Some questions in life have no clear answer: Should I join company X? Should I marry person Y? Should I get a dolphin tattoo on my face? (Well, perhaps the last one does have an answer!) How long you take to prepare for the GMAT, or any other test, for that matter, depends on many many factors: the level of preparedness at which you start out, your ability, the time and mental space you can spare for this, and so on.
A really smart person with sufficient time minus other distractions or stress could crack a high score on the GMAT in about a month’s time. Someone else who isn’t as smart, but who has taken the test previously, will have a familiarity advantage and may still be able to accomplish the same. On the other hand, a slogger, with great discipline, could manage to oust either of these test takers!
In general, however, we would say that it takes the average person 3-4 months to comfortably prepare for the GMAT. However, there are some things you absolutely must keep in mind while doing this, to utilize this time and your efforts effectively.
- Consistency: You should be determined to work smart, systematically. Skipping preparation on weekdays because of work pressure or classes and then burning the midnight oil during weekends is a bad idea. Overworking for 10-12 hours on weekends will cause fatigue to sink in and substantially lower your efficiency. Plus, you lose touch and fall out of the test prep groove if you don’t hit the books all week.
- Time spent: 3 hours per day is what you must aim for on a regular basis. If not at a stretch, spread these 3 hours over an entire day, covering different sections and with breaks in between. It will help you be effective throughout the session. If you are a morning person, wake up one hour earlier than usual to make time to prepare. If you are a night owl, stay up for an hour in the evening.
- What to study: You’ve probably been told over and over again to overcome your weaknesses. But it’s equally important to work on your strengths and hone them. So, work on quant and verbal in parallel, irrespective of which one you’re good at. You can, however, dedicate more time to catch up on your weak areas. Remember, the areas that you are good at will play a pivotal role in boosting your overall score.
- Mock tests: Take one GMAT mock test every week. But there is no point in just taking practice tests. You need to go through the test and your responses, understand where you’ve made mistakes and what kind of mistakes you’ve made. Work on these so that you will see an improvement in the next test. Analyzing where and how you went wrong is as important as taking practice tests. That is how you will improve, week after week.
- Discipline: Sometimes, it will all seem a little overwhelming. Your scores could be stuck in a certain range or you may feel stressed and that you can’t cover all of this in the time available. But all we say is, stick to it. In between, there could be a burst or a dearth of adrenaline, but in the long run it wouldn’t matter. Remember, the GMAT is a marathon, not a sprint!
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