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How to Study for the GMAT in 2 Weeks

Let me begin with a disclaimer: Try not to do do this! Seriously. Prepping for the GMAT in two weeks is, to put it mildly, a less than ideal approach. You won’t have time to cover every topic comprehensively, nor will you be able to master as many new concepts and test-taking strategies as you would in a month or longer.

That said, sometimes circumstances require a bit of cramming. Maybe you are planning to take the test multiple times. Maybe you need to make a deadline. Whatever the reason, if you only have two weeks to get ready, then you are going to need to be as efficient as possible.

Here is a breakdown of how to organize your time:

Day 1 – Diagnosis: Take a practice test. This will likely be your one and only assessment. If you score evenly on both sections, then you will need a more comprehensive study plan. If you ace verbal but bomb the quant, then you know to focus your attention there.

Days 2 to 4 – Prime the Pump: After you take an official practice test,  spend the next few days going through as many practice problems as possible. If you have an Official Guide, make certain you read the explanations for all of the questions you answer incorrectly. Try to focus on the specific question types that are reducing your score the most.

Be sure to pace yourself too; most people hit diminishing returns in their studies after two hours of continuous work. Keep it under four hours each night and be sure to take breaks and review material constantly.

Days 5 to 6 – Make Your Notes: By now you should have a good idea where you need to focus. The goal here is to make a couple of pages of short, simple notes and reminders about the question types that hurt you the most. If Sentence Correction is your weak point, make a few reminder pages about grammar rules and idioms. If Data Sufficiency is killing you, jot down a few strategies and critical math concepts. This exercise is also worthwhile because it will help you remember your mistakes.

Days 6 to 11 – Targeted Practice: The scope of your practice during this time will depend on your diagnostic test. You may choose to focus only on Critical Reasoning questions during this time, or you may focus on a mixture of verbal and quant question types. Whatever you set as your range, you want to focus on questions related to your notes. Complete a few dozen questions in one sitting and try to relate all of the questions you get wrong to information in your notes.

Days 12 to 13 – Comprehensive Practice: Now is the time to think about test-taking strategies and pacing. You need to know beforehand how you will deal with confusing quant questions that will eat up your time on test day. If you have the energy, you may want to take a complete practice test, minus the essay section.

Day 14 – Zero Hour: The night / day before the test is the time to review your notes. Do NOT stay up late doing practice problems. You still want to get a good night sleep and have a peaceful morning the day of the test to get your mind ready.


How to Study for the GMAT in a Month

Prepping for the GMAT in one month is possible, but it will be hectic. While there is a lot you can do in 30 days, you will likely feel rushed if you try to fit all the work necessary to significantly improve your score. At the very least, you’ll have a very full schedule leading up to test day. (If you are trying to prep for the GMAT in one month and you find that you have a lot of time to kill, you might be doing something wrong!)

If you can, we recommend setting aside at least 3 months for GMAT preparation. But if you only have a month (hey, it happens), here’s a straightforward way to organize your studies and make the most of your time:

Week 1: Diagnosis and Practice

Take a practice test and carefully go over your wrong answers. Look for patterns. You want to see if there is one particular section or problem type that is hurting you more than all others. Do additional practice problems if the practice test yields inconclusive information. Read explanations for wrong answers and map out three to five consistent weaknesses. You will focus on these in the next week.

Week 2: Focused Study

Now is the time to deal with your weaknesses. Depending on how many you identified, you will want to spend 1 – 2 days focusing on each. If strengthening arguments questions are your Kryptonite, put a night or two of studying into that. If data sufficiency algebra is killing you, spend an afternoon reading strategies and explanations related to it. You should spend this week doing a combination of practice problems and content coursework about math and English. Take super-concise notes that you can review later.

The goal during this period is work only on things that have a high probability of improving your score.

Week 3: Comprehensive Practice and Strategy

After working on all of your weak spots, you should shift to a broader, whole-test focus. Try to complete entire verbal and quant sections. Time yourself (75 minutes for each section) and evaluate how well you are able to manage your time. Identify which sections are slowing you down, and come up with strategies for maintaining a good pace. Now is also a good time to practice question type-specific strategies, as these too can help you save precious minutes.

