Do you struggle with terrifying thoughts every time you think about your upcoming test? Does your mind wander to a negative place that’s filled with anxiety whenever you try to sit down and study for it? If so, you’re not alone, and I have some good news for you! By understanding test anxiety and learning the strategies to cope with it, you can kick the GMAT’s a** and accomplish your academic goals.
WHY ME? – What is Test Anxiety
Perhaps the most common question in any challenging instance is “Why me?” However, this time it isn’t only you. Health Central states that between 40 and 60 percent of students deal with test anxiety at some point during their studies.
Test anxiety is a psychological condition that can cause distress, from studying for a test through post-test stress. The severity is so strong that you experience physical symptoms like headaches and upset stomachs whenever you think about your test. You may even completely blank out during a test even though you were confident about all the material going into it. On the other hand, your test anxiety may only go as far as manageable butterflies in your tummy.
Symptoms of Test Anxiety
The symptoms of test anxiety can be divided into various categories, including physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, and cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
When you are experiencing physical symptoms of test anxiety, you may be dealing with an elevated heart rate, shaking, sweating, nausea, butterflies, or a dry mouth. As mentioned before, there is a range of how severe each individual’s symptoms can be. It is important to manage them because the last thing you want is to end up physically ill.
Emotional symptoms are a little different, but can equally impact somebody’s state of mind. Suffering from depression, anger and/or constant negative thoughts are all common examples of emotional symptoms students deal with. When students feel constant pressure to do well on a test, they often feel hopeless and become too hard on themselves. Depending on how intensive the test anxiety is, it may affect their emotional state so significantly that they are unable to study or take the test.
Some cognitive and behavioral symptoms that students may experience include having difficulty focusing, constantly comparing themselves to others, and having a fear of tests. The fear may be so vast that it causes the student to skip tests or, even worse, drop out of school. This is also where the whole “I knew everything going into that test, but once I saw it, I went completely blank” speech comes in. Don’t worry! We believe you studied, but test anxiety can do this to you!
Test Anxiety + The GMAT = GMAT Anxiety
The Graduate Management Admission Test, generally known as the GMAT, is a prime example of a test for which many students experience test anxiety. The GMAT is a high-intensity, three-and-a-half-hour exam that many students take as an entrance ticket to business graduate school. The test is divided into four sections: analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal, with allocated time for each. The time pressure and the desire to achieve high scores make it extremely stressful for students and can have a significant impact on their performance on this important test.
Time to Overcome GMAT Anxiety
Now that you understand the problem of GMAT anxiety, it’s time to learn the strategies for how to overcome it. Without a doubt, it’s going to take a lot of effort, but follow these tips to stay confident and succeed on your GMAT exam.
- Breathe. When you feel your test anxiety creeping up, it’s easy to lose control of your thoughts and begin imagining all the possible things that could go wrong. No matter where you are, whether it be studying at the library or in the test room about to start the test, just take a deep breath. By redirecting your focus to each breath, you allow yourself to take back control of your mind. Remind yourself how far you’ve come and that you will succeed.
- Start preparing early. It’s a no-brainer, the more time you give yourself to get organized and study, the more confident you will be going into the test. The extra time, especially if you are using examPAL, can help you learn what studying techniques do and don’t work best for you, without the consequence of time. There’s nothing worse than last-minute cramming and wishing you had a extra few weeks to study. Just imagine how beneficial those additional review days could be! You might want to read our article on how long you should prepare for the GMAT.
- Make sure you are fully equipped: register for a GMAT prep course that you can count on, such as examPAL. examPAL is an online, personalized test prep that not only knows the statistically proven best way to solve each GMAT question, we know the best way for YOU. Through a series of video lessons, essay reviews, practice tests, and valuable webinars, students are offered all of the resources they may need to successfully study for the GMAT test. Moreover, we make studying quite simple by laying out what needs to be studied next and what needs to be done better. We also focus on each student’s needs by sending weekly emails and creating a specific plan one week before the test to ensure you are maximizing your time. Using a test-prep course like examPAL will help keep you organized and can eliminate some of the stress studying can cause.
- Buy a calendar and use it. With examPAL’s help, you will know exactly what you should be studying; all you have to do is figure out which days you plan to study on and how long you want to study for. By having a calendar hung up in your room, you are forced to stick to your study plans and not go off track. If an unexpected event arises on a day you booked for studying, don’t freak out! Since using a calendar has made you so organized, you can simply disperse the lost hours among the next few study days you have scheduled. If you have just 1 month to study for the GMAT, you can use this calendar we created.
- Exercise. The GMAT is probably going to be one of the most important tests you’ve ever taken, so it’s natural to want to drop everything and dedicate every waking moment to studying for it. However, you must allocate time each week to get some exercise in, as it is known to reduce stress and release feel-good endorphins.
- Educate yourself. Not only about the test material but also about what to anticipate on your test day. The last thing you want to be is surprised right before the test, and psyche yourself out. Make sure to read all the information provided on the official GMAT website to learn everything you need to know regarding test day. You can also check out the official GMAT blogs to get great advice from current and previous business students. Each new blog is posted on the homepage of mba.com, the Official GMAT Exam Facebook page, and the Official GMAT Exam Twitter page.
- Look into test accommodations – you may be eligible for accommodations and not even know it. Many people struggle with a physical or mental impairment but avoid getting a professional assessment. By getting diagnosed and being certain of your disability, you will finally understand why learning has been so difficult for you all of those years and discover the best ways to deal with it. The GMAC recognizes and may accommodate for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, psychological disabilities, learning and cognitive disorders, physical and systemic disabilities and sensory disabilities. Some of the most common accommodations they offer are additional testing time (time-and-a-half or double time), additional rest breaks, a reader to read items to you and/or record your responses and screen-reader software and/or enlarged type font. It is important to do your research, as you may be entitled to helpful perks during your test. Learn more about accommodations for GMAT test takers with disabilities.
- Arrive at your test center early. By arriving early, you have time to relax and get into a positive mindset before you begin your test. Remember, when you’re finally doing your test, don’t panic and don’t worry about who is ahead of you. It is important to re-read questions and go at your own pace. If you feel your test anxiety sneaking up, just remember to take deep breaths and take it one question at a time.
- This one is specifically for our special examPAL users. When you are stuck on a question during the test, remember what examPAL trained you to do – use PAL! Depending on the question, try to use the Precise route, such as simplifying an equation or using a formula, an Alternative route, such as using the answers, or the Logical solution. If you’re not familiar with what I just said, I suggest you sign up for a free account at examPAL today so we can teach you how to use each route and find the one that works best for you.
- Be proud of yourself! “But why?” you ask. “I haven’t even taken the GMAT yet.” Well, let me tell you why. Preparing for the GMAT is a difficult journey that may seem overwhelming at times. However, you have stuck with it because you know you need it in order to progress towards your future goals. This is what you deserve to be proud of – not giving up. So the next time you’re stressed out and feeling sorry for yourself, remember why you haven’t already given up, and remind yourself of your ability to excel and reach your goals.