When Should You Start Studying for the GMAT?

Whether you’re 100% sure you want to go to business school or completely on the fence about it, the GMAT is an important test that you need to factor into your decision to get an MBA. Planning when to study for the GMAT depends on many things, including the timing of your application and your list of target schools. The good thing is that your GMAT score is valid for 5 years, so as long as you plan to apply to business school within that time period, and you’re happy with your score, you don’t need to worry about retaking the exam.

Here are 3 things you should consider in order to decide when to start studying for the GMAT:

1. Your Target GMAT Score

Before you begin studying for the GMAT, you need to have a goal score. For this part, you need to research your target schools and check the average GMAT score of students accepted into the programs of your choice. Using that information, you can then create your goal score.

We’ve talked in-depth about SMART goals before, but for those of you who need a quick refresher, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic, and Time-based. A  goal that sounds something like “I want to get a high score” is not a SMART goal!

Let’s look at an example of an excellent SMART goal:

“I want to increase my GMAT score from 600 to 650 after 8 weeks of studying 1 hour each day.”

It states a specific goal (GMAT score of 650), with measurable numbers that are realistic and time-based (8 weeks of studying 1 hour each day). It’s important to keep your goal adjustable when unexpected situations arise and your study schedule is interrupted. This means you may have to lower your score expectations or postpone the day you take your test. Keeping your goal adjustable and realistic will prevent you from burning out and giving up on your studies. Once you have a SMART goal and a detailed way to measure your progress, you’ll be able to determine what areas you need to focus on in order to achieve your goal.

2. Average Amount of Study Time Needed

Now that you know the GMAT score you need to get into the programs that you want, you’ll have to determine how long you should study in order to reach your goal. The GMAC has a helpful chart that shows the average amount of time students studied to get scores ranging from less than 400 to 700 or higher.


If your goal is to score 700 or higher, you’ll need to study for about 121 hours. That would take almost 4 months if you studied for 1 hour each day. Studying 3 to 4 months before your scheduled test date is the minimum amount of time you should study if you want to get a decent GMAT score.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a magic number and studying for 121 hours doesn’t guarantee that your score will be above 700. Take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses when you estimate the amount of time you’ll need to study for the GMAT. In any case, don’t leave studying to the last minute–even 1 month before the exam is cutting it close!

3. Extra Time for Retaking the GMAT

Nobody ever wants to retake the GMAT, but you may want to leave enough time for yourself to retake the GMAT if you’re not satisfied with your score. You will need to wait 16 days before you can take the test again, but you probably want to spend more than that amount of time focusing on improving your areas of weakness.

A quick way to improve your score is by using the Ready4 GMAT app, which features a diagnostic test to help you target your areas of weakness. You can also customize practice tests to be as long or as short as you’d like so you can study anytime, anywhere.

Regardless of how you study for the GMAT, if you keep in mind these three things, you should have enough time to be adequately prepared for the real GMAT exam. Good luck!