An Ideal Routine For Your GMAT Test Day

studyingRecently some one asked me what I actually did on my GMAT test day.   I thought it was a great question and it is one that people don’t ask enough or give the appropriate level of detail on.  I have had a specific test preparation plan in place since I was in college.  I don’t follow it for every test I take – but I use it for all the big ones.

Usually, the advice people give for a big test day is “have a healthy breakfast” and “get a good night’s sleep”. This is good advice for a big test day (or any other day of your life), but it is a little general for my taste. Today, I am going to share with you my test day routine, with all the gory and embarrassing details. These details are important. Prior to taking my GMAT I took probably 20 practice exams.  My average score was 660 and I got a 700 only twice. I think following this routine made the difference for me and bumped my score to a 740. The GMAT tests focus and endurance as much as anything else – prepare with that in mind.

**Assumption:  You have done the appropriate level of preparation and studying before hand AND have a goal that is written down and specific.  Also, you have taken into account the test day routine when scheduling your exam time.

***All times are estimated below based on a test time between 1:00-2:00pm

The Night Before:  

  • All Day:     Do not have any alcohol, take any sleeping pills or anything else that could make you groggy in the a.m.   Sometimes test day eve anxiety makes it hard to sleep, but it is important you don’t use any kind of substance to help you.
  • 6:00 pm:   Have a non-greasy, non-fried vegetable heavy dinner.
  • 7:00 pm:   Stop Studying.  If you haven’t learned it by now, you are wasting your time.
  • 9:00-9:30pm:  Go to bed.  It might take you a little longer to fall asleep the night before the test (see first bullet)

Test Day:

  • 7:30-9:00 am:  Wake up early (not too early though).  Early enough to get the rest of the list in before the test.
  • 9:00-10:00 am:  Exercise.  Go to the gym, run, spin, whatever you like to do – just get your heart rate up for 20 minutes or so.  Nothing exhausting, just wake your body and mind up by getting your blood pumping to your brain.
  • 10:00 – 10:30 am:  Make yourself a filling breakfast that is high in veggies, protein and whole grains.  The GMAT is a long test, a mental marathon – being hungry won’t help your concentration (you also don’t want to be so full you want to take a nap).  I usually make myself an egg white omelet with various veggies and a side of whole grain toast.  I also drink a lot of water and keep it to one cup of coffee.
  • 10:30 – 11:30 am:  Look nice on test day – comfortable, but nice.  If you wear make-up most days and dress nicely – do some variation of that on test day.  Do not show up in sweats, do not come un-showered.  When you feel good about yourself, you are more confident.  When you are more confident, you will do better on the big test.
  • 11:30 – 12:30 pm:  Do a cross word puzzle or Sudoku about an hour before the exam or while you eat breakfast.  For me, this gets my mind working without exhausting it or freaking it out (i.e. looking over study materials).  If we want to keep the mental marathon analogy going…this is the warm-up before the race.  You don’t have to finish the crossword or get things right.  It is the thinking that counts.
  • Know where you are going to take your test and how you will get there.  Plan to get there early in case anything weird happens (you can’t get a cab, you forget your ID – whatever).  This is common sense, but just throwing it out there.
  • Pump yourself up – people have different ways of doing this.  I listen to Eye of the Tiger. I even have a back up pump-up song, Push it To the Limit.  I have never used the back up song as I never have not wanted to listen to Eye of the Tiger on Test Day, but a plan B is always a good idea.  Basically any music where you can imagine an 80′s style montage happening is usually good pump-up music.  Have a mental 80′s montage.  My boyfriend finds this bullet very embarrassing and was very confused the first time he heard the song blaring from the bathroom.   I usually do this step while I am getting ready, I am no psychologist, but looking in the mirror while listening to Eye of the Tiger just does something special…
  • Chew gum – studies have shown test scores jump when people chew gum. Strange, but true.  Some testing sites won’t let you…check before hand.
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm – Test time.  Take a deep breathe and remember you have prepared and trained for this exam.  Close your eyes, visualize yourself when you wrote down your goal (see Assumptions) and give yourself 15 seconds more of Eye of The Tiger.  Good luck!
  • Post Test:  It should be about time for Happy Hour by now…buy yourself a half priced martini – you’ve earned it.

MBAGirlJourney offers the perspective of a highly thoughtful young professional woman who hopes to land a seat at a top ten MBA program for the Class of 2016. She has two goals: to gain acceptance to at least two of the top ten business schools and to finance her MBA without taking on heavy debt. She blogs at MBAGirlJourney. Previous posts on Poets&Quants:

My Goal: To Get Into Two of the Top Ten MBA Programs

How To Finance Your MBA Degree In A Responsible Way

Handicapping My Own Chances of Admission to Harvard, Wharton, Chicago Booth, et al

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.