GMAT Tip of the Week

No Chain!

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

This weekend, some of the best-conditioned, hardest-working human beings on the planet will complete one of the most grueling challenges known to man. At the same time, some of those not taking the GMAT will finish the Tour de France, a similarly daunting challenge. What can you, as a test-taker, learn from the champions of the grand Tour?

Perhaps the buildup to yesterday’s stage, an Individual Time Trial that pits man against clock (much like the GMAT), is the best illustration of a Tour tactic that will help you succeed on the exam. If you watched the pre-race coverage, you likely saw footage of the elite riders – Armstrong, Contador, Sastre – spinning along on bike trainers in anticipation of their races. Their motions looked effortless, as they spun small gears for a visual effect that looked like they were riding bikes without chains. The goal? To build a healthy heartrate and facilitate the range of motion they would need to employ throughout the race without burning unnecessary energy or taxing themselves beyond a basic warmup.

What does this mean for you?

The day before you take the GMAT, and the morning of the exam if you have a later-in-the-day appointment, you’ll likely have enough nervous energy that you’ll want to go through more practice problems, or (Heavens, no!) take a final practice test. However, like the Tour riders, you’ll want to save your mental stamina and preserve your conditioning and confidence for the event that truly counts. At this point in your studies, you should be a well-conditioned “GMAT athlete”, with “ranges of motion” in the form of strategies and progressions that you employ for each type of problem. Accordingly, you’ll want to practice those progressions to satisfy your nervous energy and warm up for the exam itself, but you certainly don’t want to tax yourself counterproductively, and the nature of the GMAT offers another nasty byproduct of last-minute preparation – you could accidentally hit a particularly-difficult patch of problems and, via happenstance, distraction, nerves, or any combination thereof, make a few errors that will strike a blow to your all-important confidence heading in to the test.

Because of these potential factors, envision your final 24 hours of GMAT prep as a “bicycle ride without a chain”, going through the thought process of questions you’ve done before to remind yourself of the step-by-step progression you’ll use, the errors you’ll need to anticipate and correct, etc. In this way, you’ll remind yourself of all the things that you know how to do well, without the potential for fatigue or self-doubt that could unravel the preparation you have already done. The GMAT is an endurance event, and as any well-conditioned endurance athlete can tell you, the taper is a crucial part of any training regimen as one allows himself to conserve energy and build confidence heading in to the event. You have trained like a champion – in the time immediately before your exam, prepare yourself to perform like one!