5 Ways to Manage Your Test Anxiety

Bethany Garner

Bethany Garner - BusinessBecause

Bethany Garner is a writer at BusinessBecause.com

Image not found

Feeling nervous as you prepare for the GMAT or another important test is totally normal.

Standardized tests have a lot riding on them, and a touch of test anxiety is to be expected. Test anxiety symptoms can range from a mild case of the butterflies to more severe manifestations such as sweating, a racing pulse or nausea.

But sometimes, this anxiety can get in the way of your performance. If you find that negative emotions, racing thoughts, and physical symptoms are preventing you from fulfilling your potential, it’s time to tackle that test anxiety.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to manage your nerves and get the test score you’re hoping for. Here are five tips to help you stay calm and focused.

1. Channel your nerves

It might sound counterintuitive, but your nerves can sometimes help rather than hinder you.

“Channel your natural nervousness into fully preparing, allowing you to feel confident when you are ready to test,” Jamie Nelson, a GMAT instructor at Manhattan Prep, advises.

“Not to feel some level of anxiety would be the exception, not the norm. A slight amount of anxiety can be positive if it increases your test performance by inspiring you to study and prepare more,” she says.

Start your preparation early, and you’re much more likely to enter the final test feeling familiar with the material and ready to tackle it.

✔ Free resource: Official GMAT™ Exam 8-Week Study Planner

2. Have a practice run

Completing a full practice test can also help you stamp out the anxiety that comes with uncertainty.

“Once students have taken some practice tests, they’re often amazed at how much their anxiety levels decrease,” Jamie notes.

To prepare yourself fully, try to complete a practice test in the same conditions you will experience during the real thing. Find a quiet place to focus, and time yourself. Getting comfortable with testing conditions and practicing your timing strategy this way can help you feel more at ease when test day arrives.

If you’re taking the GMAT in 2021, incorporate the two optional eight-minute breaks into your practice test routine. Those breaks offer an opportunity for a mental recharge. And if you’re preparing for an online test, like the GMAT Online, this practice run is a valuable opportunity to get to grips with the software you’ll be using on the day.

🙌 Quiz: Get Matched to Your Personalized GMAT Prep Plan

3. Try breathing or mindfulness exercises

Many people turn to calming practices to handle their nerves—including nervousness about tests.

“Some test-takers find that breathing exercises and mindfulness meditations are helpful when handling test anxiety,” Jamie explains.

One simple exercise you can try is breathing in through your nose for the count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, and exhaling slowly for a count of eight. This can be repeated a few times.

Deep breathing is a simple way to signal to your brain that you are safe and there’s no emergency, which dampens symptoms of stress.

Among her top tips for GMAT Online test-takers, Bara Sapir, of City Test Prep, says candidates should embody an optimal mindset. “Incorporate holistic and mindful techniques to increase focus, improve confidence, promote perseverance, and eliminate anxiety,” she says.

4. Talk to someone

As the old adage goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved,’ and this holds true for the problem of test anxiety.

Sharing your fears with a trusted friend or family member can help put things into perspective. Because they know you well, they can help challenge the negative thoughts about yourself and the world that fuel anxiety.

They might even have experienced test anxiety themselves and could offer some helpful tips for handling the situation. If they have performed poorly on a test before, they can also offer reassurance that one failed test is not a life sentence.

For more severe cases of test anxiety, you might consider speaking to a professional for further guidance. “You could work with a performance coach, who can prescribe special cognitive behavioral approaches to managing anxiety,” Jamie suggests.

Speaking with a licensed therapist could also help you get to the root of your anxiety and develop longer-term coping strategies.

5. Allow time for rest

Finally, simple acts of self-care can go a long way toward reducing anxiety. Studies show that adequate sleep is linked to emotional wellness, since well-rested people are better able to manage difficult emotions like stress and nervousness.

Finding time to rest can be tricky when you have an important test coming up, but it’s a crucial component of your overall prep strategy. Consider scheduling some relaxing activities you enjoy, whether that’s a long walk, a bath, or movie night.

Taking a few hours to wind down the night before your test could also ease your nerves, while promoting the sound sleep that will sharpen your focus on the day.

Everyone is different, and stress reduction techniques that work for one person might not work for another—but we hope these tips are a jumping off point toward finding the best strategies for you. Good luck!

Remember, the GMAT exam is just one aspect of your application, and the schools you apply to will consider the different elements of your application holistically. The free mba.com How to Get Started: Your First Steps to a Full-Time MBA guide provides you with expert insights on how to tell your story with your application, elevate your personal brand, and stand out to the admissions committee.

FREE GUIDE

Bethany Garner

Bethany Garner - BusinessBecause

Bethany Garner is an experienced writer at BusinessBecause.com, where she’s credited with more than 200 articles covering everything from entrepreneurial stories to mental health at work.

She also oversees the BusinessBecause Applicant Question, which poses important admission questions to experts in the field, and regularly hosts webinars on various aspects of the business school experience.

Prior to joining BusinessBecause, Bethany honed her skills as a freelance writer, tackling a wide array of topics from petcare to car maintenance.

Bethany holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Back to Top