SBC Scoop: Handling GMAT Test Anxiety

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Stacy Blackman Consulting helps clients gain admission to every MBA program globally, but one thing that is NOT in our scope is GMAT prep. However, every year we work with clients who struggle with the MBA admissions test. This week I wanted to provide a few tips from one of our clients who struggled with GMAT test anxiety before he gained admission to a strong program.

Sandeep had a technical background both in his home country of India and in the United States. He spent several years in IT management at Tata consultancy, and then moved to the United States to work in various start-ups on the technical team. Sandeep had management experience working directly for CTOs at several start-ups and was able to show his leadership potential through his work experience. His strong academic experience at IIT in Delhi was another asset to his application. However, the GMAT test continued to frustrate him.

When Sandeep first started working with us he was convinced that his GMAT score would tap out at 650 and he could not improve it further. Unfortunately, a 650 GMAT was not going to help his achieve his goal of admission to Michigan, MIT and Duke. Though we are not GMAT test prep coaches, we suggested a few test prep firms who focus on addressing GMAT test anxiety. I also spent time talking to Sandeep about his test anxiety and helping him think about the test a bit more objectively.

Specifically, I told Sandeep to use this anxiety to help him to focus. Anxiety naturally forces your brain to address the immediate threat ”“ the GMAT test ”“ and focus all of your mental energy there. With breathing exercises and a solid plan you can make your anxiety work for you. Practice tests will show you that focusing on the first few questions of the GMAT is most important because the test adapts to your perceived skill level. While it may seem stressful, it’s great if the questions start to feel more and more difficult. When you find yourself in “over your head” on a GMAT question you are likely in high scoring territory!!

Many candidates spend a lot of time trying to figure out a “target score.” Rather than stressing about the score you need to get for any particular program, focus on getting the best score you are capable of in this sitting. Remember, you can always take the GMAT again.

Sandeep went back for his fourth GMAT test attempt three weeks before the 2nd round deadlines for his target schools. He was nervous but prepared, and was able to take deep breaths before each question to center his focus. He relaxed, did what he could, and ended up with a 690 score. This was good enough (along with his other credentials) to gain admission to Michigan.

**Read more SBC case studies

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