How Long Should You Study for the GMAT? (Take the Quiz!)

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How long should you study for the GMAT? Whether you’re a college student or working professional, the average GMAT student can expect to spend 100-170 hours studying, over the course of 2-3 months before your test date.

The very top scorers on the GMAT often spend more than 170 hours, with study plans lasting up to 6 months.

You may be wondering when should you take the GMAT and how much of a difference the preparation time makes on your score. According to GMAC (the test-maker), 62% of test-takers begin studying at least four weeks ahead of their test date—and there’s a direct correlation between the time you put in and your score. On average, those who received scores of 500+ studied at least 60 hours.

To find out exactly how long you’ll need to get the score you want, take the quiz! Then, come back to the post and we’ll talk about some factors which may come into play when considering when to take the GMAT.



Table of Contents

How Long Does It Take to Study for the GMAT? Narrowing It Down

It’s really easy to answer “How long do I need to prepare for GMAT?” and “How do I study for the GMAT?” by saying it depends. But, we know that’s not helpful for test takers creating GMAT study plans! Instead, let’s consider some of the factors that affect how much GMAT preparation time you need.


How much do you enjoy tests?

The first consideration to answer how long you should study for the GMAT is simply: how good are you at the whole standardized-test thing in general?

Some people regularly ace standardized tests. Others regularly flub them.

This is an estimation—at a gut-level, how comfortable are you, and how successful have you been, with the whole standardized-test thing?

Consider as well how well you do on longer tests; the GMAT takes almost four hours.

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How much of a point increase do you want?

Let’s say you have taken a practice test, relatively cold, with little prep, and got some score. We’ll call this a baseline score.

What is your target score? How much do you want to improve from this cold-take baseline?

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Let’s say, with moderate prep, you could improve 50 points over a relatively cold-take. That’s readily do-able.

Improving 100 points—that’s more of a challenge.

Improving 150 or 200 points or more—that will take exceptionally diligent work, including more practice tests and practice questions. You’ll need to sustain this GMAT study plan over quite some time, and even then, an improvement of this magnitude is not guaranteed.

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How competitive are the programs you’re applying to?

If you’re not sure how much of a point increase you need, do some research into the way the schools you’re applying to use GMAT scores.

For some business schools, GMAT scores are super important. Others may not even require the test (though chances are, at least one program you’re looking at will).

Looking at admitted students’ average GMAT scores and going in-depth on admissions websites can help you answer this question.

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How long do you have for GMAT prep?

A 3 month study plan, with 1-2 hours of GMAT study time per weekday and a single 3-4 hour study session on each weekend (about 10 hours per week) is probably enough to produce 50-100 point score increase for most people from a relatively cold-take score.

Again, this assumes eight hours of sleep a night, a healthy lifestyle, and a normal college-graduate level of learning and remembering.

If you want to improve substantially more than 50-100 points, extend your GMAT study time for longer time than three months.

In general, the more you can spread your study out over a long period—say, six months—the more time you will have to return a second and even a third time to each topic. This will take advantage of how the brain learns and processes. Repeated exposure helps to encode material into long-term memory.

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How much time do you have?

Let’s face it: what we want to do and what we can do are often two different things.

Figuring out how many days you should study, and when to take the GMAT, depends in part on how many hours per day you can study.

Let’s say that 1 hour a day for six months would be very approximately equivalent to six hours of studying a day for one month. The caveat, of course, is most people have real limits concerning how much they can focus.

Many also have limitations on how much info they can absorb and assimilate in a single day. Can you put in six hours a day of quality, high-focus study time, day after day, for a month? If so, that’s fantastic.

However, for most people—not only because of the practical constraints of job and family but also because of the cognitive constraints on focus and assimilation—the best way to study for the GMAT would be to spend less-time-per-day over a longer number of days.

Regardless of how much time you have available to study, you’ll want to build your mental stamina throughout—here are a few mental focus tips from our test prep experts that can help.

