Developing a GMAT Study Plan

by on February 9th, 2010

Study RoutineJust starting out? Or maybe you’ve been studying for weeks already? Perhaps you’ve already taken the official test once but want another crack at it? Whatever stage you’re at, you need a plan, so that’s what we’re going to talk about this week: how to develop your own personalized study plan. Get a notebook, open up a file on your computer, or start a blog. Record everything.

First, you need to know your current score and the score level that will make you competitive at the schools to which you plan to apply. This gives you an idea of how much improvement you will need and may affect your prep plans, including the length of time you plan to spend and whether you work on your own. (Generally speaking, the larger the desired improvement, the more likely it is that the student will need more time and / or more outside help.) Put this info in your journal.

If you haven’t already (recently), take a practice CAT in conditions that simulate the actual exam as much as possible. Do the essays (I know you don’t care about the essay score, but you do care about making sure your overall CAT score is representative, and the effort it takes to write the essays can make a difference). Take two 8-minute breaks, one after the essays and one after the quantitative section. Don’t answer the phone, don’t eat or drink except during the breaks, and so on – basically make it as close to the real test as you can.

Many prep companies and published books offer practice exams, so you have plenty of choices, but you do need to make sure that the exam does several things. First, it should be adaptive, just like the real test. Second, it should record the time you spend on each individual question – timing is a major factor on the GMAT. Third, it should offer score reports that give you tons of data on your strengths and weaknesses. GMATPrep exams (from the makers of the real test) are great in general but do not give you the 2nd and 3rd items on this list, so don’t use a GMATPrep exam for this exercise. Save GMATPrep for closer to the time you plan to take the real test.

What Are My Strengths and Weaknesses?

Now, use the test results to help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses in terms of both content and timing. Click on this link for another article that walks you through how to do this analysis using a ManhattanGMAT CAT. Put all of this in your journal.

You also need to figure out your optimal learning style. Think back to undergrad. Did you do best when you had a small classroom of comrades with whom you shared the adventures of learning? Or did you excel when you worked on your own, or possibly met individually with your professor or TA? At work today, does it energize you to work with a group or do you focus better via one-on-one interactions? Do you prefer to do most of your work on your own or with others?

The answers to those questions will help you determine whether to study on your own, find other students with whom to study, take an organized class, or find a private tutor.

What’s My Schedule?

Now that you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can use that info to determine:

  • The total amount of time you’re likely going to need for primary studying (that is, the time you take to master the material), not including a comprehensive final review. For most people, this length of time will be 8 to 16 weeks, though it may be a bit shorter if you’ve taken the test before and you’re not aiming for a significant (> 50 points) improvement. If you take a class, your primary study will be at least the length of the class and possibly some additional time.
  • The amount of time to set aside for review, after you finish mastering the material and before you take the test. Most people spend 2 to 6 weeks on a comprehensive review after they finish their primary study.

You also need to factor in two other things that will affect your study timeframe:

  • The amount of buffer time you need to ensure that you can take the test a second time, if necessary. You are only allowed to take the GMAT once in a 31-day period (and 5 times a year).
  • The application deadlines of your preferred schools. You will, of course, have to work backward from these drop-dead dates. If you have the time, it’s preferable to get the test out of the way well before you have to start filling out the applications themselves. (Keep in mind that your GMAT score is valid for 5 years, so you can get started very early!)

Note: you may also want to add in a couple of extra weeks as an additional buffer, just in case. Work gets busy, people get sick, we procrastinate… things happen.

What Resources Do I Need?

There are tons of resources available to help you get ready for the GMAT. If you take a course or work with some structured program, the materials should already be determined for you. Otherwise, you’ll have to figure out what works best for you.

In general, there are three major categories of necessary resources:

  1. Test content and methodology. These materials will teach you the what and the how: what’s on the test and how to take the test. These materials will come from a test prep company (this is what test prep companies do!).
  2. Practice questions. As you’re learning the actual material tested on the exam and how to handle the different types of GMAT questions, you’ll also need to test yourself to see whether you’re getting better. The best practice questions are the officially released past test questions from GMAC (the makers of the GMAT). The latest three books are The Official Guide 12th Edition, the Verbal Review 2nd Edition and the Quantitative Review 2nd Edition. The most recent online release is GMAT Focus (for quant only).
  3. Practice tests. You’ll want a mix of practice tests: GMATPrep (from the real makers of the test) and some tests from a test prep company. The GMATPrep test is the closest to the real thing, but doesn’t offer explanations or analysis of your results. A test prep company’s CAT will give you explanations and analysis.

The Plan

Okay, so you know your goal score, you know your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ve gathered your materials. It’s time to develop your specific plan. Pick a time frame (generally two to three weeks) and decide what weaknesses you want to improve in that timeframe. In general, start with your biggest weaknesses in areas that are frequently tested on the GMAT. If you’re not sure which areas are most frequently tested, ask the experts on the forums.

Get a calendar and block off two hours each day (okay, you can have one day off each week :) ). In your journal, write down what your focus will be for each of the first six study sessions. (Note: day 6 is always a review day; you might do some random sets of problems, review what you did during the first 5 days, do a few problems from your stronger areas, et cetera.)

