you won’t have enough time to address all of your weaknesses or to establish a regular study routine that will allow you to routinely gauge your progress.

On the flip side, with too much study time (say, six months or so), your progress can stall. Many students think “the more time, the better,” but it’s actually easy to lose focus and momentum if you study for too long. With too many months of study, you risk plateauing and losing motivation.

For your GMAT preparation schedule 3 months is enough time to study intensively without having to cram, to hone in on your weaknesses, and to, in most cases, reach the level of improvement in your GMAT score that you’re hoping for.

Just how many hours and how often you’ll need to study over a three-month period depends on how many points you’d like to improve. Let’s take a look at this chart of approximately how many hours you will need to study on average to improve your GMAT score by a certain number of points.

  •        0 – 50 point improvement: 50 hours
  •        51 – 100 point improvement: 100 hours
  •        101 – 150 point improvement: 150 hours

As you can see, improving your score by 100 points or more is a significant time investment, but certainly doable in three months if you carve out about 12.5 hours of dedicated study time per week.

No matter how many hours per week you study for the GMAT over the course of three months, that study time needs to be focused and well-planned. Before we get into two specific sample 3 month GMAT study timelines, let’s go over how to create an effective GMAT study plan.

 

How to Prepare for the GMAT in 3 Months: 5 Key Study Tips

Before we go over two sample 3 month GMAT study plans, let’s get into a few of the ways that you can make the most of the time you devote to GMAT prep.

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#1: Gather Your Materials First

Before you create a GMAT study plan, you will have to gather high-quality prep materials that you can use to build your knowledge about the content covered on the GMAT.

While there are many quality GMAT resources available, I suggest starting with the following materials. You can find more GMAT prep materials in our guides to the best GMAT prep resources and GMAT prep books.

 

The GMAT Official Guide 2018

If you choose only one GMAT prep book to work with, make it this one. It’s written by the authors of the real GMAT, and includes a breakdown of each section of the GMAT, along with a variety of practice questions, tips and tricks on how to approach each question type, and access to additional online resources.

 

GMATPrep Software

This free software, produced by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), gives you access to an online practice question bank and two full-length free computerized adaptive practice tests, all of which use official GMAT questions. You should use this software to complete your first diagnostic GMAT.

 

A GMAT Verbal Resource

There are many different resources you can use to develop your knowledge of the GMAT verbal section. Our guides to the best GMAT books and the best free GMAT resources will help you choose a prep book that specifically teaches you about the quant section or free verbal prep materials. Our guide to the GMAT verbal section can also help.

 

A GMAT Quantitative Resource

As with the verbal section, there are many different resources you can use to learn about and prepare for the GMAT quant section. You can purchase a GMAT math book or use free resources, like our guides to data sufficiency and problem solving questions.

 

A GMAT Integrated Reasoning Resource

You should spend less time studying for the GMAT integrated reasoning section than for the verbal and quant sections, but you should devote at least some prep time to integrated reasoning questions. You should read about the integrated reasoning section in the Official Guide, and you can also add a specific integrated reasoning book to the mix. Use our guides to the GMAT integrated reasoning section and the best integrated reasoning prep books to find the best resource for you.

 

A GMAT Essay Resource

As with the integrated reasoning section, you should spend less time overall studying for the GMAT essay (analytical writing assessment) than for the verbal and quant sections. However, you should read about the analytical writing assessment in the Official Guide. You can also check out our guide to the AWA section for samples and assistance or purchase GMAT Write, an official GMAT essay resource from GMAC that will give you customized feedback on your writing samples.

 

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#2: Take a Diagnostic Test

After you’ve gathered your materials, you’ll need to take a diagnostic test to see what your starting point is and how much you need to improve. Find out more about taking a diagnostic GMAT here.

A diagnostic test should be timed appropriately and in computerized adaptive format, like the real GMAT. The best diagnostic GMAT is a full-length practice test offered by the Official GMATPrep Software. You’ll use the results to set a target GMAT score (find out more about setting a target GMAT score here) and to figure out what you’ll need to spend the most time on in your GMAT prep.

 

#3: Analyze Your Weaknesses

As you take a look at the results of your diagnostic test, ask yourself a series of questions. As you read the answer explanations of the questions you weren’t sure about or answered incorrectly, do you notice any patterns? Which sections were hardest for you? Which question types within those sections? Can you be even more specific about what you’re getting wrong (a particular type of grammar error, for example, or misinterpreting specific kinds of charts or graphs)?

