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Top Five Strategies To Fight Your GMAT Exam Day Fear

It is easy to let nerves to take over your GMAT exam. Avoid letting those jitters skew your test score — use these five proven methods to fight your fear.


Wed Oct 8 2014

Are you feeling nervous about exam day? This is a perfectly normal response — even the most skilled test-takers face GMAT anxiety. Yes, this exam is important — but no, you do not need to stress.

Here are five strategies to help you remain calm and perform to the best of your abilities on the GMAT:

1. Study

The best way to ensure you are confident on test day is to foster familiarity with the material. Do not sit for the GMAT without a passing knowledge of the questions, even if you are a math genius.

Plan ahead. Set aside time to learn how the exam is structured, what types of questions you will encounter in each section, when to either solve a problem or make an educated guess, and how to use both your testing time and your break time efficiently.

If you have already completed GMAT practice tests and worked through The Official Guide for GMAT Review, you are already ahead of the game. Stay self-assured that you have done what you must in order to receive the result you desire.

2. Celebrate your strengths           

Do you excel at solving problems? Are you a master of time management? Do your Analytical Writing Assessments deserve great praise? Carry this certainty of your skills into the testing centre on exam day. Acknowledge your weaknesses, but do not focus on them excessively.

If you are not strong in Reading Comprehension, but you perform wonderfully in Critical Reasoning, that is okay! Practice Reading Comprehension questions before your test, but follow that with a bit of Critical Reasoning review to boost your spirits.

Very few people can do well in every subject. Let your confidence in one section roll into the next to build the momentum you need for exam day.

3. Relax

Do not spend all of your time studying. Too much of that at once can hamper your performance. Incorporate time for reflection in your prep plan, so that you can absorb the material instead of ploughing through it. Make sure you understand the concepts and strategies that you are applying. 

On the day before your test: close your books, shut off your laptop and enjoy yourself. Socialize with friends and participate in an activity that makes you feel happy and confident. Do not worry about cramming the night before the exam – if you have done the necessary work beforehand, you will be ready.

4. Eat well

Your testing experience will proceed more smoothly if your body has the necessary fuel.

On the day of the test—before arriving at the exam centre at least 30 minutes early—have a healthy breakfast. You will need the energy. Additionally, bring water and snacks with you to ensure you remain nourished and hydrated during your breaks.

5. Remember that you can take the GMAT again

One  exam will not determine your entire MBA future. If you feel unsure about your skill level, do not put all your eggs in one GMAT basket.

Plan ahead. Allow for a one or two month safety net after your scheduled test date to prepare for and take a subsequent GMAT exam, if need be. You might not end up needing that cushion, but knowing you have it can help you relax. 

Test day anxiety is common but you do not have to let it determine how well you perform. Acknowledge the nervousness that you have built up about your performance on this particular standardized exam on this particular day. Confront your uneasiness, your doubt, and your fear with the confidence you have developed by being prepared. Come face-to-face with that anxiety, and then let it go.

Mahlena-Rae Johnson is a professional GMAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She received her MBA from University of Southern California in 2010 and scored a 740 on the GMAT.