GMAT Stress Management: Improve Your Performance

April 17, 2014
Brian Fruchey

gmat stress management

Photo Credit: stuant63 via Compfight cc

Last time I talked about anticipation stress and how it can impede your preparation for the GMAT. Keep working on conquering that kind of stress.

Now, let’s talk about the other type of stress that I mentioned in my previous blog entry – test day/performance stress. On test day, there is a chance that you might experience one of the following situations:

  1. Getting stuck on a question
  2. Losing focus
  3. Starting to panic

What to do if you get stuck on a question

If you get stuck on a question, don’t spend an unnecessary amount of time on it.  Think about employing a guessing strategy and move on.  Good test takers realize that everyone misses a point here or there – they have to get the MOST points, not all the points. After about 2 minutes of work on a question, if you haven’t yet reached an answer, it’s a good idea to move on.

What to do if you start to lose focus

If you start to lose focus, you must get it back as soon as possible.  There are a couple tricks you can employ to regain focus:

  • Skip the question/guess and move on to the next one.  This is a good strategy if you lost focus because the question is difficult; however, it isn’t a great strategy if you are tired or distracted.
  • If you lose focus because you are tired or distracted, or because of general test anxiety, close your eyes, put your head down for a moment, or just look away. You can even try a quick chair stretch to relieve tension.  Do something to change your focus from what is on the screen.  You have the time to take 15 seconds and breathe deeply, disconnecting from the environment for a short period of time.  Doing this will help control the adrenaline in your system and put the situation in perspective.
  • If you lose focus because of something going on in the testing room, raise your hand and engage the proctor.  The testing room should be quiet and free from distractions.  The proctors are there to enforce this decorum.

What to do if you start to panic

If you start to panic – stop.  If you employed the techniques above, you shouldn’t even come close to panicking.  Panic comes from letting your anxiety and adrenaline get out of control.  In this situation, make sure that you pull away from the screen for a few seconds and take a couple deep breaths.  In the worst-case scenario – you may need to raise your hands and leave the testing room (this is permissible – but you won’t get your time back) and grab a drink of water.

The key to a great test day performance is to know thyself.  If you start feeling that the adrenaline and anxiety are building up, pause.  Think about your breathing, skip the question, or find a way to take a very short break.  The GMAT tests your ability to answer quantitative and verbal questions and it also tests your ability to deal with stressful situations.  Don’t let it beat you.  You have prepared well, so keep your cool and fight for the score you deserve.

Brian Fruchey Brian taught GMAT courses for Kaplan for over 5 years - starting just a few months after he took his own Kaplan course. He has moved on to his post-MBA career with a large management consulting firm in Washington, DC and sits on a number of non-profit and university boards and panels.

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