During a two-hour study session, if you are reading lessons and then doing non-official-GMAT practice problems in that same area, you should spend about half your time doing each of those two things. If you are doing and then reviewing sets of practice problems, then you should spend about 40% of your time doing a set of questions and 60% of your time reviewing those questions. (Here’s another article about how to review GMAT practice problems.)

At the end of each study session, jot down what you did that day, what you think went well, and what you think needs more work. If something didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, then feel free to adjust your calendar. At the end of the six days, review your journal and set up your plan for the next six days. Repeat until you feel you’ve made good progress and are ready to test yourself on a CAT again. (This will typically take at least two to three weeks!)

When you take the next CAT, don’t worry about the overall score. Specifically check the areas on which you’d been concentrating for the previous several weeks. Did those areas get better? Can you move on to other topics or question types, or are there still things you need to improve? If you need advice about how to improve, log onto the forums again!

Then, do the overall test review again (the same thing you did on the first test). Figure out what your new priorities are, set up your 6-day plan, and repeat the whole process for several weeks until you feel ready for another test.

Good luck and happy studying!


  • Thank you. Very good Study Plan.

  • Thanks Stacey. Your plan uses an iterative approach which will help us focus on our real weaknesses without making assumptions about them.


    • Yes, an iterative approach is critical! After all, our goal is to get better, so our weaknesses should be changing over time - and we need to know what those changes are in order to adjust accordingly.

  • Hi Stacey, did you download the GMATPrep software from the site? If so, did you retroactively find the two CATs to be representative of the actual GMAT?

    • I have done GMATPrep, yes, and I do think it is representative, although I think that at very high levels, the GMATPrep database might not have quite as many very difficult questions as the real test (which likely has a larger database of questions from which to choose).

      GMATPrep, basically, is the closest thing to the real test. The only drawback is that GMATPrep does not give us any analysis of our results - so I think that test is best used towards the end of prep when you are trying to confirm that you're scoring the range you want to score.

  • I just realized that you addressed the GMATPrep software; my apologies for not realizing this prior to my most recent post. I do have a question about the two CATs, though. I downloaded the GMATPrep a few months ago, and have seen the two CATs. Will these CATs remain the same "ad infinitum", or would a future download eventually contain two different CATs?

    • A future download would likely contain some new questions, but the database would not be completely different, no. It depends upon the length of time we're discussing, but even after 6 months or a year, many (if not most) of the questions would be the same.

      That doesn't mean you would see all of the same questions, though. The database has at least a couple of hundred questions, so you will likely still get questions you didn't see the first time, especially if your performance has improved.

  • Very interesting. Thank you for the input!

    • Thanks for your comments @Daniel. Would you be open to talking to the Beat The GMAT team? Eric and I are interested in meeting with our visitors to learn how to make things better. Please email me (david at beatthegmat dot com) if you're open to talking with us. Thanks!

  • Hi Stacey,
    I read your article and found it very good.It helps us to understand pattern of GMAT and the way we should approach it.
    I am appearing in June for this and preparing for the same.In case any info reqd,I will buzz u :-)


  • Hi Stacey,I have just now concluded the First Manhattan GMAT which was provided free.I have scored 640(Q47,V31).This was my first step towards GMAT.I have not yet started preparing as I was formulating a strategy for the same.Once I read your article on Developing a Plan,I was sure that now I have got a good plan.So,as per your plan I took the MGMAT saving my powerprep for last time preparation.I am an engineer by profession,so quite good at quants,but the verbal section was a bit tough for me.So, I would like to know what books and resources I should follow.My target is 750 or above and I plan to take the test in June.So, I have around 4 months of time with me.
    Please help me out,waiting for your reply.

    Niraj Kumar

    • Nice job! Well, if you ask an MGMAT instructor what to use, you're going to get "MGMAT materials" as the reply. :) I do really like our books (I think they're the best out there!), but I am also obviously biased, so you may want to ask some of your fellow students what they have used and found helpful.

      In general, you'll need things in these categories:
      1) stuff that teaches you grammar, and how to handle each of the 3 verbal question types (and quant as well, obviously); this stuff will come from a test prep company, as the official test materials don't teach you HOW to do this stuff.
      2) official materials - Official Guide Books, GMATPrep practice tests, GMAT Focus, and whatever else you want to use from the official source; these are your practice questions

  • Thanks a lot Stacey!!!!! Well ,there is no problem in being biased if the books are really good.I want to know which one between the Powerscore Critical Reasoning Bible and the Manhattan Critical reasoning book will be better.For RC and Grammar I am of course going for the Manhattan books.

    • I definitely can't be unbiased about that question. First, I wrote the latest version of our CR guide. :) Second, I've never looked at Powerscore's book, so I can't even compare.

  • Thanks Stacey for posting very good article on developing GMAT study Plan. Well, I'm targeting to write GMAT during Feb 2011. Though I have not prepared a plan or started any serious preparation yet but soon I will do so.

    With regards to the study material, recently I purchased Kaplan GMAT 2010 Premier Live Online which falls under "Test content and methodology". I have read few chapters of this book and find it is a good GMAT Strategy book. Now, I need to purchase "Practice questions" study material. As per the recommendation, The Official Guide (from GMAC) is the bible to be referred along with other preparation books. In this regard, I have few queries below. Would be great if you can answer it.

