Poise Under Pressure — Emphasize the Process

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

Many a line of work treats the autumn as its most high-stress season, with a crucial need for peak performance. High school teachers, harvest farmers, costume salesmen, Derek Jeter… for many, the September/October months almost exclusively dictate their overall success for the year. Perhaps no one feels as much pressure this season, however, as business school applicants and first-year college quarterbacks. In both cases, this season can determine how the next few years, and even beyond will play out. Accordingly, the stakes are raised, the pressure increases, and the degree-of-difficulty remains high.

How can you deal with this situation? As you prepare for four hours in a stress-filled cubicle, all by yourself, you might take a cue from an 18-year old who did the same…only his four hours were spent in a newly-renovated stadium of over 100,000 fans desperate for success. And Tate Forcier, University of Michigan quarterback, rose to the occasion:

If you watched the video, you likely saw a unique level of poise and matter-of-fact confidence from an 18-year old, but the process he used is one that will undoubtedly serve you well on the GMAT.

Most striking in the Tate Forcier video is the way in which an excitable teenager describes arguably the greatest performance of his life to date — almost emotionless, he breaks down his thought process on each play:

“The defense was showing me a cover two, so I read that my primary options would be…”

That thought process is critical in overcoming pressure — if your mental focus is on the process, and not the circumstances, you’ll direct your adrenaline toward your goal, and not allow it to alter your concentration. Much like Forcier, when your stress level rises on the GMAT, you should think:

“This question is asking me to strengthen the author’s conclusion, so I need to look for the conclusion, then build from there…”

If your adrenaline is aimed elsewhere — you don’t like the subject matter, the clock is ticking too quickly, the math section seemed too easy — you’ll only waste time trying to refocus properly, and that stress will likely compound, as well. If you, instead, focus on the process on each question, the process will dictate the proper steps and provide you the proper focus, and allow you to reach your potential on the exam.

For more GMAT prep resources and advice, take a look at everything Veritas Prep has to offer, including a free practice GMAT.