In terms of fundamental skills, what do you feel you need to brush up on? Are there basic grammar concepts you need to review? Did you struggle to complete calculations without a calculator on the quant section?

You should also ask yourself questions about the “bigger picture” of the exam and how it went for you. Were you anxious? Calm? Did you feel rushed? Did you finish every section? Would you benefit from timing or pacing drills? Were you exhausted by the end of the test? Were you able to read every passage and each answer choice in its entirety?

Use the answers to these questions to customize three-month study plan. In your plan, devote more time to the sections, question types, and foundational skills that you have trouble with, rather than giving equal time to each subject.

You should repeat this assessment regularly throughout your three months of GMAT prep, and adjust your study plan accordingly.

 

#4: Stick to a Routine

When you create your GMAT study plan, set goals for each study session that are as specific as possible. Rather than something general like “study for three hours,” you should have particular exercises (“complete 15-question integrated reasoning practice quiz on Official GMATPrep Software”), reading assignments (“read pages 15-45 of Grammar Basics), and drills (“answer ten sentence correction practice questions in ten minutes”) ready. This will help you stay focused and, hopefully, meet your goals more effectively and efficiently.

You should also schedule your study sessions for a particular time and stick to it as much as possible. This will help you to gauge what time of day is best for you to study and to establish a routine, which is good for the purposes of continuity and regular, sustained progress.


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#5: Keep Track of Your Progress

You should reevaluate your progress regularly over the course of your three months of GMAT prep. This will be easier if you keep track of each study session in a journal or log. Jot down what you completed, what your scores were on practice tests or quizzes, and what you’re still struggling with.

If you’re noticing that you’re meeting certain goals more slowly or quickly than you anticipated, don’t be afraid to adjust your study plan as needed. Remember, you need to make your GMAT prep work for you and your particular needs.

 

3 Month GMAT Study Plan: 100 Hours (51-100 Point Increase)

Below, I’ve provided a comprehensive sample GMAT study plan for a student who wants to raise their GMAT score by about 51-100 points. With this plan, you’ll need to devote 100 hours to GMAT prep over three months (about 8 hours a week on average). (If you want to raise your score by more than 100 points, check out the second study plan further down in this guide.)

 

Week 1: GMAT Basics

Total Time: 6 Hours

  1. Familiarize yourself with the GMAT content and format. LLearn about the test and how it’s scored. Get an overview of question types and sections using the Official Guide and/or free resources.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours
  2. Take a diagnostic test, an official GMAT computerized adaptive test, using the Official GMATPrep Software. Take the test in one sitting with no interruptions except for the two optional eight-minute breaks.
    • Time Suggested: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  3. Review your results. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Make note of which sections you did well on and which sections were more challenging for you. For the verbal and quant sections, identify the question types that you struggled with the most so that you have a targeted area for growth over the coming weeks.
    • Time Suggested: 30 minutes

 

Week 2: Verbal Section

Total Time: 10 Hours

  1.  Familiarize yourself with the GMAT verbal section by reading about it on MBA.com and in the Official Guide. Also, check out our detailed guide to the GMAT verbal section.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours
  2. Build your knowledge of sentence correction questions.
    • Time Suggested: 4 hours
  3. Develop your knowledge of GMAT reading comprehension passages and questions. Familiarize yourself with different GMAT reading strategies and find one that works for you that you can practice with during drills, tests, and exercises.
    • Time Suggested: 4 hours

 

Week 3: Quant Section

Total Time: 10 Hours

  1. Familiarize yourself with the GMAT quant section by reading about it on MBA.com, as well as checking out our in-depth guide to the quant section.
    • Time Suggested: 1 hour
  2. Review GMAT Math strategies, facts, definitions, and formulas.
    • Time Suggested: 3 hours
  3. Develop your knowledge of foundational algebra skills and concepts. Work through several algebra drills and practice sets.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours
  4. Develop your knowledge of foundational geometry concepts. Work through some geometry drills and practice question sets.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours
  5. Develop your knowledge of word problems. Work through problem solving drills and practice question sets.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours

 