    1) How GMAC decides to upgrade/revise the edition.
    2) Is the edition upgrade/revision is yearly or have defined cycle. Any idea till what date/year 13th edition will be released.
    3) What are the major changes in 12th edition if we compare with 11th edition.
    4) Is the current 12th edition applicable to those candidate who would write exam in year 2010.
    5) As I decided to write GMAT during 2011, should I wait till 13th edition is released or I can start preparation with 12th edition and then purchase 13th edition when it is released in 2011. In this case, I will have to refer two editions of the book (if 13th edition is release in year 2011).


    • Great questions. In order:
      1) Basically, most of the questions in a new edition were also in the older edition, but they take out some number of questions that they consider "old" and no longer as representative of the test, and they replace them with new questions that were more recently retired from active status.
      2) The frequency of new editions has varied over the years, but they typically wait at least 2-3 years before issuing a new edition. The latest editions were published less than a year ago, so I wouldn't expect new editions anytime soon.
      3) Take a look here for analysis of the changes in the new editions:
      4) Yes, OG12 is the latest along with the Quant supplement 2nd edition, and the Verbal supplement 2nd edition.
      5) They may not even release OG13 in 2011 - it may be longer than that. Also, as you'll see when you look at #3, above, most of the book actually does stay the same, so no need to wait - use whatever edition is currently out when you start studying.

    • Thanks Stacey for prompt response.

  • Thanks so much! A lot of good advice on how to get started with the whole process!! :)

  • Hi Stacey,

    Great article on developing a study plan. I'm undecided on when exactly I will appear for the test but will start preparing soon. And just to get started I wanted to know which practice test do you recommend (since you mentioned the GMATPrep test should be taken close to appearing for the GMAT) that will help me evaluate my strengths and weaknesses as well as cover the three points you mentioned in your article above.


    • I am biased, because I work for ManhattanGMAT and I helped develop the tests, but I really do think we have great practice tests. Plus, the article that I linked to above (about how to review a practice test) is based on the reports that you get from a ManhattanGMAT CAT.

      But you don't have to just listen to me, though. Do a search for "best practice tests" on the BTG site and see what your fellow students say. I know there was a poll a while back asking students what they thought. Last I checked, MGMAT had the most votes, though maybe things have changed since then - who knows? :)

  • Great, thank you Stacey :)

  • Hi Stacey

    Thank you for all the helpful strategies and tips needed for a thorough GMAT preperation. I have just purchased the GMAT Manhattan bundle package and I am awaiting its arrival with bated breath. I noticed that you teach courses in Montreal, Go Canadians :) , and I currently reside in the same city. I intend to apply to JMSB Concordia for the MBA program in Jan 2011 and would like to take the offical gmat exam by mid august 2010. Does this give me enough time to prepare sufficiently for the examinations. The cutoff deadline for Winter 2011 application is October 1st 2010.

    Once again thank you for all the input


    • Yes, that will probably give you enough time, though you would want to gather more data (as discussed in the article) to make sure. Specifically, what is your current scoring level and what do you think it needs to be?

      If you take it in mid-August, that also gives you time to take the test again if necessary - so, in general, this does seem like a good timeframe!

  • I have not taken the test yet. I just bought the Kaplan Review book and I am skimming through it. The score I am aiming for is 670 +. So I plan to come up with a definitive study plan to ensure that I reach my objectives.

  • Hi I am planing to give GMAT in upcoming 2-4 months. I would looking for good scored AWA essays. if Link is available for this thing than that's ok for me just mailed me,

    Thank you.

    • Are you looking for examples of already-written essays along with their scores? If so, the best place is OG (The Official Guide). There's an entire chapter with examples of essays at all of the scoring levels.

      Or are you looking for a place where you can get yoru own essays scored? If so, the best service is GMAT Write, a service provided by the makers of the official test. For a fee, they will score your essay using the same software program they use to score essays on the real test, and they will also provide feedback about how to make the essay better. Just go to and search for the "GMAT Write" program.

  • Hi Stacey,
    thank you for the post. Really a new way of GMAT planning.

    Stacey i need your suggestion for preparing my own study plan.
    I need more practice and work in Quant section, however if I dedicate 2 hours daily for GMAT study. Is it a good idea to accommodate a one RC or 5 SC or 5 CR questions to solve along with quant.

    or is it better to focus first on quant .. complete this and then focus on verbal.

    Please suggest.

    Divakar KN

    • I generally like to do only quant or only verbal in a 2 hour study session. Generally speaking, if I'm going to do some problem sets, I spend about 30-40 minutes trying problems and the rest of the 2 hours reviewing those problems. (Yes, I spend more time reviewing than "doing" in the first place.)

      If you want to discuss in more detail, the best thing to do is post your situation (with some detail on your strengths, weaknesses, and goals) in the Strategy section of the forums. Then, send the URL to your post to me via PM - not here in the comments section. I will follow the link and we can begin a discussion on the forums.

  • Hi Stacey,

    Want to start preparing for GMAT and aim to give it in Feb 2011. I think I will be good at quantitative section but not sure on the others..Being in job for last 11 years, am not sure where to start.

