Starting GMAT Prep – GMAT Study plan 2021

GMAT Study Plan 2021

Since you are here, you are already aware that the GMAT test is needed to qualify for the MBA, MS, MIM, PHD or Other programs that you may be targeting as the next step in your career. If you are just starting GMAT preparation, it can seem overwhelming. There are so many forums, Facebook groups, videos, articles and myriad test prep companies trying to sell their services – all providing an information overload that you are not yet quite ready for. You just want to get started. You just want a GMAT Study Plan!

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[su_pullquote]Starting GMAT Prep can be overwhelming with so many books, videos, groups and prep companies all trying to get your attention.[/su_pullquote]

In this article, we will provide a step-by-step Study Plan to get your GMAT Preparation started. The article by default assumes that you are looking to self-prepare at the start of your GMAT Prep.

As you might imagine, this is a generic post applicable to all GMAT Participants. If you are looking have answers for your particular case, please Contact us.

So, here is the 10-step GMAT Study Plan that we will detail in this article:

#1: Familiarize yourself with the GMAT

Firstly, before diving to the deep end, you should take a few days just to familiarize yourself with the GMAT exam. Here are the few resources that will help:

#2: Understand your target GMAT score

Why? You need to set a goal when you start the prep without which you will not be organized enough. In general, you would need 700+ for top 20 B-schools, 680+ for B-schools ranked 20-40 and about 650 to crack into top 50.

Essentially, if you score well above the average GMAT score for your target schools, you will have better chances of admission.

#3: Gather the most essential GMAT resources

This is where most GMAT Aspirants make a mistake. They spend so much time collecting every book ever written on GMAT, every video ever made and other materials that they lose sight of their goal and feel overwhelmed.

However, here is the good news – you only need to start with a few basic essential resources to start your GMAT Prep and we have laid them out here. Along with the books, there are some additional resources such as Facebook groups, YouTube Channels, WhatsApp/Telegram groups and GMAT Forums that you should join to keep yourself connected in the GMAT world and follow questions, experiences and the latest in the MBA Admissions process.

Essential GMAT Prep books

GMAT Official Guides

GMAT Official guides are the only only books from the official source and contain real GMAT questions for you to practice. Hence, we recommend the Official Guide Bundle with the online question bank (The first in the list below). If you are at an advanced stage of your prep and already scoring close to 650+, we recommend GMAT Advanced Questions book.

GMAT Official Guide 2021 Bundle + Question Bank
GMAT Official Guide 2021 + Question Bank
GMAT Advanced Questions Book

Manhattan Prep Guides

Manhattan Prep Guides have for a long while been one of the best source of GMAT Verbal Preparation. Their Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension books have all helped test takers for past 10+ years. The Mathematics books are decent as well, however the verbal have better ROI. While their “All the GMAT” book bundle comes with 6-Practice tests, it is pricey at $150, therefore, we recommend that you start with either the Verbal bundle “All the Verbal” or just the Sentence Correction book.

If you are already advanced in your prep, then the “GMAT Advanced Quant 250+” is highly recommended.

All the Verbal
GMAT Advanced Quant
All the Quant
Math Foundations Practice
All the GMAT + 6 Practice Tests
Verbal Foundations Practice

Facebook groups

Facebook has many active GMAT groups, so you can always search for them. However, most groups are filled with spam with minimal admin activity to fight spam. There is just no point overwhelming yourself with all the different Facebook groups out there that will not add any value to your preparation. Hence, we recommend the following groups mostly due to the reduced spam and better quality control:

Some of these groups are new, but we like them because of better spam control.

WhatsApp / Telegram / Signal groups

Similar to facebook groups, there are just wide array of WhatsApp groups, however the activity can be limited while taking up important space on your phone. Hence, we do not recommend participating in more than 2-3 groups because the discussion can be distracting. We recommend the following groups, however please note that the entry to the groups are limited:

WhatsApp Groups:


GMAT Verbal

Telegram Groups:


GMAT Verbal

YouTube Channels

YouTube has plenty of videos on different topics related to GMAT that you could look at, however most videos are not in-depth enough to help. In other words, they are built to lure you into some kind of paid service or other. On the other hand, On our YouTube channel we post a lot of free detailed and in-depth videos on a variety of GMAT topics including ways to solve complex GMAT topics.

Please subscribe: GMAT By Example YouTube Channel.

GMAT Forums

There are two most famous GMAT forums. Again forums can be distracting to your overall prep, however when you are practicing questions, forum and the filters they provide can be a very helpful tool to put your prep into overdrive.

Recently GMATClub Forum has been more active than BeatTheGMAT forum so if you are looking to join just one forum, GMATClub might be the way to go.

