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# An important advice to GMAT takers:Test Anxiety

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Joined: 19 Oct 2011
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11 May 2012, 19:09
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You might come across many stories on how the actual GMAT score was well below the practice test score. Test Anxiety is the most factor for causing such a big difference between practice test score and actual GMAT test score.

@Moderator: could you pls tag this blog or my post to retaking strategies.

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Manhattan GMAT Online Marketing Associate
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14 May 2012, 12:00
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Interesting article!

For any of you wanting more info on how to conquer GMAT test anxiety, here are some great tips straight from Manhattan GMAT instructors:

Stress and anxiety, for many people, are integral components of their daily lives. In fact, anxiety is a necessary human response. In manageable doses, anxiety protects you from life’s dangers. You naturally feel anxious standing on a cliff and looking over the edge. In essence, your body is heightening your awareness of this potential threat and emphasizing that some action might be necessary to protect your well-being. The same is true with performance or test anxiety. When you are asked to perform, the tension produced from normal anxiety heightens your awareness of the situation and helps you to focus on the “danger” (i.e. task as hand). With this additional focus, you are more easily able to successfully complete your goal, whatever it may be.

For many people, however, this natural, beneficial anxiety response is superseded by an uncontrollable feeling of dread. When asked to prepare for and then take a test, individuals manufacture feelings of such importance about the test that they become overwhelmed by the anxiety associated with it. Symptoms of test anxiety affect both the body and the mind. Hearts race, hands become clammy, breathing grows labored, minds go blank. Worse still, test anxiety is a vicious cycle: worrying about the test causes increased anxiety, which causes increased worry about the test. As GMAT instructors, we have seen or heard of this response all-too-frequently with our students. Recently, a student who was consistently scoring between 35 and 40 on the quantitative section of her practice examinations score a 6 on her actual test. That’s right, she dropped from a score of approximately the 60th percentile to the 1st percentile. When asked what happened, she simply said, “I panicked.” She explained she just couldn’t understand the first problem, and from there her mind just went blank. For the remainder of the section, she was unable to organize her thoughts or regain her focus. Although this case is extreme, many students have allowed test anxiety to undermine their test taking abilities, resulting in scores that are well below their true abilities. This strategy series will focus on methods to control your test anxiety as you ready yourself for the test.

Preparation is Job One

The first step in overcoming test anxiety is to be thoroughly prepared for the test. If you are trying to cram an entire course worth of material into the day preceding your GMAT, of course you will experience a heightened level of anxiety. Preparation is the best antidote to this rational anxiety. The more prepared you are for the test itself, the less you will worry about your ability to solve particular types of problems. Thus, put in the effort necessary to achieve your goal score, and practice frequently in an environment that simulates the test. Without proper preparation, it is extremely difficult to master the GMAT. Since proper preparation is a given for all students and is thoroughly discussed in other strategy series articles, it will not be the focus here. Instead, this strategy series is for individuals who have thoroughly prepared for the test but still suffer from abnormally high levels of test anxiety.

Remember the Basics

In the coming weeks, we will focus on specific anxiety reduction tools that can help you remain calm and focused as you prepare for and take your GMAT. Just as developing expertise with the content of the GMAT requires weeks of disciplined, diligent study, learning strategies to reduce your anxiety also requires foresight and practice. Much of the work around controlling your anxiety on test day will actually take place well before the test.

Framing (Positive Self-Talk)

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Deep Breathing)

Another very effective relaxation technique is diaphragmatic, or deep, breathing. In a matter of a few breaths, you can quickly relax your entire body. To practice deep breathing, follow these steps:

Sit quietly, close your eyes, and make sure your spine is straight.
Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen.
Take long, slow, deep breaths through your nose; imagine air filling first your abdomen and then your lungs. The hand on your abdomen should rise with your breathing; the hand on your chest should move slightly at the end of your inhale.
Hold your breath for a second or two.
Exhale slowly. As you exhale, visualize all of your anxiety and tension leaving exiting your body with your breath.
Continue this exercise for 2-5 minutes or until your breathing becomes rhythmic and comfortable.
The purpose of this activity is to develop a process for relaxed breathing that can be used during any stressful situation.
Before discussing how to apply these techniques to the hours preceding the test and during the test itself, we will learn one additional relaxation technique. When you become stressed or anxious, much of this anxiety is stored in your muscles. Your legs cramp, your shoulders and neck become tense, and your chest tightens. Progressive muscle relaxation helps to minimize the tension found in the muscles throughout your body.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that can provide an immediate lessening of symptoms related to anxiety. It is s great way to eliminate the tension and anxiety that accumulates in specific muscle groups throughout your body. To practice progressive muscle relaxation, follow the steps listed below.

Tense the muscle groups in a particular part of your body. For example, you might stretch out your legs, point your toes, and tighten your calves. This will tense all of the muscle groups in the lower part of your body.
Keep the muscles tensed for a few seconds as you slowly and deeply inhale, exhale, and then inhale again.
On the second exhale, release the muscles that you had previously tightened. As you release the muscles, visualize all of the tension in these muscles flowing out of your body. These muscles are now very calm. Take your time to notice the calmness now found in your muscles.
Breath deeply for at least two long, slow breaths. Continue to focus on the calm and relaxed feelings now found in your muscles.
Continue to periodically practice progressive muscle relaxation until you can quickly and easily eliminate the tension in your major muscle groups. This practice will facilitate your ability to instantaneously reduce your muscle tension on test day.

Day Before The Test

If, even after following the above suggestions, your anxiety is difficult to control, simply spend time practicing one or more of the relaxation techniques that you have mastered during your test preparation.

Day of the Test

During The Test

As for your abbreviated version of progressive muscle relaxation, quickly scan your body to notice any specific areas of tension. Tighten each bothersome muscle group for one deep inhale, and then relax your muscles as you exhale slowly and deeply. As always, visualize all of the tension and anxiety leaving your body along with your breath.

After the GMAT, whether you did as well as you had hoped or not, be sure to follow through on the reward you promised yourself — and enjoy it! Try not to dwell on all the mistakes you might have made. Remember, the GMAT is not a matter of life and death – it is only a test!

Originally posted on the Manhattan GMAT Blog
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Matt Mapplebeck | Manhattan GMAT Online Marketing Associate | New York

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Re: An important advice to GMAT takers:Test Anxiety   [#permalink] 14 May 2012, 12:00
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# An important advice to GMAT takers:Test Anxiety

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