GMAT Tip of the Week: Laughter Is the Best Medicine for a Low GMAT Score

Today Veritas Prep GMAT prep instructor extraordinaire David Newland provides some insights on overcoming anxiety on test day. Read on… This is really interesting advice that can significantly improve your performance and help you reach your maximum potential on the GMAT!

For the last 15 years a wave of laughter has swept across one of the largest countries in the world. Why are so many people in India laughing? Is it because they have just spoken to some American and are amazed at the crazy way that most Americans speak “English”? No. The laughter is coming from “laughing clubs” where people practice “laughter yoga.” Now maybe those of you who have not heard of laughter yoga are laughing a bit at the whole concept… That would be music to the ears of Dr. Kataria the founder of laughter yoga.

How Laughter Yoga got started
According to Dr. Kataria’s official website, the first laughing club got off to a great start, but soon hit a roadblock that threatened to end laughter yoga before it really got started. Here is the story from

Dr. Kataria started with just a handful of people, at 7AM on March 13, 1995, at a public park in his neighborhood in Mumbai, India – this was the first ‘Laughter Club’. They laughed together in the park that day to the amusement of bystanders; and the small group quickly grew to more than 50 participants, within a few days. In the initial meetings, they stood in a circle with one person in the center, to tell a joke or a funny story. Everybody enjoyed and felt good for the rest of the day.

After two weeks, the Laughter Club hit a snag. The stock of good jokes and stories ran out, and negative, hurtful and naughty jokes started to emerge. Two offended participants complained that it would be better to discontinue the Club than to continue with such jokes. Dr. Kataria asked the Club members to give him just one day to develop a ‘breakthrough’ that would resolve the crisis.

That night, Dr. Kataria reviewed his research and finally found the answer he was looking for: Our bodies cannot differentiate between “pretend” and “genuine” laughter. Both produced the same ‘Happy Chemistry’. The next morning he explained this to the group, and asked them to try to act out laughter with him, for one minute. Amid skepticism they agreed to try…. The results were amazing. For some, the pretend laughter quickly turned into real laughter – this was contagious and in no time others followed. Soon the group was laughing like never before. The hearty laughter that followed persisted for almost ten minutes. This breakthrough was the birth of Laughter Yoga.

Now Laughter Yoga is worldwide with 6000 clubs in 60 countries. Activities now extend beyond simulated laughter and include elements of traditional yoga between laughter exercises.

Dr Kataria’s Breakthrough and the GMAT
Perhaps you are thinking that this article was written to recommend that you join a laughter yoga club as a complement to your intense GMAT studies? Actually, this is a very good suggestion! I am thinking of finding a club to join myself! Finding ways to release the stress of GMAT studies is very important, but the real point of this article has more to do with you simulating the breakthrough that made it possible for laughter yoga to continue beyond the first phase of good jokes and stories. It was the discovery that laughter can be a matter of going through the motions at first and then real laughter can follow. And even if the laughter is always simulated the health benefits are still the same. In other words it is enough to fake it – the results will still be good.

So how can all of this actually help you on the test?

Fake it on the GMAT!
Obviously you should not break out into forced laughter in the middle of the test…but you can force yourself to do something else – pretend that you are calm and confident. That’s right, anytime that your mind wants to move in the direction of negativity or doubt, say to yourself, “I can do this, I will earn my target score today. I am calm and confident.” Everything else that follows in this article is designed to help you to “fake” your confidence for just a few moments until that confidence becomes real, just like the laughter that starts off forced and then genuinely rolls through the laughter club members around the world.

Develop a “mantra.”
Most people find that they are talking to themselves at some point during the GMAT exam. This talk can often be negative. Replace that negativity with a powerful, positive mantra that you develop. The mantra could be a reference to something that you have accomplished in the past that was harder than a 3.5 hour GMAT test. For example your mantra could be “26.2” if you have run a marathon or “4 finals in 4 days” that you aced back in college. Your mantra could be a soothing word, this is what a traditional meditation mantra would be – the word “Ommm” is probably the original mantra. Or your mantra could be the name of a school that you really hope to attend or the name of a family member of other person who really inspires you. Whatever mantra you develop, the purpose of the mantra is to give you a powerful way to interrupt any negative thoughts or anxiety while injecting a bit of confidence and inspiration. It will also give you a short pause, just a few seconds away from the question in front of you, the space you need to get refocused and re energized.

Relax your jaw and lower lip.
Runners know this secret; if your jaw and lower lip are relaxed then your entire body is relaxed. The jaw is where you carry your tension – along with your shoulders. When you notice yourself leaning into the computer screen hunched up at the shoulders, take a moment to relax your jaw and lower lip. Exhale in an audible “sigh” with your breath passing directly over your lower lip; at the same time allow your shoulders to relax. Close your eyes and take a moment for yourself, say your mantra, and then return to the test with a new sense of calm.

Focus on what you know.
When you see a problem that at first you do not know how to do, tell yourself that you can do it and you will do it. After all, there are only so many things tested on the GMAT, it is just that the test writers have developed a tremendous ability to hide what they are really asking. If possible rephrase the question, think about the subject being tested and the methods that apply to that subject. If the problem is an equation already written out with variables and exponents revisit the things you can do with exponents. If the problem is in sentence correction then you can go through the errors that you know are tested. You have studied this stuff and you know it – so focus on what you DO know and what you CAN do. At first you might have to fake confidence and calm and tell yourself that everything is fine when you feel nervous. But once you see that you actually are staying positive and focused then you will be the one who is laughing.

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