#4: Create an error log for GMAT practice questions

Don’t underestimate the power of error log. But, what is an error log?

An error log is a tool that you can use to track all of your mistakes during practice/practice tests and then use it to find trends, weak areas and eventually improve. Most importantly, without an error log, you are just going through the motion of preparation without a clear direction on what to tackle next. For instance, imagine this – “If your strong point is Number Theory and you are solving 75% of your time solving Number Theory problems because everyone on FB, WhatsApp is asking them” – Is that really where you should be spending your time on?

Forums like GMATClub have a built in error log, but let’s be honest, you will often solve GMAT practice problems outside of the forum. So, having an error log at the forum doesn’t always help you. Hence we recommend keeping a nice error log of your own.

What should an error log look like? We are glad you asked:

The log should be able to track the following:

  • Question: types, topics, difficulty, source
  • Kind of mistake: Silly, fundamental, didn’t understand question, spent too much time
  • Your notes / assessment

#5: Start with a “benchmark” with a free GMAT Practice Test

Finally, this is where your GMAT Preparation really starts. If you are just starting, then you need to know where you are starting from and how much work you have to do. We will reference to this as your “benchmark”. Here is the basic formula:

The improvement you need = GMAT Target Score [Step 2]- Your GMAT Practice test score [Step 5: Benchmark]

It is also important that you utilize the freely available tests from for this attempt as these tests are the closest you will find to the GMAT. Alternatively, you could choose to take one of the other available tests – Free GMAT Practice Tests. For this first attempt only, you may skip the AWA/Essay section as we are not really testing your stamina just yet, but your knowledge.

After the test, it is time to input the mistakes in your log. This is the start of your log file, hence, you can be as detailed as you can. As you make a habit of logging the items in your log files, you will eventually get into a cadence of inputting only the most required information. But for now, put as much thought as you can in logging the information. I promise, it will help.

#6: Identify your weak areas

Remember the log file? now is the time to look at the log file and analyze the following:

  • Where are you making those mistakes, is there any common thread?
  • Are you making too many silly mistakes?
  • Do you have a tendency to get easy difficulty questions right, but the harder questions incorrect? (Or vice versa due to overconfidence?)
  • Is there a certain topic questions that you get consistently incorrect? (Like probability, statistics, subject verb agreement etc.)

Certainly, this is a crucial step in your GMAT Journey, since without proper analysis, you would be at a loss on where to improve. Let’s assume that at this step, you have identified 5 different areas as weak. However, the next step is to start small and focus on 1-2 areas and spend time on those. Finally, go to revise the fundamentals if you need to to master those 1-2 areas before moving to the rest of the weaknesses in your list.

#7: The study diagram and calendar

The below diagram outlines the GMAT Study Plan process. Each pillar can be completed within a week, if you have enough time for your preparation. Essentially, the preparation framework is made of three pillars, Take Test -> Identify Weak Areas -> Practice & repeat.

#8: Commit to the GMAT Prep

A very common problem Test Takers have during their GMAT Journey is that they do not persevere. Consequently, a stop-start approach to preparation not only loses all momentum, it also undoes some of the learning you have done as you get our of touch with your plan.

#9: Avoid common GMAT Prep mistakes

Finally, here are some common GMAT Study Plan mistakes you must avoid at all costs:

  1. Collecting a lot of material: Starting to collect all the material you can is just disastrous. Do you think that the rules of even and odd change from one book to another? How about rules of grammar? Collecting every book out there, every tutorial, every video is not healthy and it only serves as a distraction and an overwhelming agent.
  2. Jumping into tests and questions unprepared: Trust the method described in this post. Jumping directly into questions without having a focus area or without having the right fundamentals is going to be ineffective.
  3. Not focusing on fundamentals first: Assuming that you are already familiar with the GMAT topics because you did them in high school is a mistake. At least a small brush-up of concepts is likely to get you back in the grove.
  4. Getting distracted by “strategies”: This one is important. There are many “strategies” to solve certain kinds of questions or to improve speed. However without having a handle on the fundamentals, these strategies will just prove as distraction.
  5. Trying to improve speed: There is just no time to trying to increase speed if your accuracy is already bad. Increase accuracy first!
  6. Getting bogged down with one area: There are some areas that you just cannot be a master at. If you get stuck trying to get every question right on these topics you will be preparing for ever.

For read this article for more common GMAT Study Plan Mistakes.

#10: Seek paid help when needed

There will be instances when you are not able to improve on your own. Hence, It is perfectly ok to seek a tutor or a course to help supplement your preparation. For example when you:

  • Do not have a lot of time before your real exam
  • Are unable to improve on your scores
  • Scoring well in practice tests but poorly in the real exam
  • Are not great at self-pacing yourself

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, GMATByExample will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. #commissionsearned

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