Resources › For Students and Parents How to Develop a Smart GMAT Study Plan Share Flipboard Email Print PeopleImages / Getty Images For Students and Parents Business School Business School Admissions Business Specializations Business Degree Options Choosing A Business School MBA Programs & Rankings Business Careers and Internships Student Resources Homework Help Private School Test Prep College Admissions College Life Graduate School Law School Distance Learning View More By Karen Schweitzer Business Education Expert Karen Schweitzer is a business school admissions consultant, curriculum developer, and education writer. She has been advising MBA applicants since 2005. our editorial process Karen Schweitzer Updated July 03, 2019 The GMAT is a challenging test. If you want to do well, you're going to need a study plan that will help you prepare in an efficient and effective manner. A structured study plan breaks the huge task of preparation into manageable tasks and achievable goals. Let's explore some of the steps you can take to develop a smart GMAT study plan based on your individual needs. Get Familiar With Test Structure Knowing the answers to the questions on the GMAT is important, but knowing how to read and answer GMAT questions is even more important. The first step in your study plan is to study the GMAT itself. Learn how the test is structured, how questions are formatted, and how the test is scored. This will make it easier for you to understand the "method behind the madness" so to speak. Take a Practice Test Knowing where you're at will help you decide where you need to go. So the next thing you should do is take a GMAT practice test to assess your verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills. Since the real GMAT is a timed test, you should also time yourself when you take the practice test. Try not to be discouraged if you get a bad score on the practice test. Most people don’t do very well on this test the first time around — that's why everyone takes so long to prepare for it! Determine How Long You Plan to Study Giving yourself enough time to prepare for the GMAT is really important. If you rush through the test prep process, it will hurt your score. The people who score the highest on the GMAT tend to spend a large amount of time preparing for the test (120 hours or more according to most surveys). However, the amount of time that should be devoted to preparing for the GMAT comes down to individuals needs. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself: What is my target GMAT score? Most business schools publish class profiles that contain an average GMAT score or score range for students who have been accepted to the program. Look up the average score for students at the business school you're applying to. This score should be your target GMAT score. If you have a high target GMAT score, you're going to need to study more than the average test taker.How well did I score on the practice GMAT? Take the score you got on the practice GMAT and compare it to your target score. The larger the gap, the longer you are going to need to study to close it.When do I need to take the GMAT? Determine how long you have before you need to take the test. You don’t want to wait too long into the application process to take the GMAT. It is important to give yourself enough time to retake it just in case. So think about the application deadlines for the schools you are applying to and plan accordingly. Use your answers to the above questions to determine how long you need to study for the GMAT. At a minimum, you should plan at least one month to prepare for the GMAT. Planning to spend two to three months would be even better. If you will only be devoting an hour or less each day to prep and need a top score, you should plan on studying for four to five months. Get Support A lot of people choose to take a GMAT prep course as a way of studying for the GMAT. Prep courses can be really helpful. They are typically taught by individuals who are familiar with the test and full of tips on how to score high. GMAT prep courses are also very structured. They will teach you how to study for the test so that you can use your time efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, GMAT prep courses can be expensive. They might also require a significant time commitment (100 hours or more). If you can't afford a GMAT prep course, you should seek out free GMAT prep books from your local library. Practice, Practice, Practice The GMAT is not the kind of test that you cram for. You should stretch your prep out and work on it a little bit each day. This means doing practice drills on a consistent basis. Use your study plan to determine how many drills to do each day. For example, if you plan to study for 120 hours over four months, you should do one hour of practice questions every single day. If you plan to study for 120 hours over two months, you'll need to do two hours worth of practice questions each day. And remember, the test is timed, so you should time yourself when doing drills so that you can train yourself to answer every question in just a minute or two.