According to the GMAC, the makers of the GMAT,
“Using data collected . . . from more than 8,000 GMAT test takers, we can see that 49% of test takers spend at least 51 hours prepping for the exam, and those who do better on the GMAT tend to spend more time studying for it.” (emphasis added)
When I was teaching public classes at ManhattanGMAT, now ManhattanPrep, I told students to expect to spend 150 hours. The nine week program eats up 27 hours. Homework each week could take 12-20 hours depending on your speed and comprehension so 150 hours was a reasonable time budget. If you are taking a public course – one teacher, many students – 150-180 hours is a good rule of thumb.
However, I’ve recently had questions on the blog and through Ask Kate that center on the quantity of 150 hours without understanding the quality necessary for efficiency. Let me illustrate with an actual student, Sophia.
Sophia studied for 8 months. She took the mgmat course; she used mgmat private tutoring, and she took “a million” practice tests. Total time invested: 27 hours in class, 42 hours with a tutor, 240 hours of homework. Her score moved from 570 to 640. Not the 700 of her dreams, but at least a positive impact.
Well, not exactly. Because then she came to me. And we had to undo the damage her previous tutor had done: bad process and poor technique. The first 6 weeks we chipped away at bad habits acquired both from her previous tutor and her k-12 math teachers while also planting the seeds for positive gains. In week 8 she took her first (gmatprep, mba.com) practice test and scored 740 with dramatic improvement on verbal and solid, repeatable improvement on quant.
She’s a totally new candidate now. Total time invested: 41 hours of tutoring, 80 hours of homework. When you find the right match with an instructor who can build lessons to suit you rather than a broad group, you can generate much greater impact more immediately.
At the very least, find a plan designed by an instructor with significant GMAT experience. A well thought through plan is better that the haphazard approach you may take on your own. MGMAT is cheap and their materials are well done (just avoid the practice tests). Even better have an instructor look at your particular strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the actual test, not your self diagnosis of being bad at math/good at verbal, etc., in order to create a plan specifically for you.
But the best approach, if you can afford to invest in a great tutor, is hire the tutor who understands you and adapts to your needs without bending to your will. Find a strong instructor with deep GMAT experience who knows how to get results out of her students. It is the most efficient path to success.