How many days do I need to prepare for the GMAT?



Before I answer this question, could you answer one of mine:

How long does someone need to learn to drive a car?


Did you answer the question?

Not yet?

Humour me, answer now please: How long does someone need to learn to drive a car?

Yes, I’d like you to come up with a figure – in days / weeks / months, etc.

Did you answer it?


I now have a few follow-up questions for you.

1. Did you know the following:

  • Transmission: Automatic/ manual?
  • Vehicle type: Hatchback/ sedan/ truck?
  • Surroundings: In an empty parking lot/ heavy traffic/ highway?
  • Roads: Plains/ mountains?
  • Location: Daredevil India or docile Canada?
  • Conditions: Any snow? How are roads? 
  • Kind of traffic: Yamuna Expressway/ Chandni Chowk?

2. What does ‘learn to drive’ even mean? Learn for what purpose? To:

  • Be able to move the car from a stationary position into motion?
    Drive without hitting into something or someone?
  • Drive so that you can commute without the need for any assistance? – If a driver can only commute at a speed up to 10 km/h, has that driver learned to drive?
  • Become a chauffeur?
    Drive in Formula 1?
  • ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, ‘Rush’ or ‘Fast and the Furious’?

3. Who is this ‘someone’?

  • Does the person know how to ride/ drive some other vehicle – a motorcycle, say?
  • Does the person understand traffic regulations?
  • Does the person understand how traffic lights work?
  • Does the person have a fear of driving that might hinder their learning ability?
  • Does the person understand the norms of the region? A European might not be trained to manoeuvre around a cow, but for an Indian it might be second nature.

4. Including the ability to

  • Reverse?
  • Parallel park?
  • Drive up-hill in a stop and go?
  • Coordinate with other vehicles, pedestrians, cows?

Don’t you think answering the first question needed an understanding of all these facets?

Some of you might have paused to actually wonder about these things.

Some of you might think that you answered for an “average” (or regular) case. 

  • A regular individual,
  • learning to drive for a regular use case
  • in regular conditions

Do we know that the ‘someone’ is “regular”?
Further, could you define “regular”?
Would your definition of “average” or “regular” be the same as everyone else’s?

Some of you might have answered based on how long you/ your family members/ friends took. 

  • Is that applicable to all?
  • Let’s say you do not know anyone who took longer than a month to learn how to drive. Does that prove that everyone could learn in that time period?

So, in how many days can someone learn to drive a car?

Answer: There is no fixed answer. There can’t be.

Does that make sense?

Now, let me ask you: 

 How long does someone need to prepare for the GMAT? 

 Is there a fixed answer? Can there be a fixed answer?

No, right?

Yet, I find most test takers make this mistake while preparing for the GMAT. 

  1. They start with asking the question ‘How long do I need to prepare for GMAT?’
  2. They somehow figure out an arbitrary answer
  3. They then plan everything else accordingly
  4. Then, if they are not able to meet their ‘self-imposed-deadline’ they start getting stressed out.

Who is this ‘someone’?

  • What’s her current level of skills?
  • What are she doing to improve those skills?

What does ‘prepare for GMAT’ even mean?

  • Get a 600? 700? 750? 800?
  • How much time is she devoting to GMAT prep?
  • What’s the quality of those hours?

So, how long does someone need to prepare for the GMAT?

Answer: There is no fixed answer. There can’t be.

Next, you might be wondering, 

How long do I need to prepare for the GMAT, given my

  • current scores,
  • my education background,
  • my daily schedule,
  • and my target score?

Alas, the answer still remains the same.

There is no formula or calculator in which we can simply feed these values and it spits out the number of days required. 

To advance, someone might need to simply build on their current level while someone else might need to entirely unlearn their old way of doing things before they can improve.

Moreover, it is not just about the number of hours. It is about what you’re doing in those hours. 

I come across so many students who say “I am done with the Official Guide.” Yet, when we discuss questions, it becomes apparent that their reasoning and understanding are not in place.

I can almost hear some of you wondering: 

Well then, should we keep our prep completely open-ended? Isn’t that madness?

Don’t you think setting up timelines based on inapplicable factors, then missing them by far, and then getting flustered is worse?

I know of many students who have been preparing for the GMAT for years. Yes, years. 

Do you think they planned it that way? They didn’t. 

And what impact do you think such a ‘delay’ has? Many start doubting themselves, start putting their lives on hold until they get a high GMAT score. For most, it is a matter of added anxiety.

So, yes, open-ended prep is better than prep with arbitrary (and most times too stringent) timelines. 

Ok, fine. How should we prepare then – you ask

  • Be patient with yourself
  • Do not set arbitrary deadlines
  • Start off without time limits. See how you progress
  • Put in efforts to learn – learn as much as you can from everything you study and every question you do
  • Focus on the process, not the outcome
  • Evaluate whether you’re going in the right direction and whether improving. Nothing else matters.

Developing skills takes time. It takes different amounts of time for different individuals. To compare your journey with someone else’s doesn’t make sense.

Compare your progress with yourself.

Are you in a better position today than you were a week/ a month ago?

  • If yes, that’s great, right? Why bother about anything else? Continue progressing.
  • If not, they anyway shouldn’t you figure out why you’re not improving and fix that first? Why bother about anything else?


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