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How strong are your skills already?

Consider the two big categories—math and verbal. On a 1-10 scale, how would you rank your relative aptitudes in each? This may play into extra time over and above the time you spend studying specifically for the GMAT.

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What are your weak areas? And how weak are they?

If you would rate either of the above categories three or below, that’s an indication you need extra GMAT study time and thus an extra head start.

If you are a math whiz but weak in verbal, and most especially if English is not your first language, then yes, pursue a moderate study schedule, say, a three-month study schedule for folks stronger in math, and in addition to that, READ!

Read at least an hour a day—two hours a day would be better. Reading the high-brow material recommended at that blog will accustom your ear to advanced grammatical constructions typical of GMAT Sentence Correction, and will help you practice the analysis skills you will need on both GMAT Critical Reasoning and GMAT Reading Comprehension.

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Ideally, you will begin this daily reading habit well before the rest of your GMAT studying—a year or more.

Where will you get the time to do all this reading? Well, if you sharply reduce the time spent on social media, TV, video games, and other forms of electronic entertainment, you actually will be doing your brain a favor.

If you are relatively comfortable in verbal, and you haven’t even looked at math since an unfriendly farewell a few years back, then you need to study math, starting pretty much as soon as you finish reading this post.

You don’t get a calculator on the GMAT Quant section, so practice mental math—every day, you should add & subtract & multiply & divide in your head.

Get remedial books published for high school students, “Algebra Review”, “Geometry Review”, and start reading.

Look for every possible application of math in your life. Think areas of rooms, grocery bills, gas mileage, and the like. Do real-world math.

Ideally, all this focus on math should begin months before you embark on, say, a three-month study schedule for folks stronger in verbal.

In both cases, this extra focus you give one area or the other should be considered over and above how long you study for the GMAT. These are the extra number of hours you need to study for the GMAT.

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So how long should you study for the GMAT?

As you can see, studying for the GMAT is a highly personalized process affected by a number of factors.

If you’re still not sure, go back to your quiz results and take a look at the study schedules in more detail.

The study schedules will give you more information about what a GMAT test practice looks like, so you can figure out how to best study for the GMAT and what’s required to really ace the exam on test day.

Ready to get an awesome GMAT score? Start here.

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27 Responses to How Long Should You Study for the GMAT? (Take the Quiz!)

  1. karan June 27, 2019 at 2:36 am #

    Hi i am freshly graduate and i have like 2 months preparation time .I not working and my job joining is after 2 months so how much should i study every days to achieve my 700+ target .I am average at quants and below average at verbal .Please suggest thanks.

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm #

      If I understand correctly, you have two full months of time where you don’t have work or school and can just study. Congratulations! That’s a great place to be!

      It sounds like Magoosh’s GMAT Verbal-focused study plan could help. This plan requires a maximum of about 25 hours a week, if you’re going to complete the plan in 3 months. However, you can also complete the plan in 2 months if you go through the activities at a faster pace, and study for a maximum of 38 hours a week.

      This plan requires a subscription to Magoosh GMAT. But if you don’t have that, you can still use our 3 month Verbal plan as the basis for a custom plan you make on your own, substituting other prep materials for the Magoosh GMAT ones. Also bear in mind that this is just one recommended plan, out of several different GMAT study plans on the Magoosh website. So feel free to check out and consider all of our study plans. You can even combine elements of one plan and another! 🙂

    • Martin August 7, 2019 at 9:35 pm #

      I studied on and off for the last 9 months for the gmat, using some of the known online courses out there, and i scores 410 on my actual exam today. On my CATS, I scored between 560 to 610. I know that my study strategy wasnt effective, as I didn’t revisit topics I once learned. Also, I took a cat a day before the actual test. I think that burned me out too. I know I can swing the exam but wonder whether I can score 600+ if I sign up for the 3 month premier program. Any thoughts?