    Considering that I am out of studies for 11 years, what will be a good starting point for me to start picking up the pieces for each of the sections i.e. quantitative, verbal and analytical writing?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Do exactly what this article describes. :) Take a test first and analyze it to see what your strengths and weaknesses are. Once you know what those are, that will help you to figure out where to start.

      For instance, have you forgotten all of the basics of quant? Then you may need to start with a remedial review, something similar to the Foundations of Math book and workshop that my company offers. (Note: you don't need to use our products; I'm just using this as an example.) Or do you remember the basics but not the more advanced stuff? Then you need to start with a more general review: the material that our regular strategy guides cover.

      But there's no way to know until you test yourself and see what your strengths and weaknesses actually are!

  • It is a wonderful article Stacey. I have been preparing for the GMAT (for July 13) 3 weeks before. I have 3 problem while taking the GMAT Practice CAT tests. 1) Verbal Specially I loose concentration while reading RC, may be it is because I took it at home. 2) Even if I scored 37 on math and left 6 questions an unanswered, I have a problem in Geometry. 3) Time!!! This one is the worst of all. I can't go beyond the 32th question on Math and the 33th question on Verbal.

    I have got a good recommendation from Dana and she also told me some books to read. I don't know why, the only book available in our country is Cracking the GMAT which is simple. The only way I got the other books is torrent, I have no choice.

    By the way out 7 schools I applied 4 of them accepted me, my GPA which 3.5 and my essay played the basic roles. However, I do need to take the GMAT to get Financial Aid.

    So what is your recommendation for me, I am left 4 weeks only.

    Thank you in advance.

    • I would be happy to help however I can. This conversation will be too extensive to have via the comments section of this article, though. Please post your questions in the Strategy section of the forums and then send a PM (private message) to me with a link to your post. We'll have the conversation there.

      In your post, please also let me know (1) your goal score, (2) what scores you have been getting on practice tests (including the 2-digit math and verbal scores), and (3) whether you have been taking the tests under full official conditions (including essays) and, if not, how you've been deviating from official conditions.

  • Hi Stacy. I have already given the Gmat once in Feb 2010. I got a 710 in that. Now I am planning to give it again in Mid-August and apply for Fall 2011 admissions. I am aiming at a score of 760 plus. What should my approach be?

    According to me, my weak points are critical reasoning and reading comprehension. I am fairly comfortable with quants, its just that I tend to take too much time answering questions. As a result, I was unable to answer 4 questions in my previous GMAT CAT.

    The books I had referred to were the 3 Official Guides and Kaplan Premier 2009 Edition. Please advise. I still have a month and a half to prepare.

    • I would be happy to help however I can. This conversation will be too extensive to have via the comments section of this article, though. Please post your questions in the Strategy section of the forums and then send a PM (private message) to me with a link to your post. We'll have the conversation there.

      In your post, please also let me know (1) your official Q and V scores, (2) what scores you have been getting on practice tests (including the 2-digit math and verbal scores), and (3) whether you have been taking the tests under full official conditions (including essays) and, if not, how you've been deviating from official conditions.

  • For verbal part of GMAT, is it better to hone specific area first or do SC/CR/RC alternate days?

    I m doing 1 RC daily, Mgmat SC one day, and CR-og+book another day.

    • When you're still early in your prep and learning all of the techniques and grammar, it's best to concentrate on one discrete thing for one study session (a study session should last about 2 hours; you can do more than one study session a day). As you get further into your studies, you can start to integrate things, particularly when you want to test yourself. Perhaps you set up a "mini-test" section of an RC, 5 SCs and 4 CRs, and you time yourself, and then you review.

  • Hello Stacey,
    I have taken the GMAT 3 times and am preparing to take the test the fourth time in about 3 weeks. My schedule is very hectic and can barley find time to study I need a 30 point increase to get into the MBA program in Texas this fall.
    Today I am starting my studies and feel very overwhelmed.
    I have the Official Guide 11th edition, printed out the flashcards on this website, and have the free study guide you get thru
    I did well in the math part but need to work on verbal and quant.
    What are your recommendations in the materials I use?

    • Although you need only a 30-point increase, you don't have very much time, so you will need to identify the most important weaknesses (a cross between big weaknesses for you and what is most commonly tested on the exam) and focus on those areas.

      I'll discuss some ideas briefly here, but these kinds of discussions are really supposed to take place on the forums. You can post about your situation on the forums (preferably with more detail, such as your score history, strengths, weaknesses, and so on). After you post, you can send a PM with the link to your post to whichever experts you would like to ask to comment (including me, if you like!). The experts can then click on the link to get to your post and respond.

      If you haven't taken a full-length practice test recently, I'd recommend starting there. (Note: something other than a GMATPrep test; the test itself is great but it gives you zero data with which to evaluate your performance.) You can sign up for a free MGMAT test on our website and then use the "Evaluating Your Practice Tests" article (linked in the article above) to evaluate your results. Then post your evaluation in your forum post and the experts will help you figure out what to do as a result.

