There’s a questions university professors hate to hear: “How hard do I have to study for this?” You’ve probably learned to be shy about asking just how much (or how little) you need to work for that top score.
When it comes to the GMAT though, don’t be shy with this question. You’ve got a busy life! It’s wise to figure out just how much study it takes to crack the GMAT. Bear in mind, of course, that the answer depends a lot on you. Every GMAT test-taker has different study needs. What are yours? There are a few ways to figure this out:
What Schools Are You Trying to Get Into?
This is the most obvious question to ask yourself. The GMAT score requirements at b-schools can vary a good deal, of course.
Now, if you’re aiming for the top schools, you’ll obviously need higher GMAT scores. However, even in the most competitive MBA programs, score requirements still differ. To figure out exactly what scores are needed at your best dream schools, check out this table and infographic for GMAT scores at top schools.
Knowing your target score helps you know how much you might need to study. But researching competitive GMAT scores is just a starting point. In order to know how much you should study, there are still other things to figure out.
What is Your Current GMAT Ability?
If you need a higher-than-average score will you need to study more? Logically, it seems like you will. But this isn’t always a case. And on the flip side, a lower target score may not mean less study.
You see, your target score comes at the end of your journey, when you take your exam. But how much you need to study doesn’t just depend on where you’re going. It also depends on where you are right now.
Suppose you’re aiming for a 690. It’s not a bad goal. This can get you into a mid-tier school pretty easily. A high 600s score can also give you a chance at a top school, provided the rest of your application is strong.
But if 690 is where you want to go, where are you now? In other words, what GMAT score can you get right now? To find out, you need to take a GMAT practice test.
But don’t just take any test! Look for a full-length practice test that is well-designed, as similar to the real GMAT as possible. (If you’re not sure where to find a truly excellent practice test, here’s some advice on where to find full length mock GMAT exams.)
If you get 650 on a practice test, then you don’t that much further to go. Boosting your score up to 690 should be fairly easy. But if you’re currently testing in the 500s or low 600s? In that case, you’ve got a lot of study ahead of you.
Make a Study Plan
Once you find your target score and compare it to your current score in practice, you’re ready to make a study plan. This is where you figure out exactly how much you’ll need to study in order to crack the GMAT. Make a specific weekly or daily planner. Outline the GMAT prep books and websites you’ll use, the practice sets you’ll go through, the lessons you’ll read or watch on video, and so on.
A well-researched, carefully crafted study plan is the most accurate measure of how much work you need to do. Of course, that’s not a 100% perfect measure either. You may find you need to do more studying along the way. Or you may learn even faster than you’d hoped, so that you can shorten your study plan.
David Recine is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent.