What to Do the Night Before the GMAT

The GMAT is a marathon, and not a sprint! I like to use the analogy of an endurance athletic event like a marathon or a stage of the Tour de France. At that point, you’re well trained and primed for action — you really can’t improve your conditioning the day before the race, but you could certainly downgrade your performance by draining your energy or taxing your muscles. The same is true of the GMAT — you won’t get any “smarter” the night before the test by studying; you may, however, wear yourself down by staying up late to get to one more set of problems, or make yourself nervous by happening to hit a patch of ten monster questions in a row and struggling through them.

Now, on the flip side, you’ve worked too hard and are too antsy before the test to simply “do nothing”…doing that will probably increase your nerves to the point of being counterproductive, as well. So I’d steal a page from the Tour de France cyclists, who ride their bike trainers on a low gear before events, basically “spinning their wheels” with little-to-no resistance in an effort to replicate the motion of riding and keep their muscles fresh (plus burn off any “just sitting around” anxiety) without taxing themselves before a monumental challenge.

You should attempt to do something similar by working through old problems and just going through the mental steps necessary to solve them and remind yourself of any special-circumstances items you need to remember (e.g., “It’s a Data Sufficiency problem with an inequality, so I need to rearrange the algebra in statement 1, but be careful to not multiply or divide by a variable because it could be negative, in which case I would have to flip the sign”). By doing this, you’ll remind yourself of how to succeed, but you won’t tax yourself mentally or run the risk of encountering a few tough problems that shake your well-earned confidence.

Remember: Rest and relaxation, coupled with perhaps a little “light exercise” for your brain, are your best bets for maximizing your GMAT score on test day!

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Comments

  1. Any recommendations for high stress people? I tend to get pretty worked up before stressful situations like the GMAT or public speaking and I can’t seem to do my best. Not many people address this issue.
    Thanks

  2. Dealing with the stress of the GMAT is a question we get a lot. Our show about what to do with a low GMAT score discusses stress (http://www.mbapodcaster.com/MBA_MoreInfo/low-gmat-score.asp?iEpisode=85)

    Specifically, one of the guests on the show, a two-time GMAt test taker, recommends the following:

    “Mental exercises, stress reduction routines, breathing, relaxation, mental cues to keep yourself calm during stressful situation specifically as you’re taking the computer based test. And just kind of reinforcing your mental capacity to go about taking that kind of a test and just building your confidence. Initially I was a little bit skeptical, coming from the military background sometimes those sort of touchy feely things sometimes I’m a little adverse to but looking back on it that really was invaluable and I think helped exponentially my performance on the test.”

    We also recommend talking to your doctor. There are anti-anxiety medications that can help calm your nerves on test day. Just be sure to take a “test run” at least a week before the test to make sure you know how the medication reacts to your body and to make sure it gives you the affect you are looking for.

    Good luck!

  3. Good question, Adam – in addition to what the folks at Podcaster said, I’d offer a few suggestions of my own:

    -Keep in mind that the schools only care about your top score on the GMAT, so your test is much more an “opportunity to do well” than a catastrophe if you don’t. I’ll apologize for too many sports references in this thread already (with at least one more to come), but think of it like you’re a baseball team up 3-1 in a seven-game series. “Winning” on this test is great, but even if you don’t, you’ll have multiple opportunities to bounce back. That should take some of the pressure off.

    -If you’ve prepared, the GMAT is an opportunity to show off what you’ve learned and how hard you’ve worked. I’m a marathon runner, for example, and I’ve trained myself to sleep easy the (usually stressful) night before a race by realizing that all of the hard work has already been done in training…the race itself is the victory lap. At that point, everything I could have done is already done, and it’s just a matter of going out and following through on what I’ve prepared myself to do. With the GMAT, it’s similar – if you can remind yourself that you’ve seen similar questions and skills many times before, then you can emphasize the thought process (i.e. “It’s a Critical Reasoning problem, so let’s figure out what they’re asking me to do first, then take the next step…”), that helps you stay focused on the individual steps – which you know how to do – and not overwhelmed by the whole thing.

    -It sounds cheesy, but smile. Just the endorphins that smiling releases will help you stay positive, and if you can supplement the smile with positive thoughts (even something like “well, I knew I’d see a multivariable equation…I guess this is it” when you see a question that you dread), you can reaffirm to yourself that the test is more a fun challenge than a real threat. Again, it probably doesn’t sound all that helpful, but try it…it’s usually pretty beneficial.

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