  2. Sofia May 30, 2019 at 7:59 pm #

    Hey guys,

    Have been following the math -focused study plan for a few weeks, but with a full time job am having a really hard time finding the 3ish hours necessary on weekdays to keep up with each day’s work. What are your thoughts on extending the 3 month plan to 4 months? Some other gmat tutors say NO anything more than 3 months will make you forget things that you learned on week 1?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 3, 2019 at 7:59 pm #

      Hi Sofia!

      Studying for an exam and working full-time can be extremely difficult. With that said, there’s absolutely no issue with extending the 3 month plan to 4 months as long as you make an effort to review and learn from your mistakes on practice problems. 🙂

      Here are some other tips on how you can make the most out of studying with a full-time job.

      • Set aside 1 – 1.5 hours a day to do GMAT work. Set a timer if you need to, but dedicate yourself to focusing for that time. You’d be amazed how much you can get done, and then you have the rest of the day to do everything else!
      • Slow and steady wins the race! You don’t need to dominate the GMAT tomorrow, so just be diligent about putting in short amounts of time. Regular, short study periods will keep your brain “thinking like the GMAT,” and won’t feel as taxing on your time as super long study sessions.
      • If you don’t do a full study session one day that your schedule says you should, then instead do at least one small thing. You might review Magoosh idiom or math flashcards on the bus, do a few practice math problems while you eat breakfast, or read a difficult magazine article with a timer, for example. Doing at least one thing every day creates a positive snowball. If you start thinking of yourself as the type of person who practices vocab daily, you’re much more likely to feel the motivation to do other things to raise your score.
      • Hope this helps!

  3. Yasaman December 5, 2018 at 8:43 am #

    I have been studying for a GMAT for a while. First last year for 7 weeks and I got (Q46, V21)
    Now again I decided to study and I have 2 months.
    My math is not bad and I think I can improve from 46. but I don’t know why I can’t improve the verbal, no matter what I do.
    I got 118 in TOEFL, which is a great score and I thought I will do well in Verbal but I don’t. I really don’t know what to do anymore with the verbal. I finished your course egmat and empowergmat….
    I work full-time and I have a toddler which makes everything hard, still I try and don’t understand what is happening here. and I really don’t know what should be my next step or what can I do differently.
    Please give me some advice…. and how long do you think I should study or break my study for verbal and quant

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 5, 2018 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Yasaman,

      Figuring out your best GMAT Prep plan when you have other adult responsibilities can be a real challenge. And GMAT Verbal can certainly be tricky if yo’re a non-native English speaker. As you’re learning, what works on English proficiency exams like the TOEFL and IELTS may not work quite so well on GMAT Verbal.

      I see that you’ve got premium subscription to Magoosh GMAT. So I’m going to assign one of our email tutors to you– email tutoring, as you may already know, is available at no additional charge to premium Magoosh students. 🙂

  4. GIRIDHAR June 20, 2018 at 12:58 am #

    HI Mike,

    I am starting to prepare for my GMAT preparation. I am rusty in both Quants and Verbal. My verbal is poor I think. I need to improve my verbal score drastically. Kindly let me know the time frame for preparation for scoring above 720. I will sctrictly stick with the schedule for the preparation. But provide a detailed plan to study for the exam. I am a Indian male working in IT industry(IBM) for the last 5 years.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 27, 2018 at 12:28 pm #

      Hi Giridhar,

      As Mike mentioned, your GMAT timeline depends on many different factors– how many hours per day or week you hae for study, your exact baseline score, you exact stregnths and weaknesses, etc…. Without an in-depth look at htose things, it’s hard to say precisely what your timneline would be. However, if you carefully follow the adviceint hsi article, you should be able to come up with your own timeline.

      You may also want to examine Magoosh’s GMAT study plans and see if one of them fits you, or could meet your needs with a few modifications. Our study schedules require Magoosh GMAT Premium. With a premium subscription, you can also get email support form our experts, who can help you craft the perfect study schedule to help you boost those Quant and Verbal skills.

