Embarking on the journey to ace the GMAT and bagging a R2 admission spot at a top-tier U.S. business school can be daunting — especially if you’re kicking-start your GMAT preparation only in November. However, with a meticulously crafted GMAT study plan and a relentless spirit, getting a winning score and securing your seat is not just a possibility but a tangible goal. As Robert Collier once said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
Who Benefits from a November GMAT Start?
There are essentially three types of GMAT aspirants who might find themselves rolling up their sleeves to take a shot at the GMAT in November:
The Inspired Professional: This individual’s journey begins when inspiration strikes—perhaps after a colleague bags an interview call from a prestigious b-school like the ISB or a U.S. business school. There’s a sudden realization: “If they can, why not me?” It’s indeed possible to channel this surge of motivation into a successful GMAT score. But be warned: it requires a substantial commitment — 6 to 8 hours a day of rigorous study.
The Seasonal Prepper: For those whose careers — like military officers or sailors — allow for concentrated periods of downtime, a break in late October is the perfect window to dedicate 6 to 8 hours daily to GMAT prep. This uninterrupted focus can be the silver lining to the rigidity of such professions.
The Proactive Student: Final-year college students stand at a unique vantage point. Preparing for the GMAT during this time is significantly easier than attempting it amidst the grind of full-time employment. Plus, with GMAT scores valid for five years, students can time when to apply and what kind of programs to apply to.
Embarking on Your 50-Day GMAT Odyssey
The clock is ticking, and with R2 deadlines looming, here’s a 50-day sprint to GMAT. This GMAT study plan ensures you’re strategically positioned to cross the application finish line just in time for those early January deadlines.
GMAT Study Plan – Time Commitment Decoded
Scoring north of 675 demands a substantial investment: approximately 200 to 225 hours of study, breaking down to 4 to 5 hours a day in the first month. “Deep Work,” as Cal Newport coins it, is the essence here — undistracted, focused, and purposeful study sessions are the key to making significant strides.
The first 30 days should be split into manageable segments — perhaps two 2-hour blocks or four 1-hour slots. During these periods, Internet distractions must be minimized. If you’re studying online, keep a single tab open. Batch your doubts and address them in one go to maximize efficiency within each hour of study.
If you’re employed, now might be the time to negotiate a leave of absence. Consider it an investment; a stellar GMAT score is invaluable currency in the MBA application economy.
Phase I (November 10th to November 30th) – Laying the Foundation
Your initial focus should be on grasping core concepts and engaging in basic practice. Tailor your study approach to your strengths and weaknesses, and perform an ABC analysis to triage the content.
Note, you are doing 11th hour preparation. You have to keep re-calibrating what works for you and what will not work for you as you cover ground. For instance, if you realize you recall linear and quadratic equations in the GMAT quant section from your school days, do not waste too much time going through all the concepts. Start right away with practice questions. If you get all or most of the basic questions right in the first 10 odd questions you solved, skip and try the tougher nuts in the topic and move to the next topic.
If certain topics, like permutation and combination, seem too daunting and which account for only 2 odd questions on the exam, defer them to a “visit if you have time” list. Let us be super effective in deciding what to focus on and what to leave on the table.
Writing down key concepts, formulae, and representative problems is crucial, even in the digital age. The tactile process of writing can enhance memory retention and conceptual understanding. What’s more – these notes you make are also the first port of call when you revise these concepts before taking a mock test.
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Phase II (December 1st to December 15th) – Practice, practice, and more practice
Dedicate at least 6 hours daily during this stage, ideally on a sabbatical from work. Break down your practice into two distinct parts:
Part A – Practice Topic-wise or between Adjacent Concepts
For example, take 21 questions in number properties and solve it in 45 minutes. Note you are solving as many questions as are there in the quant section of the actual GMAT. And you are doing it in as much time GMAT allots you for the section. Only difference, you are solving all questions from one single topic. If it is DI – solve 20 Table Questions or 20 DS questions. This helps in three ways
a. You get better at managing time and choosing questions appropriately. You skip tougher ones and solve only those where you have a good shot.
b. You get the grit to sit through the section for 45 minutes and stay focused on the test. You will get a lot better at it with practice.
c. You learn a lot along the way as you learn adjacent concepts within a topic at this stage.
Part – B – Take Section Tests
You solve 23 questions in the verbal section with 11 to 12 questions in RC and 11 to 12 questions in CR. The same idea goes for the quant or the DI section. Find the approximate split of questions of each type or from each topic and create a section test and practice.
This is the time to iron out concept gaps, identify what works for you and more importantly be cognizant of what are your nemesis and stay away from those.
Keep a journal of each test. Note down the mistakes you made. The error log is the single most important document in anyone’s preparation. It tells you all the mistakes you made. This log is your roadmap to avoiding past pitfalls and sharpening your test-taking acumen.
Phase III (December 16th to December 30th) – Simulating the real exam
Set to solve the equivalent of one full length test on odd-numbered dates from the questions in the Official Guide. Select 21 questions in quant, 23 in verbal, and 20 in DI and sit for 2 hours 15 minutes in one go and take the test. Analyse the test for another couple of hours and journal your errors.
On even numbered dates, take a full length adaptive mock test from mba.com – the most representative adaptive full length tests are found from the official test makers. A total of 6 tests are available. While two of these tests are free, the remaining four are paid tests. Subscribing to the four paid is a must for anyone serious about the GMAT.
So, you will be taking the tests on 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, and 26th. Merely taking a test is not enough. Analyse the tests. That’s where the biggest gain happens. With this level of intensity to your preparation, you should be able to take the real exam anytime from the 28th of December to the 31st of December.
Schedule these mocks in alignment with your intended exam slot, synchronizing your body’s peak performance time with the test.
Remember, the final stretch before the exam is not for cramming but for calming your nerves. A 48-hour buffer before the test day is essential to ensure you step into the examination hall refreshed and focused.
As you approach the exam day, remember the words of Alexander Graham Bell: “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
Embark on this 50-day GMAT success journey equipped with this structured GMAT study plan, and let the momentum of each day carry you forward to GMAT and R2 success.