Perhaps you’ve never used a crowbar, but you’re probably familiar with the physics behind it. Prying open a crate with your bare hands is nearly impossible, yet if you apply the same amount of force using a crowbar, the crate pops open.
The crowbar provides leverage; it multiplies the force you exert, and the same principle is true for GMAT prep. In this case, time acts as the lever that multiplies the effect of consistent studying.
But if you plan to apply to a MBA program next fall, you need time to perfect the rest of your application, not just your GMAT score.
MBA admissions recommend applying as early as possible assuming your application is as strong as it can be. In the first round, all of the seats in that year’s class are open, and admission officers are eager to grab as many stellar applicants as they can. Applicants in the second and third round must compete for a smaller number of open seats, and especially in the third round, competition is steep.
Depending on the school, first round deadlines occur from early September to late October, which gives you at least seven months to prepare for and take the GMAT if you start now. It’s true: Seven months is an exceedingly long time to study for a test, but spreading studying over a longer time eases the burden of what is often a longer than expected process while still allowing plenty of time to perfect the rest of your application.
According to GMAC data, 44 percent of GMAT test-takers spend 51 hours studying before the test. If you studied one hour a day, it’d take you close to two months to study 51 hours. Furthermore, GMAC found that test-takers who scored 700 or above studied an average of 99 hours before taking the test, approximately three and a half months of studying if you averaged one hour a day.
Of course, study hours and test scores are not causally related, yet these numbers give a sense of the amount of effort the test requires. Also, most test-takers take the GMAT more than once, and experience a mild to moderate gain on their second attempt.
Starting to study for the GMAT early mitigates the risk of needing to take the exam more than once and not having enough time to put together the rest of your application before 1st round deadlines.
Of course, not everyone will require the average amount of time to study for the GMAT or need to take it more than once. Even for these gifted test takers, however, starting early pays off in that they have more time to focus on their application and less stress.
The best way to get started is to get a sense of your current ability on the test, and the best way to do this is to take a full-length practice test. MBA.com, the official site of the GMAT, offers two free practice tests you can download and many test prep companies offer their own practice tests.
A practice test orients the rest of your prep by giving you an idea of where you stand and what you need to work on before taking the actual GMAT. The estimated score provided by a practice test also helps you gauge how far you are from the scores typically accepted at your desired schools. Check out this post to learn what’s a good GMAT score.
Also, check out Prep4GMAT’s score predictor, an estimated GMAT score based off of the app’s analytics that gives you a real time estimate of your performance.