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Week 4: Check Your Progress

Total Time: 10 Hours

  1.  Take a full-length computerized adaptive practice test.
    • Time Suggested: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  2. Review your practice exam results. Go over answer explanations to questions that you answered incorrectly.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  3. Practice question types that you found challenging using customized practice quizzes and drills. Build problem sets for yourself using your GMAT online prep tools.
    • Time Suggested: 4 hours

 

Week 5: Verbal Review

Total Time: 10 Hours

  1. Build your knowledge of reading comprehension questions. Practice by building a custom question bank of reading comprehension practice questions on the Official GMATPrep software.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  2. Build your knowledge of critical reasoning questions. Practice by building a custom bank of critical reasoning practice questions on the GMATPrep software.
    • Time Suggested: 4 hours
  3. Practice GMAT verbal questions. Review the practice tests and quizzes you’ve taken so far. What types of verbal questions are you finding challenging? Build a practice question bank that focuses on the questions you’re struggling with than on the ones you already feel comfortable with.
    • Time Suggested: 3 hours and 30 minutes

 

Week 6: Quant Review

Total Time: 10 Hours

  1. Build your knowledge in number properties. Work through practice question sets and drills.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours
  2. Build your knowledge in sets. Work through practice question sets and drills.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours
  3. Practice and build your knowledge of data sufficiency questions. Familiarize yourself with the format of data sufficiency questions at MBA.com and our complete guide to Data Sufficiency. Next, create data sufficiency problem sets using your GMAT online tools. Start with small problem sets (around five practice questions) to get an idea of the question type. Review your incorrect answers to see where you went wrong.
    • Time Suggested: 3 hours
  4. Practice and build your knowledge of problem solving questions. Start by learning the format of problem solving questions at MBA.com and using our guide to the GMAT quant section. Next, build practice question sets using your online GMAT tools. Start with short problem sets (about five practice questions) to get used to the question type, before moving onto larger problem sets. Review your incorrect answers to see where you went wrong.
    • Time Suggested: 3 hours

 

Week 7: Check Your Progress

Total Time: 8 Hours

  1.  Take a full-length computerized adaptive practice test.
    • Time suggested: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  2. Review your practice test results. Go over answer explanations to questions that you got wrong. Keep track of your progress.
    • Time suggested: 2 hours
  3. Practice question types that you struggled with using customized quizzes.
    • Time suggested: 2 hours and 30 minutes

 

Week 8: GMAT Essay (Analytical Writing Assessment)

Total Time: 6 Hours

  1. Review strategies on how to approach the AWA section. Read the section on the Analytical Writing Assessment in the GMAT Official Guide 2018. Also, review strategies for the AWA in our guide to the GMAT essay and on MBA.com.
    • Time suggested: 3 hours
  2. Practice with AWA prompts. Write sample GMAT essays. You can use prompts that come with your full-length practice tests on the Official GMATPrep Software or GMAT Write.
    • Time suggested: 3 hours

 

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Week 9: Integrated Reasoning

Total Time: 6 Hours

  1. Read the GMAT Official Guide 2018’s chapter on the integrated reasoning section for tips and strategies. Use MBA.com to learn about integrated reasoning questions and the overall structure of the section. Also, check out our guide to the integrated reasoning section.
    • Time suggested: 3 hours
  2. Practice real integrated reasoning questions using the official GMAT IR prep tool. If you’re looking for free unofficial resources, check out our guide to GMAT Integrated Reasoning practice for more information.
    • Time suggested: 3 hours

 

Week 10: Check Your Progress

Total Time: 10 Hours

  1. Review verbal concepts based on your performance on recent practice tests and practice question sets.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  2. Review quant concepts based on your performance on recent practice tests and practice question sets.
    • Time Suggested: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  3. Take a full-length computerized adaptive practice test. Taking this practice exam will help you assess your progress.
    • Time Suggested: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  4. Review your practice test results. Go over answer explanations to questions that you got wrong or found difficult.
    • Time Suggested: 1 hour and 30 minutes

 

Week 11: Concept Review

Total Time: 10 Hours

  1. Based on your performance on recent practice tests and quizzes, review verbal concepts you find challenging.
    • Time suggested: 5 hours
  2. Based on your performance on recent practice tests and quizzes, review quant concepts you find challenging.
    • Time suggested: 5 hours

 

Week 12: Rest and Review

Total Time: 4 Hours

  1. As exam day approaches, I recommend that you rest as much as you can. Cramming at this point won’t improve your score much; your best bet is to rest your brain and body in preparation for the GMAT. You can use the GMATPrep software and any other resources (such as practice question banks) to go over any question types that still give you trouble, or practice with grammar flashcards a bit, but mainly, you should rest up and get ready for test day physically and mentally.
    • Time suggested:4 hours max

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3 Month GMAT Study Plan: 200 Hours (151-200 Point Increase)

Now, let’s take a look at a more intensive sample GMAT study plan. If you need to improve your GMAT score by 151-200 points, you’ll need to study for about 200 hours.

