I recently had the chance to answer a question about overcoming Test Anxiety on the GMAT. The test-taker wanted to know how to avoid being so anxious on test day and how to stop obsessively thinking about the score before and even during the exam itself.
I wrote, “Your job on test day is to focus on the question in front of you. Not to guess at what your score might be or continually estimate how much time you have left per question.
Your anxiety is probably a result of being “at war with the present moment.” In other words, your anxiety is because you want the GMAT to already be over with the result already known. But you know that this cannot happen. You must take the test before you can get the score. This desire to skip over the actual exam and wanting to be done with the exam and know the score, this is the source of the anxiety.
If you had told yourself that you will enjoy the experience then there would be no anxiety. If you have tickets to a movie that you have been waiting to see you do not have anxiety but anticipation. You are not wanting to done with the movie, you are excited for it to begin. However, if you have major surgery scheduled, then you can understandably wish that it was already over and recovery started.
However, the GMAT is not like undergoing surgery. The only pain involved is the pain that we put on ourselves. Nothing bad is going to happen to you in that room. You are not in danger of physical harm or pain. The anxiety is based on the worry that you might not get the score that you want.
But here is the question…does it help to worry about it?
Did it help you on that last practice test to be worried about your Quant score while still taking the verbal portion? The answer is “no.”
Anxiety ALWAYS comes from being focused on the result rather than the process. This is why the fans of sports teams are so much more anxious than the players! The players are focused on the process, they get to play the game and enjoy the game and influence the outcome. The fans are usually only happy if the team wins and as spectators they cannot even participate, so they are focused on the end result and that creates extreme anxiety.
It is never good in life to be focused more on the result than the process.
Here is what I would hope that you and others can say, “I will do my best on the exam and I will enjoy the challenge. I am looking forward to proving what I can do. I have no control over the result but I have 100% control over my effort, so I will focus on giving my best effort and the score will take care of itself.”
This may sound unrealistic but people do this every day in all areas: artists, athletes, writers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and others. And here is the secret – those who are focused on the process and taking care of the parts they can control are the happiest, least stressed, and yes, most successful.
So on test day YOU take care of
1) Being focused on the question in front of you at that time
2) Not getting distracted by the timer and questions about your score
3) Giving your best effort and really be there in each moment
4) Enjoying yourself!
and the COMPUTER will take care of the score. That part is not up to you.
Can you do that? If so you can have a much more enjoyable experience and the side effect will be a higher score in the end.
David Newland has been teaching for Veritas Prep since 2006, and he won the Veritas Prep Instructor of the Year award in 2008. Students’ friends often call in asking when he will be teaching next because he really is a Veritas Prep and a GMAT rock star! Read more of his articles here.