GMAT Test Day Advice by MBA Podcaster

by Vault Education Editors | May 14, 2009

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This is the second installment of a three-partseries on the GMAT from MBA Podcaster on Vault.com. In the firstsegment, we talked about GMAT preparation, and our experts offered adviceabout how to get ready for the test. Today, we are talking about thedays and hours leading up to the test. After months of practice testsand studying, the day is finally here--but there is still more you cando to ensure a great score. In this article, GMAT experts offer advicefor how to approach that crucial pre-test time.

I'm Diana Jordan with MBA Podcaster and in thisshow, we will hear from Chris Ryan, director of ManhattanGMAT; BrianGalvin, director of academic programs for Veritas Prep; Lisa Weale,executive director of the GMAT program at Kaplan Test Prep andAdmissions; Jon Denning, director of operations for PowerScore TestPreparation; and Jose Ferriera, CEO of Knewton.

Jon Denning of PowerScore, what kind of routineshould you have a week or two before the exam? "I'd say two weeks outyou want to work really hard still, you want to start distractingyourself, having fun in the evening, and then one week out you want tobegin to reduce the work, you want to get to a point by test day whereyour head is a little clearer and you're calmer and a little moreconfident. And it's also important to begin sleeping well the weekbefore. Take good care of yourself. Don't get sick."

Liza Weale, what routine do you recommend for themorning of the exam and the night before? "You want to make sure thatyou get a full-night sleep, a good night sleep the night before theexam. The morning of, you want to eat a healthy breakfast. You don'twant to have way too much caffeine or too much sugar because thenyou're going to crash during the exam. So those are kind of bestpractices that are out there. The GMAT is a grueling exam, there is nodoubt. All in, you'll be working on the test for three and a halfhours, and when it comes to what to do the night before the morning of,the biggest piece of advice that I have is not to add some new elementto your pattern right before the exam."

Chris Ryan of ManhattanGMAT, what routine do yourecommend for the morning of the exam and the night before? "You reallyshouldn't be reviewing so much then. If you really feel the need topick up GMAT material then have it be nothing at all new. Just confirmGMAT-like problems that you know how to do, that you've mastered. Justgo over them again."

Brian Galvin, what kind of routine do yourecommend? "I can tell you what not to do. One student sequesteredherself the night before. Didn't want to be around roommates or anykind of distractions that way and also had read somewhere earlier inthe week that salmon tends to be brain food—it makes you smarter. Soshe walked down the street, away from where [she lived], found anall-you-can-eat seafood buffet and ate as much salmon as she could gether hands on. Her test was about noon the next day and she had thisplan about wake up at seven, finish drinking coffee at eight, go for awalk until about nine, review things until 10. She got food poisoning,spent the majority of the morning vomiting; she ate some soda crackersand got herself under control. Ended up scoring, I think, almostexactly 700, but probably could have done better if she had stuck to amore normal routine the night before and the morning of test day. So Iguess the learning from that is don't do anything out of the ordinary."

What advice do you have, Liza, to relieve day ofexam mental anxiety? "Remember that anxiety is driven by the fear ofthe unknown. So your best weapon against anxiety is to know exactlywhat you're getting yourself into, which means coming to test day fullyprepared. I can't emphasize enough how much your prep plays a part inthis. That means knowing the content that is covered on the exam, beingcomfortable with the format of the test, knowing the strategies thatwill save time and having the opportunity to practice sufficiently."

Jose Ferriera of Knewton, what about the day of?"Nobody really needs to drink coffee on test day. You're going to bewired enough as it is. So if you are absolutely convinced that you needsome amount of caffeine, drink some tea or soda or somethingbeforehand. The best way to just get ready is to just take a good15-minute walk, get the blood flowing a little bit, get the heart rateup that way. The other thing that students should first think about iswhat they are going to need. They are going to want to dress in layers,they are going to want a bottle of water, they are going to want a painkiller in case they get a headache in the middle of the test. Somestudents in bigger cities take ear plugs. Think a little bit about whatyou need to perform well and make a list, and bring it. And definitelymake sure you know where the test center is. There is nothing morestressful than having to rush to the test."

Jon? "Foolishly, I decided that I would just findthe test center the day of the test, no big deal, no problem, I'm sureI can work out parking and this sort of perhaps overly self-confidentattitude that I have. And what ultimately happened is I got lost. I gotlost in Savannah trying to find this test center and I was driving allover the place like a madman and literally watching the seconds tickdown to the point when my test was supposed to start and I had to bethere. And I finally found the place and rushed in, in a complete andabsolute frenzied panic. Thinking I just spent $300, or whatever itwas, and I was about to miss this test. And I made it, but I mean withseconds to spare. And I was fine, I was fine, ultimately, but it wasone of those things where I can't imagine a much worse way to try toput yourself in the right mindset. It was pure foolishness on my partby not knowing quite where I was going."

Liza, advice? "It's really about thinking aboutwhat your strengths are, what your needs are and then finding the rightprep solution for you so that you will see the highest score that youcan achieve."

What's your best advice for test day, Brian? "Asan overall matter of preparation the day before--the day of the test, Ithink--is keep your confidence high, focus on the things that you knowyou do well and, when in doubt, [I know it] sounds kind of hockey, butsmile. Laugh at the fact that, OK, I'm not going to steal questions,you don't need my finger print four or five times or anything likethat. All I'm here to do is answer a series of questions to prove toyou that I'm capable of getting into a top business school. And letyourself relax, feel confident, smile when you feel a little bit ofpressure--that goes a long way."

To read the first article in the MBA Podcaster GMAT Advice series, click here.

For more information, advice or to read a transcript of the full show, visit MBAPodcaster.com.I'm Diana Jordan with MBA Podcaster. Thank you for listening and staytuned next time when we discuss another topic, it will help guide youthrough the MBA process and your career beyond.

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