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How to Start Studying for the GMAT: 9 Steps for Success

kokou adzo



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Starting your journey toward acing the GMAT can feel like standing at the base of a towering mountain, looking up. Where do you even begin? The path to success is not just about hard work; it’s about smart work. Whether you’re a seasoned test-taker or a first-timer, these steps are designed to make your preparation journey as efficient and effective as possible.

Understanding the GMAT

Understanding the GMAT is the first crucial step on your journey to business school. This standardized test, designed to assess your analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in standard written English, serves as a critical component in the admissions process for MBA programs worldwide. The highest GMAT score one can achieve is 800, a pinnacle of achievement that signals to business schools not only a strong grasp of the test material but also exceptional critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Achieving the highest GMAT score, or even a score close to this peak, requires a deep understanding of the test’s format, the types of questions asked, and the strategies for tackling them efficiently. Familiarizing yourself with these elements and understanding how the scoring system works can help you set realistic preparation goals and focus your study efforts where they are needed most. This foundational knowledge is not just about aiming for the highest score but about understanding the test’s role in your MBA application and how you can best prepare to meet your personal and professional goals.

Setting Your GMAT Goals

What’s your target score? Setting your GMAT goals involves more than just aiming for the highest score possible; it requires a strategic approach tailored to your specific aspirations and the requirements of the MBA programs you’re interested in. Begin by researching the average GMAT scores of admitted students to your target schools to understand the competitive landscape. This will give you a clear benchmark for what you need to achieve. Next, assess your initial performance through a diagnostic test to identify your starting point relative to your target score. This step is crucial for developing a focused study plan that allocates time and resources effectively to areas where you can make the most significant improvements. Setting realistic, yet ambitious, GMAT goals not only guides your preparation efforts but also helps to keep you motivated throughout your study journey.

Creating a Study Plan

Creating a study plan for the GMAT is akin to mapping out a personalized road trip towards your test date, with strategic stops and milestones along the way. Start by selecting your test date, then work backwards to allocate study time, ensuring you cover all test sections with a focus on areas needing improvement. Incorporate both content review and practice tests to simulate exam conditions, allowing you to adapt to the timing and pressure of the actual test. It’s important to set specific, achievable goals for each study session to maintain focus and measure progress. Your study plan should also include rest days and lighter study periods to prevent burnout, keeping your mind fresh and ready for the challenges ahead. Flexibility is key; be prepared to adjust your plan based on ongoing performance and feedback from practice tests, ensuring continuous improvement and confidence as your test date approaches.

Choosing Your Study Materials

Choosing the right study materials is a pivotal step in your GMAT preparation journey, and leveraging resources like GMAT Club for GMAT prep can significantly enhance your study process. GMAT Club is a comprehensive platform that offers a wide range of study materials, including practice questions, tests, and reviews of various prep courses, allowing you to compare and select the best resources for your needs. Utilizing the GMAT Club forum, you can gain insights from other test-takers’ experiences, learn about the most effective study materials, and even find discounts on popular GMAT prep courses. Additionally, the site provides free access to practice tests and questions, which can be invaluable for familiarizing yourself with the exam format and identifying areas where you need further study. By integrating GMAT Club’s resources into your study plan, you can ensure a well-rounded preparation strategy that covers all aspects of the GMAT, tailored to your specific learning style and requirements.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The mantra of “Practice, Practice, Practice” cannot be overstated when preparing for the GMAT. Engaging in regular, consistent practice is the linchpin of effective GMAT preparation, allowing you to transform theoretical knowledge into practical skills. Through practice, you familiarize yourself with the test’s format, question types, and timing, turning what might initially seem foreign into something manageable and predictable. It’s essential to incorporate a variety of practice questions and full-length practice tests into your study regimen to expose yourself to the breadth of topics covered on the GMAT and to build endurance for the exam’s duration. Analyzing your practice results is equally crucial; it helps identify patterns in mistakes, areas for improvement, and understanding the reasoning behind correct answers, which deepens your comprehension and enhances your ability to apply concepts under exam conditions. This iterative process of practice, review, and adjustment steadily increases your efficiency, accuracy, and confidence, making you better prepared for test day.

Managing Your Time

Managing your time effectively is a critical skill in both preparing for the GMAT and achieving a high score on test day. Start by breaking down your study sessions into focused blocks of time dedicated to different sections of the test, ensuring a balanced approach that covers all areas. Incorporating timed practice sessions early and often in your preparation helps you become accustomed to the pace you need to maintain to work through questions efficiently without sacrificing accuracy. During the actual exam, it’s crucial to keep a steady pace, monitoring your time spent on each question to avoid getting stuck for too long on any single problem. Strategies such as deciding in advance how much time to allocate per question and using practice tests to refine your time management can greatly improve your ability to complete each section within the allotted time. By mastering time management, you enhance your ability to perform under pressure, significantly boosting your chances of a successful outcome on the GMAT.

Taking Care of Your Well-being

Your physical and mental well-being plays a significant role in your performance. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and incorporating physical activity into your routine. A healthy body fosters a sharp mind.

Joining a Study Group

Sometimes, the journey is better with company. Joining a study group can provide motivation, support, and valuable insights from peers who are on the same path. It’s a great way to share resources, tips, and encouragement.

Simulating Test Day

To minimize surprises on the big day, simulate test conditions during your practice sessions. This includes timing, breaks, and even the testing environment. The more familiar you are with the test’s format, the more confident you’ll feel.

Reviewing and Adjusting

The process of reviewing and adjusting your study plan is an essential aspect of effective GMAT preparation. This iterative approach allows you to critically assess your progress and identify areas where you may need to devote more time or change tactics. After each practice test or study session, take the time to review your answers thoroughly, paying special attention to questions you got wrong or guessed on. Understanding why you made a mistake is key to preventing similar errors in the future. Based on this review, adjust your study plan to focus more on your weak areas, whether that means dedicating more time to practice problems, seeking additional resources, or even adjusting your study techniques. This dynamic approach to preparation ensures that your study efforts are always aligned with your evolving needs, maximizing efficiency and effectiveness as you progress toward your GMAT goals.


Starting your GMAT preparation might seem daunting, but breaking it down into these steps can make the journey much more manageable and even enjoyable. Remember, it’s not just about working hard; it’s about working smart. With determination, a solid plan, and the right mindset, you can conquer the GMAT and open doors to your future.


  1. How long should I study for the GMAT?
    The amount of time needed varies from person to person, but generally, 3 to 6 months of dedicated study is recommended.
  2. Can I retake the GMAT if I’m not satisfied with my score?
    Yes, you can retake the GMAT up to five times in a 12-month period, but there must be at least 16 days between attempts.
  3. What’s considered a good GMAT score?
    A “good” score depends on the admission requirements of the schools you’re applying to, but a score of 700 or above is typically competitive for top business schools.
  4. Are there any free resources to study for the GMAT?
    Yes, there are numerous free resources available online, including sample questions and practice tests from the official GMAT website.
  5. How important is the essay section?
    While the essay section is not as heavily weighted as the quantitative and verbal sections, it’s still important, particularly if you’re applying to programs that value communication skills.


Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at

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