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Working full-time and struggling to find time to study for the GMAT? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. At Manhattan Prep, we find that one of the biggest hurdles preventing students from achieving their goal score is not having enough time to study. You cannot “wing” the GMAT; if you are not able to commit enough time and energy toward studying, you will find it difficult to score as high you would like. Read on for tips on how to approach the balancing act of adding crucial hours of studying to your already busy week.
How Much Time Should I Study Per Week?
First off, set a weekly goal for how many hours you want to study. This goal depends on a variety of factors: When is your exam? How many months are you studying for? How much of a score improvement do you want? What are your time constraints? Once you have a sense of how you intend to approach your GMAT prep, you can set a weekly hour goal. I’ve found that most students need to commit 10-15 hours per week for 3-4 months.
Set and Follow a Schedule
Let’s say you want to study 10 hours per week for the next 12 weeks. The next challenge is finding the time in your schedule. An effective strategy is to block off the time on your calendar. That way, you know that you cannot commit to hanging out with friends, extra work meetings, etc. during those times. The key here is to be disciplined and consistent. If you need to forego one or two study sessions in order to make another commitment, that is acceptable as long as you replace the missed study session with another one later that day or the next day. However, if your other commitments keep spilling over into the time you set aside for studying, you’re headed down a troublesome path.
A few additional tips:
- It’s better to have frequent and short study sessions than infrequent and long study sessions. Cramming all of your studying on Sundays will leave you exhausted and limit your ability to retain the material.
- If possible, study at the same time everyday. This will help you build the habit. If you know that you are spending time with your GMAT books every evening after dinner, you will automatically avoid scheduling anything during that time.
- Print out copies of your calendar and put them up everywhere: on your refrigerator, on your desk, on your wall. Make it your phone and computer background. Constantly reminding yourself that you need to stick to your schedule will help you be consistent.
Make Deliberate Trade-Offs
In most cases, carving out 10-15 hours per week (perhaps even more) will require you to re-prioritize and make difficult trade-offs for a few months. Many GMAT test takers attempt to add studying to their schedule without cutting out other things; that lack of focus is costly down the road because they are trying to balance too much at the same time.
Ask yourself this: If I am planning to spend 10-15 hours on studying, where can I grab those 10-15 hours from my current schedule? Here are some ideas: spending less time watching your favorite TV shows, cutting down on hours at work, or reading GMAT books instead of the next novel on your reading list. Once you have made those explicit trade-offs, you know that have you made the adjustments necessary to hit your studying goals.
One final note: take advantage of small bits of idle time. Waits at the doctor’s office, morning and evening commutes, and gaps between meetings are great opportunities to do a Reading Comprehension passage or a quick Quant drill. These small chunks of time quickly add up to many additional hours of studying. 📝
Want some more GMAT tips from Varshil? Attend the first session of his upcoming GMAT courses absolutely free, no strings attached. Seriously.
Varshil Patel is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York, NY. He has degrees in computer science and economics and scored a 760 on the GMAT. He has a passion for helping others conquer (and enjoy) standardized tests and believes teaching is an avenue for personal growth. Check out Varshil’s upcoming GMAT courses here.