ETS Guide to Reducing Test Anxiety

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Test anxiety can be one of the more intractable problems in preparing for a high-stakes exam like the GMAT. I strongly believe that much text anxiety stems from inadequate preparation, as I've written elsewhere.

However, that isn't the whole story. I do believe that test anxiety can be overcome, but there's no quick fix. In addition to more thorough preparation, some strategies you can use include:

  • Make test day itself less stressful. Get to the test center early, expect some hassles, and familiarize yourself with the test interface.
  • Remember that life goes on. Yes, it's a high-stakes test, but it's just a test, and the more you focus on how important it is, the less you are focusing on getting questions right.
  • Focus on the questions, not the algorithm. You can't outsmart the GMAT. Just handle each question as it comes up.
  • Take it easy. If you find yourself panicking or losing focus, give yourself a break for a few seconds. Look away from the screen, remind yourself it'll be over soon, and jump back in to the new question with a clearer mind.

ETS, the company that used to administer the GMAT and still administers the many other tests including the GRE, has published a guide of techniques like these to help you reduce test anxiety. Many of the tips are platitudes, but it you find just one or two that help you reduce stress on test day, it's worth the read.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

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