If you want to apply to business school, you will need ample preparation time to study for the GMAT. Studying for the GMAT is not an easy task as it involves long hours of studying.
But, how long does it take to prepare for the GMAT? The short answer is it depends on the student. We recommend an average study time of about 2 or 3 months, but this might change depending on the person
This guide gives you the key factors you need to determine when you should start studying for the GMAT. Our tips will help you choose the number of hours per week you need to dedicate before signing up for the test.
3 Key Factors to Determine How Long You Should Study for the GMAT
The GMAT is given by the Graduate Management Admission Council to determine a student's aptitude for business school. How long should you study? Here are the determinants:
1. Baseline Scores
First and foremost, you need to know where you stand. Before you ever crack open a GMAT study book, you should take a full-length GMAT test to see what your baseline is since your baseline scores are critical to determining how long you should study for the GMAT.
You should take the practice test under real GMAT conditions. You also need to set up a testing environment where you will not be distracted.
The real GMAT is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. You should buy a small timer, so you can set it for the same increments as the exam.
When taking the test, remember to minimize all distractions and not use any extra materials.
A calculator is only allowed on the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT. Calculators are not permitted for the Quantitative Reasoning section. Keep this in mind while you take your practice exams. We recommend using one of the free online GMAT practice tests since they are similar to the real exam.
Related Article: What’s the Best GMAT Prep Book?
2. Target GMAT Scores
The next step in your journey to the GMAT exam is to figure out your target score. This score should be set based on the admissions requirements of the business schools you want to attend. The difference between your baseline scores and your goal scores will determine the hours per week you need to study. You should reach out to all the MBA programs you plan to apply to and figure out the average and minimum scores for entry.
We recommend aiming higher than the minimum to ensure you get accepted. You should evaluate the difference between your baseline and target scores and determine the best way to reach it in the amount of time you have.
Feel free to check out our explanation of GMAT scoring chart if you wish to learn how to identify areas you are struggling with which will help you improve your score.
3. Strengths and Weaknesses
A critical step in determining how long you should spend studying for the GMAT is figuring out your strengths and weaknesses. Before you take the GMAT, you should understand what you struggle with and what you are good at.
If you are a math genius, you should spend less time studying for the exam's quantitative and integrated reasoning sections. If you are an exemplary student in verbal reasoning and GMAT sentence correction, you should focus your efforts on the math sections.
The best way to determine your weak areas is to time yourself and take GMAT section practice tests. Evaluate each section and analyze the results.
If you score significantly lower in one section, then you know you need more study time with this section. This will help you determine how much time to spend on each section.
How Many Hours Can You Dedicate to GMAT Study?
We currently recommend a 2, 3, or 6-month study plan. The more hours you have to dedicate to GMAT preparation, the fewer months you need to study. If you can dedicate 5 hours a day to the GMAT exam, then you might be able to commit to a 2-month study schedule.
This is a tough question for test-takers, and it should be answered honestly. How much time can you realistically delegate to GMAT prep? If you are still finishing up your undergraduate studies and work a part-time job, you may not have many hours per week available to dedicate to GMAT prep.
If you only have 2 hours per week to commit to GMAT exam prep, then you might want to lengthen your study time to 6 months. We recommend making a daily schedule to see where GMAT study time fits in.
Take a Practice GMAT Exam
Now that you have taken a baseline diagnostic test, you should continue to take the GMAT practice tests throughout your study schedule.
You should take practice exams under timed conditions to see your progress from your initial baseline test. You should schedule these practice exams at regular intervals to determine where you stand in regards to your goal.
Many of the GMAT questions are testing your ability to pace yourself, manage time spent on each question, and use critical reasoning to solve problems. The better you are at those skills, the less time you will dedicate to GMAT exam preparation
Make a GMAT Study Plan
You should make a detailed GMAT study plan before you start studying for the exam. This will help you stay on track. Study plans should include the number of weeks you need to study and a timeline for each day. You will see progress from day to day, and you may need to change your study schedule to keep up with your progress.
You should also consider your day to day personal schedule. We understand that you can’t shirk other responsibilities. Be realistic about how much time you have to prepare and create a study schedule that works for you.
If there is a significant gap between your baseline and goal score, then you may need to dedicate six months of study to prepare for the exam. You should dedicate at least 2 or 3 hours per day to reach your goal.
If there is a small gap between your baseline and goal score, then you might be able to use a shorter timeline of 2 or 3 months. Remember to give yourself time between studying sessions to ensure you don't get burnt out before test day.
Review Your Results
Another critical aspect of preparing for test day is to review your results. You are applying to business school, after all, so you should know how to analyze all of your test results. You should check them to learn from your mistakes.
This will help you practice the type of questions you seem to miss. Test-takers need to look at the mistakes they made and learn from them to bridge the gaps in their learning.
Start by reviewing all of the practice test questions you missed during your diagnostic exam. You should analyze the answer explanations thoroughly and practice those same question types until you get them right. This may help you plan and understand which sections you should be spending more time studying.
If you struggle with GMAT math prep, then maybe you should start each week by completing two sections per day of math prep. This will help you determine how much time you should prepare.
Recommended Article: How Many Times Can You Take the GMAT?
Consider Business School Application Deadlines
Before you start to prepare every day for the GMAT, you should look at the admissions deadline for the schools you plan to apply to. Your timeline may change according to those deadlines. You should take the GMAT exam at least 2 months before the application submission date. Based on the Graduate Management Admission Council, most MBA programs have rolling admissions, but we still recommend taking the GMAT early. 
It is important to remember if you are not satisfied with your GMAT score before the application deadline, then you might want to retake the GMAT test. This might not be the ideal situation, but you would rather have a competitive score than submit our application early.
How Long Should You Study for the GMAT?
We recommend following a study schedule of 2, 3, or 6 months depending on the difference between your baseline and goal score. The answer to this question will depend on many different factors for test-takers. In this guide, we have outlined the key indicators for how long you should prepare to study.
If you have a ton of time to dedicate to studying, then you should be able to work on a 2 or 3-month timeline. The 6-month timeline is best for students who need additional prep time or feel they have a large gap in their baseline and desired score to cover before test day.