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Tackling a Case of Nerves: Relaxation Techniques for Taking the GMAT

You may feel a little nervous on the day of the GMAT exam, but don't worry about it, because a little nervous adrenaline can actually keep you alert. Just don't let anxiety ruin your performance.

You may be working along steadily when suddenly, from out of the blue, a question appears that you don't understand at all. Instead of trying to eliminate answer choices and solve the problem, you may stare at the question as if it were written in a foreign language. You may start to second-guess your performance on the test as a whole. You panic and think that maybe you're just not cut out for a graduate business degree. You're on the verge of freaking out . . . help!

Because you're taking the GMAT on computer, a super-hard question probably means you're doing pretty well. Besides, if you do miss a question, you'll just get an easier question next — unless you're on the last question, in which case you needn't freak out about the final one!

If you do find yourself seizing up with anxiety partway through the test, and if these facts about computerized tests don't ease your tension, try these techniques to get back on track:

  • Inhale deeply. When you stress out, you take shallow breaths and don't get the oxygen you need to think straight. Breathing deeply can calm you and supply the air you need to get back to doing your best.
  • Stretch a little. Anxiety causes tension, and so does working at a computer. Do a few simple stretches to relax and get the blood flowing. Try shrugging your shoulders toward your ears and rolling your head from side to side. You can put your hands together and stretch your arms up above your head or stretch your legs out and move your ankles up and down (or both!). Last, shake your hands as though you've just washed them and there aren't any towels.
  • Give yourself a mini massage. If you're really tense, give yourself a little rubdown. The shoulders and neck usually hold the most tension in your body, so rub your right shoulder with your left hand and vice versa. Rub the back of your neck. It's not as great as getting a full rubdown from a professional, but you can book that appointment for after the test!
  • Think positive thoughts. Give yourself a quick break. The GMAT is tough, but don't get discouraged. Focus on the positive; think about the questions you've done well on. If you're facing a tough question, realize that it will get better.
  • Take a little vacation. If nothing else is working and you're still anxious, picture a place in your mind that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Visit that place for a few moments and come back ready to take charge!
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