      • Aniriddha Wakchaure May 6, 2019 at 8:19 am #

        Hi Magoosh,
        I have been an entrepreneur and have shut down the operations of my firm.

        Almost the whole day is available to me for studying. I am generally good with aptitude tests.

        Revision is usually not particularly favorable to me. Kindly advise me on a study plan for taking the GMAT. Target would be 750-770 { Q50, V42 or Q 49,V44)

        Warm regards

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 9, 2019 at 3:10 pm #

          Hi Aniriddha,

          It’s great that you have all day to study. Based on that alone, I would recommend one of our more involved study plans, such as the 6 month study plan, or the three month advanced plan. In either case, you could probably study for more hours per day than the plans strictly require, and complete the plan in a faster amount of time.

          Of course, numerous other factors, such as your current ability level in different GMAT sections, days per week you can study days until application deadlines, etc, can also be a consideration. So I definitely recommend looking over all of the study plans we offer— and bearing in mind that the plans are flexible an can be modified a bit as needed. 🙂

  5. Farzaneh September 18, 2017 at 5:46 am #

    Hi there!
    I took the GRE last week after studying for 3 months and the results were horrible! V 141, Q 150. Now I’m considering taking GMAT (applying for PhD. Marketing), I have 6-8 weeks from now and I can study for 40 hours weekly. So you think is that even possible to get above 650 in this limited time?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 21, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi Farzaneh,

      First of all, I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t reach your target score on the GRE! I know it’s frustrating to study and not reach your target score! Before you make any decisions, make sure to consult your target schools and make sure that they accept either the GMAT or the GRE 🙂 You should also be aware that there are important differences between the GRE and GMAT–you can read about them here. The GMAT math section covers basically the same material as that of the GRE, but tends to be more difficult. The GMAT verbal sections has some important differences: while the reading comprehension and critical reasoning/paragraph argument questions are the same (though you will see more critical reasoning questions on the GMAT than the GRE), the GMAT verbal section has sentence correction, which requires strong grammatical skills. 6-8 weeks is a good amount of time to study, but you should be aware that you will have to ‘start from scratch’ on some aspects of the GMAT, and that it may be harder to improve on the math section.
      Right now, your GRE scores amount to approximately a 480 on the GMAT. It will take a lot of hard work to increase from a 480 to a 650–while it is possible to increase by almost 200 points in 6-8 weeks, we don’t see increases of that magnitude very often.
      Your decision should really be based on your personal strengths and weaknesses as well as your plans and target scores. I think that the GRE to GMAT infographic should help! Best of luck as you make your decision 🙂

  6. Sunny DiPeolu June 14, 2017 at 5:36 am #

    Pls what best book can u recommend ? Apparently the one I bought for my sister from Amazon and sent to her in Nigeria did not do the job. Her unofficial scores
    Verbal = 10 /3% . Quantities =8/1%. Total 220/1% . Analytical = 3.0/6%. Integrated Reasoning =1/0%

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 15, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

      I’m sorry the book you sent your sister didn’t work out! 🙁 Fortunately, there are many other GMAT books and resources out there to choose from. I recommend that you and your sister carefully look through Magoosh’s list of the best GMAT books and resources.

  7. Hagini September 29, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    Hi Mike,

    I’m planning to subscribe to the Magoosh Premium and follow the 6 month study plan. However, I’d like to know where I stand right now. What diagnostic or practice test would you suggest I take to assess myself before the preparation?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 30, 2016 at 4:36 am #

      Hi Hagini,

      If you’re looking for a short diagnostic, we have one available! Otherwise, official materials offer the most reliable and best diagnostics, so I would pick up a GMAT Official Guide. 🙂

  8. Deepak June 20, 2016 at 4:05 am #


    I have not written competitive exams in a long time. The last was CAT in 2005. For some reason, I had to shelve my MBA aspirations and been working in the IT Industry for 11 years. But, now the circumstances are a little more favorable. So, I took a Mock Manhattan CAT with no preparation and scored 600 (Q45 V28). Honestly, I was not feeling comfortable even while doing the Quant (my stronger suite always).But the final score has given me some confidence. I am planning to take up the test somewhere around end of August. I am also planning to get the Magoosh’s premium course. Considering, I have just over 2 months to prepare, what would be the best strategy? I am thinking that I might have to crunch the 12 week beginners study schedule into 10. Or should I go for the Advanced study schedule?



