The Four Types of GMAT Study Plan
There is more than one valid way to approach the GMAT. And, as you are probably keenly aware, you can benefit by making your own individually tailored plan – more on that in a second. Nevertheless, there are patterns in how people tend to approach the test. Here we’ll cover the four main options.
Which type of study plan is “best”? Certainly, more practice translates into better results on the test, on average. But you have a number of variables to manage in your MBA application season and limited resources, so you’ll have to make some decisions.
The Cram Weekend
The Cram Weekend is not a great idea, but there are circumstances in which it makes sense. For example, if by the time you decide to apply to business school, Round 2 deadlines are in a month, and you are an excellent test-taker, it’s worth cramming for a weekend and then giving the GMAT a shot. (Note: taking the GMAT cold is never sensible. You should set aside at least two days to prepare.) In a cram weekend, you are putting in two or three days of practice for as many hours as possible – somewhere between three and seven quality hours per day. The key will be to familiarize yourself with the exam, know what will be tested, brush up on rusty concepts, and get as skilled as possible on the unique parts of the exam, such as Data Sufficiency.
The Final Exam Week
This plan is similar to the Cram Weekend, but much more advisable. Most college students have a week or two to study before their final exams for a class. During this time, they have few other commitments and they spend most of their time in the library, reviewing everything that will be on the exam. They study deeply on topics they find difficult but also have to rotate topics from day to day. This GMAT plan is somewhat similar. In this plan, you will take one to three weeks to study. You put in as much time as possible on a daily basis without burning out. You attempt to clear your schedule, taking a couple of days or weeks of vacation, if necessary. And you try to build in exercise and relaxation so you can practice for 3-6 hours per day.
The Fitness Program
This GMAT plan is similar to a medium- to long-term physical fitness program. It works best over a period of 2-4 months. This is the simplest of all the plans. You will focus on putting in an hour of quality practice each day, similar to a “daily workout.” If you have more time and energy on some days, you might practice for longer, but you must take a day off a week to avoid burning out. By the end of the program, you will have built up your “fitness” for the GMAT and you will be ready for the exam. Much like a physical fitness program, the “Fitness Program” GMAT Study Plan helps you practice gradually for a long-term payoff.
Some people begin their GMAT preparation ready to do whatever it takes to earn a top score. They want to practice to the limit of their endurance for as many weeks or months as they can accommodate in their schedule. If you’re one of these people, you’ll want to build up a particularly large body of practice resources and you’ll need a way to organize all of your resources so that you can use them all effectively.
Step 1 is to have a plan. Adopting one of these plans will greatly ease your process of preparing for the GMAT. In essence, having a good plan will free up your mental energies from making decisions about what, when, and how to practice to practice. Instead, you can focus your energy on practicing questions and preparing for the exam.
You can, of course, alter or combine these plans to fit your own schedule and study style. For example, you might decide to embark on the GMAT “Fitness Program” several months before your test date and then ramp up into the “Final Exam Week” program a couple of weeks before your test date. The most important thing is to have a plan that is relatively simple and fits with your schedule.
On the next pages, we’ll talk a little more about each of these plans. Then I’ll show you a way to outline your own study plan.