This third and final Pillar of GMAT Prep is the most often overlooked of the three. Nearly all test takers expect to dust off their old math and grammar skills for the GMAT (Pillar #1: Content), and most test-takers enlist in some sort of formal prep—like published books, private tutoring, or prep courses—to learn the Strategies (Pillar #2) that will score extra points on Test Day, but there are many factors of prep that do not fall neatly into those two categories. These are the Intangibles.
Intangible factors are mostly psychological. They are notoriously difficult to teach because they vary so much from person to person. What this means is that you must take personal responsibility for putting yourself in the best mental state you possibly can for taking the GMAT. One Intangible, for instance, is confidence. This can be increased in a number of ways, and others have stated it better than I; confidence-building is a keystone of any prep course worth its salt. Therefore, with the space I have here, I’d like to focus on another Intangible: mental clarity.
Standardized tests are marathons for the mind, and the GMAT is no exception. And just as a marathon runner must assure peak physical condition for the day of the run, so too must you, as GMAT takers, make your mind as keen as possible for Test Day. This means you shouldn’t take the GMAT concurrently with other major events in your life; if you’re working 100 hours a week at work to push for a short-term project, it’s going to be best to put the test off until the project is finished. Also, a sharp mind is a rested mind. Ideally, this means putting yourself on a regimen of seven to eight hours of sleep, minimum, for the last two weeks before the test. That may seem extreme or even impossible, but if you put off just a few appointments until after the test and come home a little earlier from weekend revelries, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many extra hours you have in the day, and how quickly you fly by questions that stumped your more-tired self. Factors such as nourishment (eat wholesome breakfasts!) and exercise (blood to the brain improves thinking—it’s science!) are also important to keep in mind to maximize your sharpness leading up to the big day.
A list of Intangibles could go on and on, but the basic rule is this: the GMAT is difficult, and your scores will have a large influence on your future, whether you like it or not. Treat the test with maturity and respect, and it will return the favor with a higher score.
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