The Ultimate GMAT™ Study Plan

December 09, 2023 · 8 minute read

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The Ultimate GMAT™ Study Plan

Gearing up for a Master of Business Administration program involves a lot of prep, especially when it comes to taking the GMAT™ — The Graduate Management Admission Test. It’s a standardized test that assesses potential business school students.

The GMAT was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and is now the most widely used assessment for graduate management admissions.

It’s available in more than 100 countries and taken by more than 100,000 students annually.

The exam is important for prospective MBA students because it may carry a lot of weight in the application, with some experts estimating it accounts for up to 22% of admissions decisions.

Because of this, getting prepared for the GMAT is crucial to getting into an MBA program.

Important Facts About the GMAT

There are four sections in the GMAT: quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. These sections are meant to test a student’s general knowledge — they’re not specific to business knowledge.

The total score a student can receive for this exam will fall somewhere between 200 and 800. This score is a combination of verbal and quantitative questions.

Students will also be given scores for each individual section. The section scores for the verbal and quantitative sections range from zero to 60.

The integrated reasoning score, which ranges from one to eight, requires students to analyze graphs and tables.

The analytical writing section is scored from zero to six and is based on how well students can analyze and write about an argument given in a provided text.

There is no set score that students must achieve to be accepted into a program, but students can figure out an estimate of how well they need to do by researching the average score accepted students got on their GMAT exam.

This can give prospective students a good idea of what score they should aim to receive to be considered for acceptance to a particular program.

Making a Study Plan

Making a GMAT study plan depends on when applications are due, which will differ by school.

It’s recommended that students take the exam at least three to four months before their application deadline. This will give students enough time to retake the test if necessary. It can be taken up to five times within twelve months, with a lifetime limit of eight times.

Once students know their application deadline, they can make a plan for when they want to take the exam. Exams are available year-round, and students can register to take it in person or online at

Each student will have to determine how much preparation is right for them, but usually, it’s recommended to spend three to six months preparing for the GMAT.

According to GMAC, the makers of the exam, students who studied 60 hours or more scored 500 or higher.

Studying more isn’t a guarantee of a high score, but it seems to help a majority of students find success. With this information, students can create a study plan that suits them and their timeline best.

Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Studying in College

Study Tips for the GMAT

With 60 or more hours of preparation recommended, how can students best spend those hours?

Here are some tips on how to study for the GMAT that may help students make the best of their prep time.

Taking Practice Exams

Familiarity with the format of the test means there are few surprises. Students will be familiar with each section of the test, the order of the sections, and how the instructions are worded.

Studying the content is important, but so is knowing what to expect when test day comes.

The most effective way to use practice tests is to take one first and use it as a baseline so it’s easy to see where improvements need to be made and how much progress is being made after each consecutive practice test.

When taking practice tests, students should try to reproduce the test experience as closely as possible, in a similar environment and with the same time constraints that the real test has.

The time allowed depends on whether the test is taken in person or online. The online exam takes two hours and 45 minutes, whereas the in-person exam takes three hours and seven minutes because it includes the analytical writing assessment.

Taking practice exams is also a good way for students to learn how to pace themselves through each section of the test.

Strategies recommended are keeping a consistent pace throughout the entire exam, keeping in mind how many questions are in each section, and estimating how much time is allotted for each question.

•   The quantitative section includes 37 questions over 75 minutes.

•   The verbal section gives test takers 75 minutes for 41 questions.

•   The 12 integrated reasoning questions average two minutes and 30 seconds each for the section’s time allotment of 30 minutes.

Students may choose to use official GMAT exam prep packages, which vary in cost (one is free).

Hundreds of quantitative and verbal questions, as well as integrated reasoning questions can be accessed through these official packages.

Students can also purchase unofficial GMAT practice tests if they need more resources.

Tutoring and Peer Study Groups

For students who want extra help preparing for the GMAT, getting a private tutor, taking a prep course, or finding a study group may be options to consider.

A benefit to these strategies is the addition of regular feedback and accountability, which can help students stick to their GMAT study plan.

For students with a tighter budget, finding a GMAT support group and free practice exams may be more affordable routes.

Staying Healthy

Performing well during a stressful examination can be made easier by maintaining good physical and mental health. It’s recommended that students get plenty of rest in the days before the exam, as well as keep up a healthy diet.

Both rest and nutrition can impact physical wellbeing. Going into the GMAT in good physical condition can help students reduce stress and build confidence.

During practice tests, students can practice stress management techniques, which may make it easier to use them during the official test.

Test-taking anxiety is a common phenomenon, and each student may want to learn which coping techniques work best for them.

What About Finances?

Students who are considering an MBA program may be shocked when they see the high cost of tuition. According to Education Data Initiative, the average cost of an MBA program is $71,880. However, this can range from $22,000 to well over $100,000 depending on the school.

Options for decreasing the cost of earning an MBA may be getting a master’s degree online or getting financial aid to help cover the cost.

There are a few options when it comes to paying for graduate school.

Apply for Federal Financial Aid

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) as a graduate student means the aid is given based on the student’s income, not their parents’. This could help students receive more federal aid than they did as undergraduates.

After submitting the FAFSA, students will receive their Student Aid Report (SAR), which provides information about their federal student aid eligibility.

The schools to which a student has applied and been accepted will send a financial aid package offer letter, and the student can decide whether to accept or decline the offer.

Federal student financial aid can come in the form of work-study, grants, or loans. Grants usually don’t need to be repaid, but loans do. Graduate students are not eligible for subsidized student loans, only unsubsidized, so interest will start accruing as soon as the loan is disbursed.

Work a Part- or Full-time Job

Another option may be working while getting an MBA, with some employers helping to pay for tuition. There are more part-time and online MBA options than there used to be, making it easier for students to work while finishing school.

Apply for Scholarships

Students can also apply for scholarships through the school they are attending, as well as from private or professional organizations. Scholarships usually vary in their eligibility requirements, and it’s recommended that students seek out and apply for all they may be eligible for.

Use Private Student Loans

Another option for funding an MBA program may be private student loans. Private student loans do not come with the same benefits and protections that federal loans do, like income-driven repayments and student loan forgiveness. The interest rates and repayment options vary by lender, so students are encouraged to do their research carefully before considering this option.

The Takeaway

Students who already have student loans from their undergraduate education may want to consider refinancing their student loans, which could mean a lower interest rate or a repayment plan that works better for their particular financial situation.

The choice to refinance student loans depends on many factors, like whether those loans are federal or private and whether or not the new loan will be beneficial to the borrower. Figuring out how to prepare for and pay for graduate school can feel overwhelming, but help is available for both.

Keep in mind, though, that refinancing federal student loans means you’ll no longer be eligible for federal benefits, including income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness. If you’re currently using or plan on using federal benefits, it’s not recommended to refinance your federal student loans.

If, however, refinancing makes sense for your financial situation, consider SoFi. With just one application, SoFi compares rates and lenders for you, all in a matter of minutes.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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