GMAT Test-Day Stress

July 5, 2011

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Most people taking the GMAT spend at least a couple of weeks preparing for the exam. If you're on this site, odds are you're more dedicated, and that your GMAT preparation entails dozens if not hundreds of hours of study.

After all of that, you have less than four hours to earn your score. All that study time, all those practice questions--none of it directly affects your score. The GMAT computer can only judge you based on your performance in that one sitting.

So it's natural to get extremely stressed during the test itself. It happens to almost everyone. The stakes are high, especially if MBA applications are due soon. Let's look at a few ways to beat GMAT test-day stress.

1. Remember your training

Yes, the pressure is high. But nothing can take away the time you've spent preparing, or all that you've learned in the process. Think back to the hours with The Official Guide, the practice tests, the tutoring sessions, and acknowledge that you are well equipped to handle whatever the exam throws at you.

2. Focus on what you know

I can almost guarantee you one thing: You will see questions that you can't answer. That's ok. You can miss plenty of questions and still get your dream score. Don't let those few tough ones get you down; recognize that everybody has to deal with them, and spend your mental energy attacking the problems that you are more confident about.

3. Slow down

The clock is ticking, but that doesn't mean you have to act like a bomb will explode when time runs out. Don't be afraid to skip questions, and don't worry if you fall a few minutes behind. Be aware of the clock, but don't let it drive you crazy. It's always ok to close your eyes for a moment, take a deep breath, and go back to the test with fresh eyes.

4. Recognize that stress is normal

You probably won't be the only person in the room taking the GMAT. Look around, and everyone else may look calm, but they are every bit as stressed as you are. Just because you're breaking a sweat and worried about meeting your score goal doesn't mean that disaster is right around the corner. The pressure is part of the experience.

5. Consider the worst-case scenario.

The GMAT is an important part of your MBA application, but it isn't the whole thing--not even close. And unless your application deadline is immediate, today's GMAT isn't even your last chance. Mitigate the pressure by remembering that, even if you have an awful day and take home an embarrassing score, you still have plenty of chances to improve and gain acceptance to the business school of your choice.



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.

Total GMAT Math

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Quant section. It's "far and away the best study material available," including over 300 realistic practice questions and more than 500 exercises!
Click to read more.