Editor’s Note: Bell Curves periodically enlists our teachers to take the official GMAT to keep themselves sharp, help them better inform their students about current testing trends and procedures, and provide additional insight for materials development and instruction. Sometimes, we have gung-ho teachers that just want to take the test for fun. To which we say, Rock On! Today’s post comes from Andrew Geller, one of our NYC-based instructors. Below, he provides some insights on making your test day as stress free as possible.
Test day can be stressful but the more you know about the logistics of the test center the better you will feel on your big day. As we all know: feeling comfortable = better performance.
So what can you do to make the test day easier? Plan in advance!
The Night Before
The night before, pick out your clothes, know what you will have for breakfast, pack your snack pack, pick out 5-10 quantitative questions as warm-ups (I like to pick ones from my error log that are challenging but that I have reviewed at least once), and know the route to the test center.
The Morning Before
Arrive early to your exam. A half hour or so should suffice. It helps to arrive early because you get to check in first and end up waiting less. The test center provides lockers where you must store all of your personal belongings. You can only enter the testing room with the clothes on your back (you are allowed an extra sweater) and your ID. No watches. No bracelets. No lucky coins. You will be asked to empty out your pockets for inspection. If you have forgotten to store an item before checking in you may be sent to the back of the line. This happened to three people on my test day.
During the Test
Scratchwork – At your cubicle you will be provided with one ten page plastic notepad, one marker, ear plugs, and over-the-ear headphones. I tried on the headphones but did not like the feeling of being in a sensory deprivation chamber. I could see them being useful if another test taker were making a racket. Test your marker BEFORE the section begins. If you need another notepad during a section you have to raise your hand and wait for the proctor to retrieve your pad and replace it with a fresh one. During each break you can get a fresh pad, however. My recommendation is to only get a new pad between sections. It is a waste of time to get a new pad mid-section. If you must get a new pad then signal for one BEFORE your old pad is full so that you have the least disruption possible. A quick tip to get the most out of your pad: you can use the cover page for notes.
Snacks and Breaks – The test is long so the snack pack is important. Your snack pack should have a caffeine beverage, water, and a sugary snack (I like Cliff Bars and Snickers). I brought some dark chocolate as well. Be aware that you can only access your personal items during the eight-minute break between sections and that the timer is running while you sign in and out. If you are late getting back the time is deducted from the section. The proctor had issues with the computer while I was signing in so I was late getting back to my cubicle. Luckily, the proctor reset my timer. Do not expect this to happen if you are late getting back from a bathroom break. You have time for a gulp of coffee, a bite of Snickers, a quick bathroom stop, and a quick stretch (this helps!).
The Testing Room – Whenever you need anything you must raise your hand. You are not allowed to get up from your cubicle without an escort. Even after the test is over, you will be ushered back to the waiting room and given a printout of your score report.
Tackling the GMAT – Performing well on the GMAT is dependent on many factors. Some of these factors have nothing to do with the content but with your state of mind. A couple of things that can help during the test: First, we all can get a bit dazed during a section. I like to take a moment every once in a while (2-3 times per section) to reset myself – disengage from the screen, stretch my legs, roll my neck, refocus. Second, after you confirm an answer choice that question is over, MOVE ON!
The GMAT is an arduous undertaking in the best of circumstances, but as we can see there are steps you can take to make test day go a little more smoothly. The biggest piece of advice: plan ahead. Know where your test center is, how to get there, especially if you are taking public transportation which may experience delays and construction re-routes. Know the testing procedures, and the ins and outs of the test center. Know what you can and cannot bring, and what you can and cannot do. Know how you’re going to approach the test, and know that once a question has been answered that question is finished. One great way to plan ahead is to practice as you expect the test to go. When doing your practice tests, try however much as possible to mimic what you’ll be doing on test day. That’s right, put together a snack pack for your 8-minute breaks. Rush through your break rituals when you’re doing your practice test, and by all means stick to the 8-minute break on your practice tests as well. Following these helpful tips will help you make the best of your countless hours of preparation come test day. Good luck!