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What is the optimum time to prepare for the GMAT?

This is the first question that pops up regarding test-preparation, be it for the GMAT or for any other test. The short answer to this question — it will require a minimum of 2.5 months and a maximum of 6 months. Now let’s try to get inside these numbers.

The optimum time needed depends on the test-taker but the prep phase for any test has two components — the prep-phase and the testing-phase. How long should each of these components be? Let’s start by working backwards.

A 30-45 day testing-phase is a must
The GMAT is a long test with the test duration totaling up to 3.5 hours if we include the 8-min breaks. So, in a sense it is as much a test of mental stamina as it is of quantitative & verbal aptitude.

You might be used to working long hours but 3.5 hours of intense sustained test-taking effort is something that is qualitatively different form the effort required at work. So the first goal of your testing phase is to develop test-taking stamina.

How do you develop this test-taking stamina? By ensuring that you take a certain number of Mock Tests before your actual test date. What is a good number? The minimum is 8 and the maximum 17 (more on this in another post).

The second goal of your testing phase is to work between tests to gain the maximum score increase possible between your first and your last mock.

This means that you would need to
• Spend time analyzing your test with a fine-toothed comb and precisely identify problem areas.
• Work on those areas so that when you take the next test you make fewer mistakes from those areas.

If you take a minimum of 8 tests then, the least time you would require to make a meaningful improvement from your first mock score to the last is 30 days. In some cases you might need more than that.

The best example is a former student who had 10 years of work experience and was applying to the executive programs at the IIMs. He started his testing phase having planned for a 30-day window and scored a 600 on the first GMAT Prep Software test. Based on his scores on the next two tests and the work he was putting in between tests, he felt he could really improve his score provided he had more time. He thus postponed his test-date by two weeks. During this 45-day period we worked together on his areas of improvement and test-taking psychology, as a result he ended up scoring a 690 on D-day.

This example just underlines the importance of a executed testing phase.

How long should your prepare for before your first GMAT Prep Software test?
The duration of the prep phase purely depends on the test-taker. But that does not answer anything. So I have tried to classify the test-taker’s ability and use that to suggest an appropriate duration for the prep-phase.
Instead of classifying test-takers as average or above-average, which is subjective, I have classified test-takers based on the scaled scores that they can secure without any prep.

GMAT Preparation Time

The former student I had discussed earlier had started his GMAT prep after 10 years of working and was very rusty, so he first finished all the Study Material we provide and then took up our 3-month training program before taking his first mock.

Whether you take classroom prep or prepare on your own, your prep-phase if done diligently and with regularity should not last more than 3 months in most cases. The only exceptions are test-takers with a lot of work experience or those are really weak in of the two areas, Quant and Verbal. In such cases the prep-phase can be stretched up to 6 months.

So what is the optimum time to prepare for the GMAT? If I have to give an answer that applies to most Indian GMAT test-takers, it would be 4 months —3 months of prepping and 1 month of testing.

Your next question should be — how do I organize my prep and what materials should I use? We will take those questions up in a forthcoming post.


  1. Pingback: How To Structure Your GMAT Prep | The GMAT Blogger

  2. Yash says

    Sir, my OG diagnostic scores are: PS -19 / DS -17 / RC – 11 / VR – 13 / SC -11. I gave my first GMAT Mock online yesterday and I have received score of 650 (Quant -51, Verba – 29).
    My target date for actual GMAT is between 15th – 20th July. As per the above post, I am planning to keep the prep phase till 10th of June where I will keep more focus on Verbal and weaker sections of Quant. Post 10th June, I will be going for an all out testing phase were I will target around 12 full length Mocks. Please suggest if any amendments are required in this study plan.


  3. HI Sir,

    Thank you for taking the efforts to write such blogs about prep, really gives a student like me a holistic view.

    I’m a CAT 2019 student along with other exams and it’s been a season of misses.

    I’m considering giving GMAT and wanted to understand how to go about the Verbal section. Are CAT and GMAT verbal performances comparable? I scored an 85%ile in Verbal in CAT 2019 and wanted to know what is the level of CAT 2019 Verbal as compared to the GMAT.

    Also I keep hearing that GMAT Quants is quite manageable for a student average in CAT quants like me. Is that actually the case?

    Thank you,


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