Now that you’re well versed on the ins and outs of the computer adaptive exam, and you’ve read Dave’s (SFU MBA ’11) harrowing GMAT tale, the only thing left with regard to the Computer Adaptive Test is a condensed list of best practices. This advice is specific to the strategies that you can use on test day. For tips and advice around studying, the best prep books, locating online practice tests, etc, be sure to take a look at our more general GMAT area. Also, this post gives more functional advice for test-day, which will always lessen stress levels. That said, sometimes it’s necessary to dig deep and find some mental focus to get through tough tests. The post on beating MBA Stress might be a good one to read for some tips on how to relax before the test.
Understand the concept of state-dependent learning (memory), and how you can benefit from it on test day:
It has been shown that when trying to recall information, or even perform cognitive tasks, it’s best to do so in the same mental and environmental state as when you encoded the information, or practiced the tasks. What does that mean? It means if you usually have coffee before studying, have coffee before the test. If you usually study in the afternoon, book the test in the afternoon. If you wear comfy clothes when you study, do so also for the test. Remember, the university doesn’t see what you’re wearing, but they will see that you didn’t answer a question correctly [because you were distracted by itchy pants]. State dependent learning can be used in the reverse sense as well; in this case we have an advantage because we know almost exactly what the testing environment is going to be like. Make sure you study in a quiet, well lit area that has a desk and a chair which you aren’t totally comfortable sitting on. Mix it up for different practice tests, do them in different places with other furniture. This will teach you how to be comfortable with an unfamiliar testing environment.
Do at least one or two practice tests at home, simulating test conditions:
If you read Dave’s post about what it’s like to go to a testing center and take the four hour exam in a little cubicle with cameras and people watching you, you’ll know that this is a very unique experience. Try to simulate as many of the possible variables at home before you take the test. For this practice test we recommend you use one of the tests provided by GMAC. be sure to lock yourself in a room with your computer and without distractions. You might want to take this opportunity to determine whether you feel comfortable wearing ear plugs during the test. When I took the test I found earplugs helped me zone in on what I was doing, and forget about everything around me. It’s important that you try them out before the test, as they could end up being added stress if you don’t like them.
Remember, in the GMAT testing center the scratch paper that is provided is laminated and you are given a sharp-tip erasable marker to use. When I was practicing for the GMAT I used a piece of paper that I had laminated, and a similar marker to simulate the experience. I don’t know about you but I HATE getting ink on my hands, it takes some practice to make sure you don’t. If you have any more questions, feel free to comment or email us.
Make a trip to the test center a few days before the test:
Sometimes the Pearson (GMAT test administration company) testing centers are hidden away in office buildings, or are in parts of town that aren’t easily accessible. Make sure you go to the testing center using the same transportation you’ll use day of, a week or so before the test day. If you’re in Vancouver, the testing center is really close to a Skytrain station, but remember public transit can be delayed too, so give yourself some extra time. Also, be sure to make the trip on the same day and time as you’ll be making it on test day, this should give you an idea of traffic conditions, etc. Aim to arrive to the test center about 15-30 minutes early.
Stop studying or spending time looking at a computer monitor at least 24 hours before the test:
You wouldn’t run a marathon the day before you race in the actual Boston Marathon, right? Just like your body, your brain needs time to rest and recover between training sessions and before a test. With this in mind, do something other than studying and looking at a computer screen the day before your exam. Enjoy the outdoors, have fun with friends, or listen to some music and relax. It is well documented that people who have had a good night’s sleep and are well rested do better at cognitive tasks.
Bring a snack and a sweater with you to the test:
In between sections you’ll be able to take a 10 minute break and leave the testing area, bring a light snack for you to nibble on during this break. Also keep in mind that the testing center is likely heated differently that what you’re used to. Wear layers and bring a sweater in case you get cold.
If you have any questions or thoughts, be sure to leave a comment below. We respond to comments immediately and love to hear what our readers have to say. Bonus points if you come back after and tell us about your GMAT test-day experience.
Good Luck on the test – even though I know you don’t need it!
Be sure to read the other 2 posts in this 3 part series:
GMAT Tips Part 1 – Computer Adaptive Test Strategies
GMAT Tips Part 2 – How it Works: GMAT Computer Adaptive Test