Note that this plan will require a significant time commitment, as it will require you to devote about 16-17 hours to GMAT prep every week for three months. Below, you’ll see how to prepare for the GMAT in 3 months.

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Month 1 GMAT Basics

Learn about the GMAT format and structure. (4 hrs)

Take a diagnostic practice test. (3 hours and 30 min)

Review practice test results and assess your weaknesses. (3 hrs)

Quantitative Review

Learn about the quant section format and question types. (3 hrs)

Develop your knowledge of GMAT quant strategies and tips. (3 hrs)

Review foundational algebra skills. (6 hrs)

Build geometry knowledge. (5 hrs)

Build word problem knowledge. (5 hrs)

Complete quant practice quizzes. (5 hrs)

Verbal Review

Learn about the GMAT verbal section format and test question types. (3 hrs)

Build sentence correction knowledge. (10 hrs)

Build GMAT reading comprehension knowledge. (10 hrs)

Practice grammar fluency with flashcards. (2 hrs)

Complete verbal practice quizzes. (5 hrs)

Assess Your Progress and Review

Take a practice test. (3 hrs and 30 min)

Review your practice test results and read answer explanations for questions you got wrong or on which you had to guess. (2 hrs and 30 min)

Practice question types you struggled with using drills or quizzes. (4 hrs)

Month 2 Advanced Quantitative Review

Build your knowledge of number properties. (5 hrs)

Build your knowledge of sets. (5 hrs)

Practice advanced quant skills using quizzes. (3 hrs)

Practice data sufficiency questions using quizzes. (5 hrs)

Practice problem solving questions using quizzes. (5 hrs)

Verbal Review

Develop your reading comprehension knowledge. (8 hrs)

Develop your critical reasoning knowledge. (8 hrs)

Practice GMAT verbal questions using quizzes or drills. (5 hrs)

Check Your Progress and Review

Take a full-length practice test. (3 hrs, 30 min)

Review your practice test results and read answer explanations for questions you got wrong or on which you had to guess. Track your progress using a log. (2 hrs, 30 min)

Practice question types you found challenging. (4 hours)

AWA and IR Review

Review AWA tips and strategies. (4 hrs)

Complete sample AWA prompts. (4 hours)

Review IR strategies. (3 hrs)

Practice IR questions in quizzes. (5 hrs)

Month 3 Review Quant and Verbal Concepts

Review quant concepts and question types based on what you found difficult on your latest practice tests. (12 hrs)

Review verbal concepts and question types based on what you struggled with on your latest practice tests. (12 hrs)

Assess Your Progress and Review

Take a full-length computerized adaptive practice test. (3 hrs and 30 min)

Review your practice test results and look up answer explanations for questions you got wrong. (2 hrs and 30 min)

Practice question types you struggled with using quizzes. (5 hours)

Review All Sections

Review fundamental concepts and question types from all GMAT sections based on what you found challenging on your latest practice test. (12 hrs)

Rest and Light Review

Practice any question types you would like to brush up on and get plenty of rest before exam day. (5.5 hrs)

 

Recap: How to Study for the GMAT in 3 Months

Now you know how to study for the GMAT in 3 months. For your GMAT preparation schedule 3 months is often agreed upon as the ideal amount of time in which to study. When you’re setting up your own three month GMAT study plan, set specific goals, use the above samples as templates, and don’t be afraid to be flexible as your progress shifts and changes. Good luck!

 

What’s Next?

For some alternate GMAT study options, check out our guides to free GMAT prep, GMAT practice tests, and the best GMAT study materials.

Want an in-depth look at specific GMAT prep books? Check out our reviews of the Manhattan GMAT books and the Official GMAT Review Guide.

The GMAT is a scary test, but how hard is it, really? Check out this guide to learn just how difficult the GMAT is and how you can tackle the challenge.

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Author: Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. She has taught and tutored hundreds of students in standardized testing, literature, and writing.

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