      Basically, for whichever areas are your biggest weaknesses, you will need to identify materials that teach you how to get better in those areas. Those materials will likely come from a test-prep company; official materials are great for practice, but they don't actually teach you *how* to get better. Ask your fellow students what they have used and liked. (Experts will obviously like the materials that are produced by their own companies. :) )

  • Could you please suggest 1 or 2 books for TOEFL.

    • I'm sorry, but I don't teach TOEFL and have no idea which books would be good. I'd suggest asking a TOEFL teacher...

  • Hi Stacey,
    Its really informative!
    Few informations regarding my strategy:
    1. I am planning to take GMAT in 2011,June
    2. Should I first take the exam by downloading the prep software from GMAC site? and then start with my preps?
    3. I have already purchased Princeton review ....will this suffice the study materials that I may require to score 760+

    Would appreciate fif you can provide your comments...


    • I recommend that you take a test prep company's test as your first test, not GMATPrep. GMATPrep is great for determining your current scoring level, but it does not provide any data for you to assess your strengths and weaknesses. At the beginning of your prep, it's most important to know what your strengths and weaknesses are - you use that data to decide what and how to study.

      Whatever test you take, make sure that it gives you data based upon the question type, content area, timing, and difficulty level of the individual problems.

      Re: what will suffice to get a 760+, you'll really have to figure that out as you go along. Start with what you've got, see where that gets you, and then you'll be able to figure out what else you might need.

      Because your goal score is 760+, you may also want to read this article:

    • Hi Stacey,
      Thanks a lot for the sugegstion. As per your recommendation, I will take a CAT from MGMAT and figure out my weakness.


  • Hi Stacey,

    I've been studying for the gmat these past two months. I finished the kaplan prep course and I am not pleased with my scores. I will be taking the gmat september 29th. My goal is to get above 700 and hopefully a 760 - these are the following scores I've had so far - 590, 530, 570, 580, 590, 600. My greatest weakness is verbal and I still want to improve my math skills.

    my plan for now was to continue taking practice questions and utilize the kaplan smart reports. I've been looking into the manhattan gmat but I don't think I have enough time now till the 29th of september to do so. I'm open for suggestions.



    • I'll answer briefly here; if you want to have a longer conversation (and get advice from other experts - both of which I recommend), then post your query in the strategy section of the forums and send a link via PM to any experts you want to answer. If you do that, I suggest that you also include as much detail as you can about strengths and weaknesses (*much* more specific that what you discussed above).

      Your current scoring level is in the high 500s. You're hoping to score 700+ in approximately 5 weeks. That is an ambitious goal; most people would have trouble achieving that kind of score increase in that timeframe.

      Most of your learning comes from analyzing your work, not from doing the problems in the first place, so don't make the mistake of thinking that merely doing a ton of problems will get you to where you want to be. This article will give you an idea of how to learn from the problems that you're doing:

      You may also want to go through the articles discussed in this report:“best-of-beat-the-gmat-manhattangmat”-resources-for-those-just-starting-out

  • Hi Stacey,
    Thanks a lot for this very informative article.

    I have a small query.

    I started preparing for GMAT about 2 years back and then lost track. Now Im starting my preparation again from the scratch but I wanted to check if i can still use the OG 11th edition (and will study the latest version of GMAT - Verbal Extra Practice & GMAT - Quant Extra Practice) or do you recommend using OG 12th edition.

    Would really appreciate your suggestion.


    • It's completely fine to use OG11 - the two books (OG11 and OG12) are about 75% the same!

    • Thank you so much for your prompt reply.

  • Hi Stacey,

    I have started GMAT studies 2 weeks back .Your article had given me good information .
    I have the Official Guide 12th edition, printed out the flashcards on this website, and have the free study guide you get thru
    My goal is to get above 700. Please let me know what other materials, forums i can take or join to do the best.


    • I think the best forums are here at Beat the GMAT and my company's forums at

      As the article says, you will need to get materials that teach you all of the content and techniques for the test - usually materials from a test prep company. Of course, if you ask anyone who works for a specific company, we're going to tell you we like our own materials the best - we're all biased! :) So ask your fellow students on the forums what they like and do some research yourself to see what you think would be the best for you.

      Good luck with your studies!

  • Hi Stacey,

    I am going to appear in GMAT on 17th October 2011. My quant is OK but I am much behind in Verbal and when I take my last GPrep I got 48 in Quant and 29 in Verbal. My target score is above 730. At first I want to ask you that if it is possible in 2 and 1/2 months.

    In my verbal I am having timing problem too. My RC is too bad and SC is also bad. Please suggest me.   

  • You don't mention your target score for the verbal; a 28 is about the 50th percentile, so your verbal score would need to improve quite a bit to hit 730. 2.5 months may be enough time, but I would say that most people would probably need more time than that.

    But you want that score right? So just go ahead with your plan for now and don't decide on a specific date to take the test. A couple of months from now, you can see your progress and adjust your timeline accordingly.

    Re: advice for specifically what to do, I would love to help, but you have to ask those kinds of questions on the forums. You can ask here at BTG and you can also ask in the General Strategy folder of the MGMAT forums. Note that you will need to provide a LOT more information about your strengths and weaknesses - provide in-depth data about the question types and sub-types, what gives you the most trouble, how your timing is for the various question types, etc.

