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How Long People Study for the GMAT Exam

After attending the 2016 GMAT Test Prep Summit at the GMAC headquarters in Reston, VA, I’d like to share some new research with you that provides additional depth and up-to-date statistics for my article from a few years ago titled “How Long Should I Study for the GMAT.”

There are a number of factors that should influence your decision about when to start studying for the GMAT, but as I explain in this video, there’s really no time like the present to get the process under way:

That said, I think the question most students really want to know is how long before actually taking the GMAT they should start preparing, and once they do start studying, how many hours they should expect to put in. Those are exactly the questions the GMAC asked a survey group of 3,951 GMAT test takers last year, and here are their answers (below). Hopefully these results from the 2016 GMAC Prospective Student Survey will help you plan accordingly for your own GMAT preparation.

When examinees begin to prepare for the GMAT exam

As seen in this first chart, 62% of GMAT test takers start preparing for the GMAT at least 4-6 weeks ahead of their exam date with 15% allotting two and a half months or more.

Source: GMAC (2016) mba.com Prospective Student Survey

To give you an idea, the suggested timeframe for completing our comprehensive online GMAT Prep Course is eight weeks, which falls right in that zone. It’s ideal for students preparing for the GMAT from scratch and hoping to master all content areas and question types tested on the GMAT (AWA, IR, Verbal, and Quant). Likewise, our popular Full GMAT Math Course is designed around a 5-week syllabus, also within the timeframe most students set aside to prepare for the GMAT, and is perfect for people who just need to beef up their quantitative skills before test day.

Median study hours, by prep start time

As one would expect, the earlier a student begins studying for the GMAT, the more hours he/she will accumulate in terms of total prep hours. As you can see in this second chart, if you start preparing for the GMAT at least seven weeks before your test date, you can expect to put in 100 total hours or more of study time.

GMAC prospective student survey results

Source: GMAC (2016) mba.com Prospective Student Survey

Median study hours, by self-reported GMAT score

While it’s no surprise that more hours of prep time will be accumulated the earlier you start studying for the GMAT, the important question is whether or not those extra hours translate into a higher GMAT score. As this final chart shows, the answer to that question appears to be “yes.”

how many hours students study for the gmat by final gmat score

Source: GMAC (2016) mba.com Prospective Student Survey

Interestingly, students scoring a 750 or higher on the GMAT actually study less, on average, than students who score between 700 and 740. That seems to indicate that at the highest levels of GMAT success, innate intelligence and test-taking ability may allow for less preparation time. But certainly for anyone looking to score in the upper 600’s or low 700’s on the GMAT, it appears that the more hours you put in studying, the more likely you are to achieve your target GMAT score.

Additional Findings

The GMAT has become an increasingly competitive exam as more and more students from outside North America and Europe take the GMAT exam each year. In fact, GMAT exams taken in India and China have grown the most worldwide over the past three years, with the Asia-Pacific region as a whole experiencing 28.9% growth in terms of exams taken since 2013.

The result is that it’s more important than ever for students to try to separate themselves from their peers, and a high GMAT score can help them do that. Perhaps that is why so many students are turning to professional help when preparing for the GMAT. According to the GMAC 2016 Prospective Student Survey, 59% of examinees used some form of GMAT coaching, whether through in-person or online courses (19%), on-demand web-based study platforms (17%), GMAT videos (17%), or private GMAT tutoring (6%) — all of which we offer here at Dominate the GMAT. Moreover, 59% of respondents reported having spent between $1 – $599 on their GMAT preparation, price points right in the range of our different online GMAT prep courses and video lessons.

As you dive in to your GMAT preparation either now or at some point in the near future, we hope you’ll choose to parter with us. For now, recognize that there’s no short-changing the process. If you’re willing to put in the time, there’s no reason you can’t dominate the GMAT!