The psychology of the GMAT

by Chuck on Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Many people study for a few weeks and make decent progress. But they then reach a plateau. Their score gets stuck around a certain point ~ sometimes a little higher, sometimes a little lower, but not as high as they want it to be.

Learning the content of the GMAT is just part of the battle. You also need to prepare your mind. What do I mean by that? You need to train yourself to know when you’ve sent two minutes on a question, so that you can develop that instinct that says it’s time to move on. You need to be able to put a question out of your mind as soon as you’ve clicked Confirm and moved on to the next one. And you need to know how to deal with those moments when you’re tired, or frustrated, or confused, or angry, or just generally fed up of the GMAT, when you’re in the middle of a test and you don’t want to quit but you’re really not having much fun.

Don’t underestimate the psychological aspects of the GMAT. You need to be physically and mentally ready on test day. If you need help, ask. There are plenty of coaches out there (I can recommend one if you like). But either way, make sure that you know how to get your mind in the zone so that you can get the best out of yourself.

Here are some ideas to start with:

  • Do your practice tests at the same time of day as your real test
  • Get out of the house to do a practice test – go somewhere new, with no distractions, so it feels as though you’re going to the test centre
  • Do 65-minute study sessions to replicate the Quant & Verbal sessions
  • Take a cheat sheet, or some old questions with working, to read through in the waiting room
  • Take your time on the first question; if you feel you’ve started well, you’ll approach the whole test in a more positive frame of mind
  • Go slower at the beginning: you may be nervous and want to double-check everything, and that’s ok – you’ll speed up later
  • Plan what you’ll eat and drink in your breaks
  • Be prepared for difficult questions – know how you’ll calm yourself down when you see them (breathing deeply, tapping etc.)
  • Be prepared to see that you’re slightly behind time, and know how you’ll deal with it
  • Prepare for worst case scenarios – what would you do? – it probably won’t be that bad so anything else will feel better
  • Remind yourself of the things that are more important to you than the GMAT

I’m sure you can add your own as you go. Just be aware that the GMAT is about so much more than content. It’s about process, attitude, practice, consistency and decision-making under pressure. Develop your mental strength and you may see your score improve significantly.

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