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4 Tips to Reduce GMAT or GRE Test Prep Stress

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Studying for and taking the GMAT or GRE can seem like an impossible task, leading to many students putting it off as long as possible or in some cases avoiding it entirely. While not every MBA program requires that their applicants complete the GMAT or GRE test, the vast majority do, and if you are planning on pursuing an MBA you will most likely take at one of them. It wouldn’t be fair to the tests or those who have passed them to suggest that either is easy, but there are a number of measures that students can take to make the process as painless as possible. We listed four here:

Get to Know the Test

Do you know what your school’s minimum test score requirements are? How about the average score of their student body? All of this information can be found easily through a quick internet search. Once you know this information, it’s a good idea to take some practice tests so you know where you stand and how much farther you have to go. Some practice questions can be found for free online, although there are books and programs available that are much more comprehensive.

Create a Study Plan and Stick to it!

student 2It’s important to create a study plan that suits your personal needs and preferences. This might mean meeting regularly in a group, buying a book to study by yourself, or enrolling in a private tutoring program that suits your style of learning. Jared Cannon recently received his Masters of Finance from Villanova and found that a private tutor was the best solution for him when studying for the test. “At first I considered studying for the exam myself, but I later decided to hire a tutor. I worked with a tutor who lived on the other side of the country, and we would have our meetings via video chat. It worked surprisingly well,” he said in an interview

Dennis Yim, Director of Pre-business and Pre-graduate Programs at Kaplan Test Prep, believes that the most important part of studying for the tests is consistency. “Every student has different learning styles. Many of our students, for example, prefer group settings, which is why they enroll in a classroom course, either on-site or live, online. Some other students enroll in one-on-one private tutoring because they want or need that extra attention and personalization. Some future GMAT takers may prefer a hybrid approach to that. The important thing is to remain consistent in your studies and stick to your plan,” he said in an interview. This idea leads us to our next step, which is:

Practice, Practice, and Practice

Once you’ve formulated a study plan that suits you, you need to put in the hours. While the old rule of thumb was to spend 100-120 hours studying, Yim believes that 120-150 is more realistic. “Be prepared to put in between 120 and 150 hours of preparation to reach your potential. Be realistic with your timeline because you need to be able to retain the material and the techniques fresh in your mind.  For most students, this can take about three months,” he said in an interview.

Know What to Expect on Test Day

Taking these tests is a stressful experience and it is a good idea to know exactly to expect on game day. In order to minimize stress, students should know where they will be taking the test, what you need to bring, and the fact that you can cancel your score after taking the test. Even prepared students can be intimidated by the testing environment. Cannon felt uncomfortable in the intensely monitored testing area. “I scored very high on my practice exams, so I felt pretty good going in. However, the aggressively secure testing environment was a little bit unnerving. I was berated for reaching into my pocket to grab a tissue during the exam. It seemed a bit excessive,” he said in an interview.

Something that you may have noticed while reading this list is that we don’t offer any special tricks for doing well on the GRE/GMAT. Unfortunately, there are none! Yim stressed the importance of staying focused and dedicating yourself to the task at hand as the keys for mastering the tests. “There are no tricks to mastering the GMAT. What it takes is learning strategies and practice, practice, practice. Dedication and stamina are what’s going to help you do well on the exam and eliminate any surprises you may encounter on test day,” he said in an interview. Happy studying and good luck on your test!

For more information related to the GMAT make sure to check out the following articles:

  1. How Long Should I Study for the GMAT?
  2. Choosing Between the GRE and GMAT
  3. GMAT Tip: How to Master Critical Reasoning

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About the Author


Ben Smolin

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for L.A., San Francisco, and London.

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