  • Thank you very much! A lot of good suggestions. But for us, international students, the GMAT is so hard. May be 2 hours a day is not enough.

    • You can study for more than 2 hours in one day, but not more than about 2 hours in one sitting (if it's analysis-type study, which is most of your study - obviously, practice tests take longer, but you're not analyzing / studying while taking the test).

      If you're not a native speaker and are concerned about your language skills in general, you may want to begin by focusing first on those, maybe even taking a language course before you really start studying for the GMAT. If you don't have the proper vocab and structure yet, then a lot of your GMAT study is going to be really inefficient because you'll be missing things that you could understand / do if it were in your native language - but the fact that it's in English messes you up.

  • Thanks Stacy

    I'm interested in a diagnostic test. Can you please share some links or sites where I may find it? 

    • I recommend that you actually take a full test as your diagnostic, though there are shorter tests you can take. But a full test will give you a more comprehensive understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

      Pretty much all the big companies let you take one test for free - you just have to sign up for an account. For instance, you could go to my company's site (, sign up for a free account, and get a free test.

      You can also download GMATPrep (, but I would save those for later - I wouldn't use them as a diagnostic b/c they don't provide any data about your performance. Plus, they're the "official" practice test - that is, they're valuable, so don't "use them up" early before you've studied.

  • Hi Dana,

    I plan to take my Gmat on Oct. 24th(Today is 4th) I recently took Gmat Prep 1 & got 560. Q42 & V26. Do you think its unrealistic to think that by 24th I can get close to 700? It seems from this test & some previous ones (MGMAT CATS) I have gotten 600 on one of the MGMATs. I am consistently getting Q40+ but verbal near upper 30s and high 20s. My verbal is def. a weakness. Can you provide any suggestions? Any comments on the study plans? I work full-time & spend at least 2-3 hrs a day if not more & more on weekends. Please advise. Thank you!

    • I meant to refer to Stacey not Dana! Sorry!

    • Most people would not be able to jump 100 to 140 points in 20 days, no - that's a very large jump for that kind of timeframe. Most people would need a minimum of 2 months and possibly longer to make that kind of a jump. I know that's not the answer that you want to hear, but it's better to have an idea of what's realistic so that you can plan accordingly. (Note that this doesn't mean it's impossible to go from 560 to 700 in 20 days - you can still go for that if you want - I'm just saying that most people would not be able to do that.)

      I'm glad that you're asking for help - we'd be happy to advise you. We just need a lot more info from you.

      We give that kind of advice on the forums, not here in the article comments. I don't participate on the BTG forums, but I do participate on the MGMAT forums, so you can ask in our Strategy folder there. You can also ask other experts here on the BTG forums.

      If you do post, make sure to give us a summary of your study history and past test dates / scores (practice and real). Also, use the below article to analyze your most recent MGMAT CAT and give that analysis in your post. Finally, tell us in your post how (if at all) you deviated from official test conditions on your CATs (eg, skipping essays, taking longer breaks than allowed, etc).

  • Hi Stacey, can you tell me if's 60 Day Study Plan would be enough to be able to get a score above 600? I know it'll be hard for you to answer this as i havent started preparing for GMAT at all, neither have i given any MGMATs to test my capabilities. I am an engineer by profession so my Quant is good but i have an idea that my comprehension is pretty weak. What would you recommend as a first step in my case? I plan to give the GMAT in January or February 2012 to try to make it in time for Fall 2012 admissions. What would you advice? Thanks.

    • I don't actually know what BTG's 60 Day Study Plan is - I work for a different company, ManhattanGMAT.

      You're right, anyway, that it's tough for me to estimate anything without some data about your current scoring level and other factors. As a general rule, most people who are looking for more than 100-point increase typically need 3 to 4 months of almost-daily study (longer for more of an increase). People looking for less than a 100-point increase may be able to get away with only a couple of months as long as they are studying daily (and studying in an efficient way) and there aren't any severe issues that would make things more difficult for the person.

      So the first thing to do, just for yourself, is take a practice test (under full official conditions). See where you're at overall AND analyze that test to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. You need that data anyway to help set up your study plan. You don't just want to study everything indiscriminately - focus where you need the most work.

      If you take one of our tests, you can use the below article to analyze it:

  • Hi Stacey, I started my GMAT prep around November of 2010 (I did the Kaplan math refresher course, followed by the 9-week Kaplan GMAT prep course). I took the GMAT twice last winter and scored right around 430 each time (with Quant and Verbal both in the mid 20's). This was pretty hard for me to choke down as my results were not indicitive of the amount of time/effort that I put into my preparations, and I was scoring around 600 on my practice tests (my goal is to crack 600). After researching BTG, I decided to take a few months off and then return to my preparation with added prep resources (during my previous attempts, I only used the Kaplan materials and OG). Starting in August (2011) I began studying the MGMAT quant books. I've put in around 2 hours/day after work and 4 hours on each weekend day (with a day off during the week). I just now finished the quant books and I'm starting to get into the verbal (I'm almost through the CR book). My test date is scheduled for 2/18, which is 6 weeks from this coming Saturday, and I could use some advice as to how to schedule my time so I'm prepared. I've been going at this for quite some time and I really, really would like to put this behind me. I haven't completed any practice tests since I got back into my studies. My plan was to take a practice test this Saturday to gauge where I'm at. I have not taken any up to this point because it has taken me so much time to get through this material that I didn't want to "sacrafice" a day from moving forward. Based on the fact that I haven't taken any tests, I can't share with you my strengths weeknesses. The advice I'm looking for is, how do I balance my time of getting through reading comp, sentence correction, while reviewing all of the quant material that I have covered, and take practice tests - while I chug to the finish line. I was getting so burnt out last week that I decided to take a week off and let my mind recover. Also, do you think it would do me any good to find a tutor for a visit or 2 along the way (I'm in SoCal, so if you think this is a good idea, I was going to try and find one through MGMAT). I hope this message isn't too vague.