    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

      Great questions, Deepak. Where time is concerned, both our 12 week Advanced Study Schedule and out 12 week beginner study schedule take the same amount of time. Either way, you’re looking at a range of between 14 and 20 hours of study time per week, if you do it in 12 weeks. This comes out to between 21 and 30 hours of study a week if you crunch the schedule into a 2 month (8 week) period. If you have a lot of spare time during the week, and few other responsibilities besides GMAT prep, this could work.

      As for which 12 week schedule you should choose, I actually recommend a different one other than beginner or advanced. Given the gap between your Quant and Verbal performance, you should consider Magoosh’s 12-week Verbal focused GMAT study schedule. (And of course, it’s also possible to combine the features of different 12-week study schedules.)

  9. Parni June 6, 2016 at 8:28 am #


    In the first two practice test that I gave (without prep) I scored 560- 580 (V- 22 Q- 45)
    This means I should be just focusing on VA rather than doing Quant ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 6, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

      Wow, that’s quite a split. Assuming you’re at the target score you need for Quant (based on the score requirements of your school), you should definitely shift most of your focus to Verbal. But I still recommend doing at least some light Quant practice here and there. It’s good to stay in practice so that every aspect of the exam is fresh in your mind and no GMAT skill is forgotten on test day.

  10. Sourav Kings February 28, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Ola Mike… first of all accept my condolences on short but great article.
    Many newbie aspirants, like me, around the world, takes the mind game of ‘number of hours preparation’ way to seriously without actually understanding WHY and HOW it really matters. Your blog puts right foot forward on demystifying exactly the same concern.

    “…Repeated exposure helps to encode material into long-term memory…”

    This point ,at least for most of us, is one of the foremost crucial factor as it internally determines how well one is prepared on the D-day. Better the level of optimal concentration on this ‘repeated exposure’ on any topic is, lesser the number of hours required to invest on the same.

    Cheers !

  11. Akshat February 11, 2016 at 12:08 am #

    Very helpful. Thanks for sharing…

  12. Patrick Chan October 27, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    B-school has been a faint interest I’ve played with the idea for the course of the last few months. Decided to google a bit of studying habits today and I’m happy I came across this blog. I don’t typically leave messages like this, but wanted to say thanks for putting this together – it’s not very common that you run into a response similar to your’s when reading things online :). Quite refreshing.

    Just thought I would drop a note. It’s something I’ll think of pursuing more seriously over the next few months and the GMAT will be the first of a few hurdles, I’m sure.


    • Dani Lichliter
      Dani Lichliter October 29, 2015 at 11:36 am #

      Hi Patrick,
      Thanks for your kind note and for reading our blog. If you decide to take the GMAT, we hope you’ll come on back to Magoosh! 🙂
      All the best,

  13. Kenni March 30, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    There is no two about the length of time required to prepare for the GMAT. To get a high score of 700 points and above, the intending test taker will have to go extra mile and do extra work. It takes only diligent students to hit the 700 points. A lot of personal sacrifice will also have to go into the whole preparation and study.

    The prospective test taker should also consider if he or she will require some tutoring from an expert. In conclusion, I will advise the test to spend quality time in preparation for the GMAT! No pain, no gain!

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike March 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

      Quite true. I guess the only thing I would say about “no pain, no gain” is that — just because it will be hard work doesn’t necessarily mean it would be unenjoyable. The skills needed for the GMAT are ultimately the skills needed in the business world, and I would hope every GMAT taker has some relish for the world she or he is entering.
      Mike 🙂

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