6 Months to study for the GMAT?
Let’s tackle this oft misunderstood GMAT question: Should someone spend 6 months or more studying for the GMAT? That may not be the goal for most people but it could be completely fine or even necessary for you. Why should someone spend that long on GMAT Prep?
1. The first GMAT prep was compromised in some way. You had some family emergency, health issues, or the most common issue: your job was too demanding. Or, maybe you never quite got into the rhythm of studying as happened here: a GMAT Tutor Resigns.
2. You just didn’t get to your GMAT goals in three months. Sometimes it just takes a while to learn something. Especially on a subtle and nuanced test such as the GMAT. Yes - many people can get prepared for the GMAT in three months but that may not be you and that’s completely fine.
THE DANGERS OF LONG TERM GMAT PREPARATION
GMAT studying is mentally exhausting. Whatever length GMAT prep you are doing it’s always important to pace yourself. Set realistic goals. Avoid cramming and marathon study sessions (yes this can work for some people but this isn’t for most people). Give yourself time away from studying so that you can rest and let the new GMAT magic you’ve learned have time to sink in. For long term studying all of this organization is even more important. It might help to have a look at these GMAT Study Schedules to get an idea of how to pace your GMAT practice and how to prepare for the GMAT to make sure you're getting started in an organized way.
The other thing that can be very tiring is the feeling that you aren’t improving. There could be many reasons for this but here are three things to do. First, be patient. You might be doing all of the right things. It can take weeks to really internalize some of the GMAT strategies that you are learning. Second, study smart. Get the most out of your GMAT studying by developing good study habits. This article on GMAT Study Skills might be helpful.
Lastly, always be refining your studying by keeping a GMAT error log. Remember that you should be spending at least as much time reviewing questions as you spend solving new question sets. What I hear over and over again from students (especially students whose GMAT scores have been stuck for a while) after they have achieved their goals: Learning how to review and learning from the review was what made them improve.
Running out of GMAT Materials
As you stretch out your GMAT preparation over 6 months or more there is a very real danger of running out of official GMAT questions to practice on. Luckily with Question Pack 1 and the Exam Pack things have gotten a little better but still in 6 months of GMAT prep you can exhaust all of the official GMAT material. In this case consider alternate study materials: For extra verbal practice LSAT Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension are great substitutes for GMAT Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. The GRE is also great for practicing Reading Comprehension.
For Quant practice the GMAT Club Quant CAT and the Manhattan GMAT Quant CAT can help if you've run out of Official Practice tests. These can be a little tougher than normal so only approach these if you've got a solid footing on the quant. Also be aware that these aren't official questions so can go from being a little different in flavor to inappropriate. On the quant you should be OK as long as you don't calibrate everything based on these third party questions. Verbal is a different story, Avoid third party verbal! It isn't worth doing.
The other thing that can have a huge impact over 6 months (and might actually be interesting): Reading!! Read one challenging article per day. To my students I suggest reading the Economist as the density and the range of topics are similar to those on the GMAT. Read here for some strategies on how to use the Economist to improve GMAT reading comprehension.
One more long term GMAT prep suggestion
Even if you plan to study for the GMAT for 6 months it can help to break up the studying into two three month chunks. Set a GMAT test date (here is all the information you need on GMAT Registration) for three months away and for 6 months away. Look at the first GMAT as a way to have a live practice and to assess your progress. Also, knowing in advance that you plan to take two GMATs takes some of the pressure off.
However long you take to study, remember: the fact that you took 2 months or 6 months has no bearing on the quality of your MBA application. So there’s no need to judge yourself if you need a bit of extra time to study for your GMAT. Many people do. In the recent past I worked with two students who studied for the better part of a year. One of them is at Columbia and the other at Stanford.