3 Tips to Reduce GMAT Test Anxiety (and any other)

By August 1, 2014Blog

Tests measure not only what you know or how well you know it, tests also measure how well you take tests. For a majority of test takers, the mere thought of an upcoming exam can elicit anything from minor irritation or a feeling of fogginess on details, to a spasmodic explosion of dread and complete immobilization; picture a deer in headlights.


If you have experienced any of these reactions, chances are you suffer from test anxiety. Anxiety stems from a variety of causes, but most commonly from a belief that we cannot fulfill our expectations. An estimated 30-35% of college students are handicapped by test anxiety. According to research published in the journals, Review of Educational Research, Contemporary Educational Psychology, and Educational Psychology, test anxiety can impede test performance by as much as 12 percentile points.

For the GMAT, best results come from a comprehensive and aggressive study program integrated with holistic techniques to prepare you mentally, emotionally, and physically for the test. Performing at your optimum means knowing the material and feeling confident, calm, focused, and alert. Follow the three key tips below to draw on your mental, psychological, and intuitive strengths. By using these techniques, you will develop the retention and recall, concentration and focus, confidence and relaxation necessary for peak performance on test day.

  1. Create a schedule for the duration of your study. Include designated time for study, exercise, social interaction, and downtime. Schedule at least 6 hours of sleep. We also encourage at least 10 minutes a day for meditation, prayer, or quiet time. Your brain works best when it has time to process information. It needs time when you’re not studying or thinking about GMAT material. You also avoid burnout with a balanced schedule.
  2. Fire your inner critic. Eliminate self-judgment, especially if it leans towards self-flagellation. If you continue to feel shame and dejection because a third grade math teacher said you’d never be good at math, perhaps you can think of the ways now as an adult in which you ARE good at math. Remember: the GMAT tests what you learned in seventh through ninth grade, not rocket science.
  3. Visualize success. Imagine: It’s test day and you feel comfortable, prepared, and relaxed. This visualization exercise prepares your brain to feel that way on the REAL test day. Spend at least five minutes at a time imagining different details about taking the test. Notice you answer each question with clarity and preciseness. Your visualization scene doesn’t need to be the same each time, but you need to tap into a sense of accomplishment, calm, and confidence. Do this every morning and before bedtime.Researchers at Stanford and University of Chicago evaluated the efficacy of visualization. They compared two sets of basketball players. The first group practiced playing whereas the second group only imagined practicing. The players who didn’t physically practice, but visualized peak performance, improved 23 -30 percent in their actual basket-shooting ability, whereas the students who physically practiced saw little improvement. GMAT test-takers who prepare themselves beyond the intellectual practice by feeling positive and preparing themselves wholly, perform best on the test.

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Bara Sapir

About Bara Sapir

Bara Sapir, MA is an internationally recognized expert in high-performance coaching, personal empowerment and transformative test preparation. She partners with each of her students to achieve success. She is an inspirational, highly skilled, passionate expert and teacher with twenty years’ experience teaching test prep, including six years as an instructor for The Princeton Review. Click here to learn more [...]

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