    • Hi, Rob

      In order to advise you more specifically about a study plan, I really do need to know your current strengths and weaknesses (which requires taking a practice test under official conditions). Also, we don't do case analyses here in the article comments, but if you would like to have me help you set something up, log into the MGMAT forums and post your situation in the General Strategy folder of the Ask An Instructor section. 

      Note, though, that I'm just going to ask you to take a practice test and tell me your strengths and weaknesses before I advise you in any depth, so you might as well do that first. :) You can use the below article to analyze your results when done:

      Re: tutoring, it can certainly be helpful to have a tutor help you with your big weaknesses - often, a tutor can point things out to you that you might not otherwise notice, and a tutor can also often help you more efficiently than you could do something on your own. Tutoring is also quite expensive, though, and I have a conflict of interest in recommending it, so I'll let you make the decision as to whether you think it's worth the money!

      Finally, I'll just mention a couple of things. You were scoring well on practice tests before but always had a drop on the real test, so it would be a good idea to try to figure out why before you take the test again. Then, you can take steps to try to ensure that the same thing doesn't happen next time. This article might help you try to figure that out:

      Also, if you aren't working against a particular deadline, then the ideal thing is to make sure that your practice tests are in the range you want before taking it again, which means being flexible about your test date. That doesn't mean you are definitely going to have to change your planned date, but just that, if you have the flexibility, then use it. 

    • Thanks for the response Stacey. I'll take a practice test on Saturday and then I'll post to the MGMAT forum that you mentioned. I knew that it would be hard for you to give specific advice without any information as to where my struggles lie. Thanks for the insight!

  • Hi Stacey,

    It is really wonderful to see all the help and guidance you have been providing to all the aspiring future MBA's.In my case i just gave the first practise test in which i have scored a meager 510(q=42,v=14).Though i have just started with my preperation i was not expecting my verbal scores to be that bad.I know this score has given me the right push to work hard and achieve my target score of 750+.I have a few questions 1)Is a prep course necessary considering my low score in verbal or just a focussed approach and going through the prep material thoroughly will be sufficient .2) The study material apart from the OG that i should refer in order to achieve my target.There is a lot of confusion regarding the prep material i should buy some people are suggesting Kaplan and where as in this forum i have seen people praising the Manhattan.Kindly help

    • Im' glad the material has been useful for you. :)

      Whether to take a prep course is a personal decision - some people study just fine on their own and others feel that they really benefit from a prep course. It depends partially on your work ethic, comfort and familiarity with standardized tests, and so on. You may want to read this:

      Re: your second question, anyone who works for one particular company is going to tell you that we like our own company's materials the best. :) I really do like our materials, but of course, I'm biased. Talk to other students and see what they liked. Also, go to a book store, or go onto Amazon and browse through the different books a little bit. See what you like best. It's important to pick something that you find approachable and easy to understand.

  • Hi Stacey,

    I'm at the very beginning of my MBA applications and GMAT prep. I'm applying to start school next fall and (luckily - or not) found out that I should start the whole process now. After being directed to this article from your "Just Starting Out – What Should I Do?" article, I got myself much more organized in the 1 hour I've spent reading while trying to figure out a schedule for myself than I have in the past 2 weeks! For this I just wanted to say, THANK YOU for writing these great and extremely helpful articles. They've definitely saved me from spinning out of control and catapulting myself out into oblivion!

    I was wondering if you have any suggestions on how to fit in the AWA section into a week's study plan. For example, do you think fitting a 30min issue/argument essay practice a couple of times in the week would be a good plan to get myself used to the time constraint? I really appreciate any suggestions you have as I found writing to be tough in the 30min limit. 

    Thank you,

    • I'm so glad you're finding the articles useful. :)

      Good question about AWA. Couple of things:
      1) Your writing is not expected to be as good or as thorough as it would be for something which didn't have a 30-minute time limit.
      2) You want to make sure that you're "good enough" (which means a 5 or better), but that's all, because the multiple choice is more important.
      3) Given 1 and 2, you can write less, and be less comprehensive, then you are normally used to writing. Don't write this way on other things - good GMAT essay writing is not the same as good writing in general. :)

      Read this:

      Also, when you feel ready, use GMAC's GMAT Write service (you can find details on You'll get a score and feedback from the same computer program that grades your essays on the real test. (Yes, your GMAT essays are graded partially by a computer - you get both a computer and a human grade, and then those two grades are averaged.)

