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GMAT Anxiety and Exhaustion

Climbing Mt. GMAT!

You have been preparing for the GMAT for months and have diligently worked through the Official Guide 13th Edition, 12th Edition, 11th Edition, and 10th Edition.  You shot through the verbal review and Question Pack 1.  You ponied up for the GMATFocus quant quizzes.  You have lurked on GMATClub, Beat the GMAT, and the Manhattan GMAT forums scraping together extra bits of GMAT wizardry.  You’ve taken a dozen GMAT practice tests and finally on the last few you have been right around your 700+ score goal.  You have reviewed your error log for the last time and now it’s time to take the test.  It’s just you and the GMAT CAT.  You and the machine.

But not so fast!

First it’s you and the palm reader (which seems to malfunction pretty often).  Then it’s you and the essay.  Then it’s you and the ridiculously short 8 minute break.  And then it’s you and the IR and another ridiculously short 8 minute break. And two hours later (after months of anticipation) the GMAT begins. The first Quant question pops up and boom you are shot full of adrenaline and before you know it you are ten questions deep and feeling great.  You may even be ahead of the clock. This isn’t so bad after all!

Fast forward 30 minutes

You are exhausted and have 25 minutes for the last 17 questions. You are behind! Test anxiety rushes in. What happened? GMAT exhaustion. A mental brownout.  You didn't notice but you just put a ton of effort into those first ten questions. That is fine.  But, you kept going on maximum GMAT blast through the next ten as well. There's the danger.  After the first 10 questions there is an important point during which you should actively change your GMAT approach. Generally there are two places to go from here:

1.  Ride your adrenaline high into a stupor (avoid this:))

2. Find a sustainable rhythm

Sustainable GMAT Pacing

It is very difficult to remain in a high state of alert for long periods of time.  It takes a ton of energy and regardless of how hard you try to remain in this state you will inevitably tire.  So how do you stay alert throughout the entire exam?  Give yourself little mental breaks.  Every ten questions or so disengage from the screen.  Stretch your arms and legs.  Roll your neck.  Take a deep breath.  Remind yourself that there is still a lot to accomplish.  Remind yourself why you are there (to crush the GMAT!).  This really works.

I’m reminded of the Rumble in the Jungle:  George Foreman v. Muhammad Ali.  Ali was a big underdog.  Foreman seemed invincible.  Fight night came and Foreman unleashed a fury on Ali for the first several rounds (Foreman didn’t even sit down to rest between rounds).  Ali stayed relaxed and just bounced off of the ropes (the rope-a-dope).  After this fistic tornado, Foreman, who seemed unstoppable, was exhausted.  Ali knocked him out in the eighth round for a huge upset.

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