6 Months for GMAT Preparation! Am I dumb? - MBA Crystal Ball (2023)

6 Months for GMAT Preparation! Am I dumb? - MBA Crystal Ball (1)

“What if 3 months is not enough for my GMAT preparation?”
“If I can’t crack the GMAT in three months, am I dumb?”
“Is it ok to go with a 6 month study plan instead of 2 months?”

These are common questions that GMAT test prep expert and personal tutor, Chiranjeev Singh, tackles on a regular basis. If you have the same concerns about not being able to prepare for the GMAT has plenty to talk about.

What if I can’t crack the GMAT in 3 months?

by Chiranjeev Singh

6 Months for GMAT Preparation! Am I dumb? - MBA Crystal Ball (2)Yesterday, I received a call from a guy who said he had already spent ‘embarrassingly’ high amount of time on GMAT preparation. I got curious to know what ‘embarrassingly’ high amount means.

He said, “About 5 months and 600 hours”. He said he ‘knew’ that people generally get done much sooner and thus was embarrassed to admit the time he had taken.

In another call, a girl who had done exceptionally well in her career asked me whether I thought she could ‘ever’ achieve 720+ since she had been preparing for more than 6 months while all of her friends could get their target scores with less than 3 months of preparation.

These are not one-off cases. I keep hearing such cases time and again.

The common perception is that everybody ‘else’ takes just 2-3 months to get ‘done’ with the GMAT.

This perception is supported by four sources:

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  1. Friends and Colleagues: Some of our friends and colleagues have already taken GMAT. All or almost all of them took just 2-3 months to prepare.
  2. Success stories on GMAT Club: We hear success stories on GMAT Club of people who could improve by 100 or even 200 points in 2-3 months.
  3. Test Prep companies: Many test prep companies claim that using their courses, you can ‘ace’ or ‘beat’ the test in 40-60 days. Some even claim that you can ‘master’ a sub-section within just 7 days.
  4. Our idea that GMAT is just an entrance test: How much more effort than 2-3 months of preparation can an entrance test require?! We ask this rhetorical question to ourselves, assured that the answer is ‘not much’.

Before I explain why this common perception is mostly incorrect and why the sources that support this perception cannot be relied upon, let me state three serious negative repercussions of this perception.

What the common perception leads to?

  1. Bad Planning

    Because of the common perception that it takes just 2 to 3 months to get done with the GMAT, people start preparing just 2-3 months before the b-school admissions deadlines. Many a time, such bad planning results in a wasted year.

  1. Bad Execution

    Because of this common perception, people try to complete all the test preparation resources they have within 2-3 months. They try to squeeze in the resources within the ‘fixed’ amount of time they have set for themselves. Such an approach results in highly ineffective ways of using the resources.

    As a result, at the end of 2-3 months, many find themselves to have exhausted all the resources without learning much and thus without reaching anywhere close to their target scores. Even when they start preparing again, they still prepare in a way to finish the preparation in 2-3 months.

    This repeated bad execution is a much worse consequence of the common perception than bad planning is since repeated bad execution can result in wasted years, not just one year and can also lead to self-doubt.

  1. Self-doubt

    After putting-in more than 6-8 months, people start doubting whether they have the ‘capability’ to ‘ever’ ace the GMAT since everybody else could get done in just 2-3 months. If you can’t get it in twice the time, probably you can ‘never’ get it.That’s what people start thinking.

The reason Everybody gets done with GMAT preparation within 3 months

I have a question for you. Try to answer it as honestly as possible.

Which GMAT prep secrets are you hiding from the world?

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Just kidding 😊

The questions (actually, a couple) are:

  1. How likely are you to share with the world or on social media an incident in your career or life in which you total screwed up, in a way that your boss or another person looked at you and thought ‘Wow! Human intelligence can down to that level!’? 😉
  2. How likely are you to share with the world or on social media an incident in your career or life in which you did very well after a small (around average or less than average) amount of struggle?

If you are a normal guy, you’d probably never share the first incident and never shy away from sharing the second incident. Right?

