The GMAT test day related anxiety starts right from the day you decide to apply to the best business schools. The stress and tension continues to build up during the GMAT preparation phase and ends only when you walk out of the GMAT test center. The day before the GMAT test is usually the worst.
Prashant (@Melodania on Twitter) is an engineer who’s currently working as an IT consultant. He’s a thoroughbred Mumbai lad, a music freak, a reader (not the Adobe Acrobat types). When he’s not playing his bass (guess whether that refers to his voice, his pet fish or his guitar), he’s in the kitchen trying to find a new dish to creatively mess up. In this guest post, he shares his GMAT test day experience along with some advice on managing the stress before & during the GMAT test date.
Loads of blogs, forums, institutes, consultants and counselors out there provide detailed and expert advice on helping you prepare for the GMAT exam-right from coaching, books and study material, to customized packages, mock preparatory tests and tips; to ensure you ace the much dreaded quant and verbal sections of the GMAT.
But what I found to be the most sparsely discussed and almost neglected topic was how to actually handle exam day itself and more importantly the days leading to the exam. Here is my humble attempt at trying to share my own experience of taking the GMAT exam and how I handled exam day.
I took the whole week before my exam off from work to prepare (haggling boss, annoyed girlfriend, miscellaneous drinking parties all put on the backburner). And every day during that week, I made sure my time table of activities synced up with test day.
For example, as my test was scheduled for 1 pm and my centre was a 40 min drive from my place, on waking up every morning I would have a smallish meal, watch some TV, and then go for a 40 min drive around my house (yes, the traffic policemen did eye me suspiciously).
I would then come back home and study, or give a GMAT mock test, as it may be.
This really set my body clock up to avert possible drowsiness, sleep, hunger and other undesirable physiological symptoms that could crop up during actual test time. A week did it for me; ‘the getting used-to period’ could vary depending on every individual’s habits.
Also, as GMAT test centres in India can be quite far from where you stay, it’s always a good idea to visit your GMAT test centre once before test day, preferably during the same time as your GMAT test, to gauge traffic levels, know train/bus timings if you are planning on using these modes of transport and learn the shortest possible route to your GMAT test centre.
The night before was expectedly filled with anxiety and nervousness. Sleep and rest are of primary importance the day before the GMAT test date, so I made sure I got mine.
A blog post on Manhattan GMAT titled, ‘You play like you practice‘, the gist of which was NEVER try stunts at the eleventh hour – essentially meaning you shouldn’t do anything new at the last minute.
Michael Jordan never learnt any new moves on the eve of the game. Neither should you-so no mugging new probability formulae or an Sentence Correction (SC) rule or even trying to cram up some GMAT AWA sample essays. [Here are some AWA essay tips and a free tool to get GMAT AWA scores for practice].
With a relaxed mind I woke up on GMAT test day, went about my routine as I had practiced for the past 7 days and was all set to rock and roll!!
I reached my GMAT test centre about an hour early, so listened to some music for about 15 minutes before entering (would personally recommend a hard hitting rock or metal number just to get the adrenaline pumping – but that’s just me! A Bollywood item number might work just as well).
All you need to feel is confident – how you achieve that is immaterial. So with the feeling that I can conquer the world, I went into my testing area.
All said and done, GMAT exam day pressure is real and it becomes important to know exactly what you are up against to be able to handle it with finesse. Hence, the small 8 minute breaks that are offered in between the test are vital stress busters and need to be taken.
During both my breaks, I came out, stretched, munched on chocolate bars, dry fruits, had couple of swigs of orange juice (to keep the glucose running), visited the restroom, splashed my face with cold water and was ready for the next round just like a professional boxer-the entire process EXACTLY like I had practiced during my mock tests!!
I ended up with a respectable GMAT score of 710 – slightly short of my target, but I was happy nevertheless.
So my parting shot is this – know exactly what to expect and follow a fixed routine and you are sorted. This will ensure minimum surprises on D-Day and will mentally prepare you to focus on the sole important thing – to give full justice to your efforts and potential.
The GMAT is just another exam. It’s not a walk in the park, but it’s not such a big deal either if you come to think of it (remember it’s just a small proportion of your entire application package). So breathe easy and enjoy the ride!!
Remember that this is an MBA applicant’s perspective. What worked for one GMAT test taker may not work for another. Create a GMAT test day strategy that’s suited for your presonal preferences. If you are a hardcore Himes-bhai fan (accept our sympathies, but you’ll have to tackle that issue on your own), please don’t listen to Metallica on the GMAT test day.
If you are just starting out, try the free GMAT practice test.