Week 4: Review and Retest

This last week should combine whole-test and targeted practice. Spend a lot of time with your notes to review what you worked on during week 2. Also be sure to take one more complete practice test to see if you have made progress or are still getting tripped up in the same areas. If you are not seeing a lot of improvement, DO NOT PANIC. Go back to your notes, read through answer explanations, and determine whether you are making all new mistakes or the same ones from week 1. If the latter is the case, spend a day reviewing your notes and weak spots.

Final Days

A few days before the test is a good time to review timing strategies and some basic content. The day before, be sure to get a lot of rest and avoid practice problems. Reduce test-day stress by getting all the logistics in place the night before the test. Look up directions to the test center and have everything you need packed and ready to go.

Good luck! And remember, if you have more time, be sure to check out our more comprehensive 3-month study plan.

How to Study for the GMAT in 3 Months

Students often ask how much time they should spend studying for the GMAT. The short answer: there is no one size fits all solution. That said, at Knewton we generally recommend a prep period of around three months. It’s enough time to build a solid foundation in every key area of GMAT study, but not so long that you burn out by the time exam day rolls around.

If a 3-month study schedule is something you’re considering, here are some guidelines and tips for spending your time:

Week 1: Take a diagnostic practice test to see where you stand overall.  Learn the basic parameters of each section including scoring and question types.

Weeks 2 – 4: Do as many practice problems as possible for each section and read explanations for any wrong answers. The goal is not just to see whether you are better at Verbal or Quant, but specifically which sections (Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction) and which question types (strengthening arguments, usage of idioms) are the most difficult for you.

Weeks 4 – 8: Now that you have a lot of practice questions under your belt, you want to focus on the bigger ideas behind them. If Sentence Correction is killing you, work through a good guide to essential GMAT grammar rules. If Data Sufficiency algebra is your weak spot, then crack open a math textbook and brush up on your fundamentals. During this middle phase you should keep doing practice problems for every section — not just the ones you struggle with! — but the real goal should be mastering the content.

Weeks 9 – 12: For the last month, focus on strategy. We recommend doing this last because strategies are what you will want to have in your head if you ever get stuck on the content of a question. Try plugging in numbers on the Problem Solving section. Work on sketching quick outlines for passages in RC. Practice negating assumptions in CR. These methods don’t involve mastery of any GMAT material, but they can save you serious time once you have them down.

In addition to strategy work, review any math or grammar content that still feels foggy during this period, and be sure to take one more practice test before the last week.

Final Week: The final week before the GMAT is best spent working on your timing strategies. Complete entire sections of the GMAT and time yourself so that you have a sense of how long you should spend on each question type. Don’t try to learn complex new math concepts or test-taking strategies during this period; instead, prepare yourself mentally and emotionally by getting more sleep and maintaining healthy eating habits. Shorten your study sessions and reduce your stress, but make time to review the essentials.

As you study, be sure to remember:

  • Consistency and routine are your friends. Try to study at the same time each day, and be sure to pace yourself. Studying every other night for between 45 minutes and two hours will allow for much more long-term retention of content than weekly cram-fests and all-nighters.
  • Try to cover each section every time you study. We definitely do not recommend spending a month solely on verbal and then a month on math. Follow up Critical Reasoning lessons with Data Sufficiency questions to keep everything fresh in your mind.
  • Focus on your weaknesses. While you certainly shouldn’t neglect math for verbal or vice versa, you may focus more on one section if you find that you lose considerably more points in that area.
  • Work repetition into your schedule. This will ensure whatever you learn at the start of the three months is still in your head at the end.
  • Don’t overemphasize practice tests. Full-length practice tests are an important part of any GMAT prep regimen, but it’s important not to overdo. One full test every other week is more than enough. Three tests over the course of three months is also a sensible structure. Don’t panic if you get a bad score on a practice test, nor celebrate too much if you get a good score on one. Whatever scores you find yourself getting, focus more on the questions you miss than on the actual score. The point of taking practice tests is to improve, not to predict the future.

Three months is enough time to complete a test prep course should you invest in one. If you’re self-studying, you can take a cue from the structure of an official class: Take your studies one “lesson” at a time, and spread your work out over several weeks. Pacing and structure are key.

Remember that even though you take the GMAT in one day, the score you get will largely be determined by decisions you made months prior regarding study plan and method.

Good luck!