If you plan on attending business school, taking the GMAT is a must. The GMAT is a standardized admissions test that is required by nearly every accredited business school in the U.S. As with most standardized tests, preparation is the key to getting a good score. You should begin preparing for the GMAT at least four months prior to taking the exam. The GMAT study plan shown below can help you get started. Modify it accordingly to fit your individual needs. Difficulty: Hard Time Required: Four Months + Here's How: Buy a Good GMAT Prep Book GMAT prep books will give you a better understanding of the test. Most prep books include GMAT study tips, information about test content, practice questions, and full-length practice tests. Top GMAT Prep Books Utilize Your GMAT Prep Book You will use the GMAT prep book that you purchased throughout the prep process. To start, flip through until you are familiar with the book and with all of the different sections that are included. Next, take one of the GMAT practice tests. Don’t be surprised if you don’t do well. And don’t panic. Now you know how much work you need to do. GMAT Practice Questions Your GMAT prep book is undoubtedly filled with GMAT practice questions. These sample questions will help you learn more about the types of questions that are on the real GMAT. They will also provide excellent practice for the real thing. You should work with GMAT practice questions every day. Set up a schedule that works for you, but try doing at least one question per day. Evaluate Your Progress You should constantly be evaluating your performance during the GMAT prep process. Approximately six weeks into it, take another practice test. Evaluate the score from this test and the test that you took previously. Has your score improved? Was the improvement significant? Have you improved enough? If the answer to these three questions is no, you need to step up your GMAT prep work. Consider a GMAT Prep Course If the evaluation that you completed in step three was not as positive as you would have liked, then it’s time to look into a GMAT prep course. There are many different GMAT prep courses that can be found. The most popular are the ones administered by either Kaplan or The Princeton Review. Of course, some of these GMAT courses can be very expensive- most will cost over $1,000. However, they will increase your score. The Final Practice Test Towards the end of the prep process, you should take at least one more GMAT practice test. This time, try to mimic the actual testing conditions— find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted and time yourself, allowing breaks only as they are allowed during testing time. Honestly evaluate your score. If you think you are prepared, take the actual GMAT. If you’re not ready- keep practicing. Preparation is the key to success.