    • Stacey, 
      Thank you so much for your feedback! I feel better already and a bit less worried about the 30min limit looming over my head. I'll keep in mind to use the GMAC service that you mentioned! As per your advice in the article, I'll be taking my first GMAT practice test and start devising my own study plan. I feel more confident in preparing myself for the test now! Thank you again! :D


  • Hi stacey,
    it is very inspiring to read your article.
    Please give me some tips how I can make myself confident in Math section of Gmat as I think I am very poor in maths and being away from math almost 12 years it makes me feel very scared of math.I want to do MBA but the math section is putting me in discomfort situation.Kindly share some tips to make myself ready for Gmat. Thank you so much.

    • Sorry for the late reply - I've been missing some of the notifications of posts. Most people haven't done real math in years, but you can do it! The math tested is all high-school level math: algebra, geometry, a little bit of statistics. There's no calculus or trigonometry or really terrible math.

      You'll need to identify some books or join a class and set up a good study plan (if you take a class, you'll be given a study plan). Most people need to study for at least 3 to 4 months, so just make sure that you take your time and don't try to rush things or you'll stress yourself out. But you learned all of this math in high school, so you can re-learn it - you just need to work at it!

  • I just ordered the Manhattan GMAT Complete Test Prep package that comes with all 8 guides as well as the 3 OG guides, the two foundation books and the GMAT roadmap. I did a practice CAT today for which I will analyze my results tomorrow. I have 6 weeks until my GMAT and with all this material on hand I'm just trying to come up with some sort of syllabus or study plan to follow outlining what I should start with and do on a regular basis and so on. As you can imagine it's quite daunting given the amount of studying material I suddenly have on my hands. If you have any study plan you recommend I would appreciate it.

    • Wow, that's a lot. Okay, don't plan on getting through everything in 6 weeks - then you'll just do a whole bunch of things halfway instead of truly improving on some reasonable number of things. 

      Use your initial analysis of your test results to prioritize (heavily) what you will and won't do - you may literally drop entire lessons or even entire books. If your 6-week deadline is an absolute deadline (you can't take any additional time), then you will also have to be reasonable about the amount of improvement you expect to make in that time - it's unlikely that you'll go from a 500 to a 700 in 6 weeks, for example.

      If you'd like to get more detailed advice from experts about your situation and what to do, you can post on the BTG forums in the GMAT Strategy section (FYI you won't get a response from me - I only advise people thru MGMAT's forums - but you can post there too!)

    • Hi Stacey,
      Thanks for your response. I was actually been studying with another Test Prep company prior to this and am using Manhattan for that final surge to cross the 700 barrier. In the practice test I did today I got a 690. I'm hoping that's an accurate indicator of my actual score. In this regards, I'm just trying to hone my weak points over the next 6 weeks so that I can be sure that I'll cross 700.

    • Ah, okay, that's good. :)

      What I said still applies: only use what you need. Prioritize heavily!

  • Hey Stacey! I am in my final semester of engineering and have about 3 free weeks before my job starts in July. I havent booked a date yet but I am planning to take the GMAT in a few months time and then apply for admission in 2 years time. I just took the diagnostic test provided in the OG and got some expected results. I scored excellent in the Quantitative Section, above average or average in the CR and RC sections, and excellent in sentence correction. It would be helpful if you could suggest me what study plans i should follow. I already have the previous edition of complete Manhattan Startegy Guides and GMAC OG 12th edition. Please also suggest me any other material that I should need. Looking forward to your response.

    • You'll be taking the new version of the GMAT, which launches 5 June and will include a new section called Integrated Reasoning (IR). All of your older materials will still work for the Q and V sections, but you're also going to need IR study material. Our IR strategy guide was just published, so you can add that to your list of MGMAT books if you like. You can also buy access to the OG13 online IR question bank for $10 *as long as you do so before 5 June.* After that, you'll have to buy OG13 itself in order to get access to those questions.

      In terms of a study plan, are you going to be studying on your own or are you thinking about taking a class? If you take a class, you can follow the study plan set by that class. If you study on your own, then part of your job will be to devise your own study plan - the above article is designed to help you do that. (You could also hire a tutor to work with you and devise a customized study plan for you - but that's expensive!)

      You can get advice about the study plan you devise by posting it on the BTG or MGMAT forums and asking questions. (Note: I don't participate on the BTG forums, but other MGMAT teachers do.) If you do this, note that you will definitely be asked to provide a detailed analysis of your strengths and weaknesses (what you provided so far is not enough), along with your timeframe and goal score. Here's an updated article on evaluating an MGMAT CAT:

      If you post on the MGMAT forum, first take an MGMAT CAT, then do the above analysis, and finally post that analysis (not just the raw data from the test) and what you think your plan should be - and we'll tell you whether we think you're on the right track, etc. :)

  • Hello

    I prefer to do self study with a Manhattan GMAT package since in the blogs it is the best ranked comprehensive book package. Could you please explain the added value that the INTERACT GMAT COURSE offers vs SELF STUDY KIT to be worth paying more or less $400 dlls more:

    - I only identified that an additional 35+ interactive videos are added
    - Are the online resources available for both for the same period? if not mistaken by reading other blogs it is for 6 months, except for CATS that are for one year.

    Thank you.

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