This wide disparity in the likelihoods of sharing the two incidences is what explains, trust me, the increasing incidence of depression from the use of social media.

As you scroll down your timeline on Facebook, you see your friends achieving great milestones in their careers or traveling to exotic locations or dining out at fancy places, and then you look at your life!

It’s, at the best, a mix of these exotic things and a lot of struggle. When you compare your life, which is at the most 10% exotic, with the lives of others,which appear mostly exotic (as they depict on the social media), you feel pathetic or, as some research says, depressed.

Similar is the case I have heard about investing in stock markets.

People who do really well in the stock markets (for some time) shout out loud about their achievement in the parties or on the social media, believing that they have discovered a magic formula for success in the stock market and that this discovery proves that they are more intelligent than others who couldn’t discover such a formula.

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People who do not do well or rather suffer losses keep shut, afraid that their performance may make people doubt their intelligence.

Even people who initially succeeded and shouted, when they suffer losses, stop going to the parties and become invisible on the social media.

All of this results in people carrying a very distorted view about the stock markets since ‘everybody else’ seems to succeed in the stock market and nobody seems to suffer losses.

The reason is Skewed Data

The reason everybody else gets done with GMAT in 2-3 months is skewed data arising out of the disparity in likelihoods of sharing one’s journey with GMAT.

Friends and colleagues who have succeeded on GMAT within 2-3 months are quite likely to share their GMAT journeys with you whereas others who continue to struggle will generally never share.

Besides, people who took a lot of time (a year or several years) to hit their target scores are likely to substantially understate the amount of time they took, not because they have anything against you but because they may consider their long journey an indication of their lack of intelligence.

Similar is the case with GMAT success stories on forums such as GMAT Club.

People who could make substantial improvements within a short amount of time are much more likely to share their stories than people who could never make improvements or took a lot of time to do so.

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The reason for the disparity in likelihoods is the same human motivation to look intelligent and to avoid looking dumb (and many people consider long struggle not an indication of qualities of persistence and hard work but an indication of lack of initial intelligence).

The third support of the common misconception is the marketing content of the test prep companies – the advertisements that you can master the GMAT in 2 months.

Given the common perception in the market and everybody’s desire to get done with the GMAT in 2 months, what else do you expect test prep companies to advertise?

Aren’t advertisements designed to appeal to people’s desires? However, by seeing such advertisements, people become even stronger in their belief that GMAT prep should take just 2-3 months.

The fourth support of the common misconception is the idea that GMAT is ‘just’ an entrance test and thus doesn’t deserve to take more than a couple of months of preparation.

Well, GMAT ‘serves’ as an entrance test but, fortunately or unfortunately, is a test of your ‘skills’. And if you don’t have the required level of skills, you’ll need to spend a good amount of time to build those skills.

[As we are on this topic, let me briefly also say that one could score less on the GMAT not just for the lack of skills but for the lack of knowledge or of a good approach also.

Naturally, a person who struggles because of the lack of knowledge of the test contents will improve much faster than a person who struggles because of the lack of skills. While you can get knowledge in a few days, skill-building takes months.]

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It’s not abnormal to take 6 months to prepare for GMAT. Rather, students who come to me for help have already spent 12-18 months preparing for GMAT before they come to me.

While 12-18 months may not be the average for the entire GMAT aspirant population, you don’t need to doubt your capabilities if you need more than 6 months to prepare for the GMAT.

About the author: A passionate teacher and learner, Chiranjeev Singh is a private GMAT tutor based out of Delhi. CJ (as he is commonly called) is an IIMA Alumnus and has scored 780 on the GMAT (we’ve verified his score from the Pearson VUE site). He follows a skills-based questioning-driven methodology and takes online sessions for students across the world.

This article is part of CrystalConnect, an outreach initiative by MBA Crystal Ball.

Also read:
How long does it take to prepare for the GMAT?
2-Month GMAT study plan for working professionals
When is the right time to take the GMAT?
Low GMAT score success stories


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