How to Rewire Your Brain to Succeed on the GMAT™ Exam

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During the days, weeks and hours before an important test, like the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) exam, it’s normal to feel jittery, nervous or even a sense of dread. But what if your anxiety prevents you from properly preparing or focusing during the test itself?

Read on to learn how you can succeed on the GMAT exam—whether it’s the GMAT online exam or the in-person exam—and conquer your nerves.

For many, the GMAT exam can be especially nerve-wracking because of the way it can contribute to a competitive business school application or even help secure a dream job. Although GMAT exam scores are critical for many business master’s programs, you don’t have to let the assessment get in the way of your goals. Here are four mindset shifts to help you reduce test anxiety and ensure your highest GMAT exam score possible.

One of the best ways to reduce test-taking anxiety is to develop a strong study plan. Learn about the 8 Steps to a winning GMAT study plan here.

Notice and name

In the days and weeks before the scheduled test date, take note of what you’re feeling when you’re making decisions. Whether you skip a meal, stay at the library longer than normal or postpone studying altogether, pause and describe what you’re feeling in the clearest terms possible. If you were about to justify another late-night study session fueled by vending machine snacks, take a moment to put a word to the emotional state. Chances are, once you’ve identified what you’re really feeling, you’ll change course. This can help prevent mindless choices and realize what you actually need in a given moment.

Reframe anxiety as excitement

Although professional athletes may want you to believe they were born to handle high-stake moments of performance, many have years of practice redefining their anxiety so that they can perform well during stress. Remember the physical cues we discussed earlier? They’re the same physiological reactions to excitement, like riding a roller coaster or revealing your feelings to a crush. Next time someone asks how you’re feeling about the upcoming exam, respond with “I’m excited,” and see how it changes your outlook.

Appreciate the body’s natural response to stress

Thousands of years ago, our physiological response to perceived danger saved lives. Cortisol and adrenaline increase, your heart rate rises and you may even experience tunnel vision, finding it difficult to focus. These automatic responses helped ensure the survival of our species but aren’t so helpful when the fright doesn’t present impending doom. Instead of seeing stress as a purely negative experience, acknowledge the role of “fight-or-flight” in our evolutionary history and reorient your experience of the physical cues. Gratitude for how far we’ve come can help contextualize your experience and calm your central nervous system.

Make a game plan for negativity

Attitudes are powerful determinants for performance. When negative thoughts creep in, they can quickly gain a foothold if left unattended. During the GMAT exam, if you notice negativity—like losing confidence on a question that has taken up a lot of time—move on and come back to it later. If you start to doubt yourself, make an educated guess and reason through what you do know. Timed practice tests before the big day are also important for the way they provide opportunities to notice patterns of thought and how you’ll dispel negative ones.

Want to make sure you have all your bases covered? Check out these five quick study tips for the GMAT exam.

These four mindset shifts can help set you up for success for the GMAT exam and other important opportunities that require top performance. Plus, nothing compares to a solid study plan. Make sure you have all the prep materials you need by clicking below.

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