We have had several students who were scoring 660-670 on their GMAT practice tests. But due to some miracle, they scored 700+ when they walked out of the GMAT test centre.
We have also had students who consistently scored above 700 on their practice tests. But on the day of the GMAT, they ended up with a score of 30 to 40 points lower than what they had expected.
How are some students able to achieve their desired score on the GMAT day?
And why are others not able to do so?
By now you know that it is not just the $250 fee for each time you take the GMAT. There is also the whole mental effort you put in each time, that needs to be taken into account. Most importantly, all your future plans go for a toss if you do not score well!
You probably have your GMAT day scheduled, and you probably are thinking about what you can do to improve your chances of success on that day.
Don’t worry! In this article, we are going to give you 23 tips that will help you give your best performance on the GMAT day which in turn will fetch you your dream GMAT score.
Also read: All You Need to Know About the Interim GMAT Exam You Can Take from Home
This article is our attempt to distil all the “good stuff” that made our students successful. We are not claiming that we have invented the magic sauce behind test-day success, but this is what we have discovered when we looked at what worked best for our students.
Here are the 23 tips that we will be discussing with you in this blog post:
- Do you need a passport for the GMAT?
- Is your GMAT registration name the same as in the passport?
- How long will it take you to get to the GMAT centre?
- Should you drive to the GMAT centre?
- When should you wake up on the GMAT day?
- Have you slept well before your GMAT test day?
- What should your breakfast look like on the GMAT day?
- What should you not consume on the GMAT day?
- What if you feel sick at the GMAT centre?
- What do you wear to the GMAT centre?
- What should you do with your mobile phone at the GMAT centre?
- How do you use the GMAT scratch paper?
- What else should you do with the scratch paper?
- Should you cancel your GMAT score?
- How do you select the GMAT section selection order?
- What should you eat at the GMAT centre?
- When do the GMAT Experimental questions appear?
- How to get yourself for peak performance on the GMAT?
- How to pace yourself / time yourself on the GMAT?
- How to time your breaks on the GMAT?
- How do you select B-schools on the GMAT day?
- How to manage background noise during GMAT?
- How can you be an optimist on the GMAT day?
Before we dive into the 23 tips that will help you get the best possible score on the GMAT, let us answer the question that is in your mind right now – Can I really improve my test day performance? Read further to find the answer to this haunting question and to find ways to be ready for the GMAT day.
This is an important question, and to answer that, you need to ask yourself: Can I really learn strategies and skills to improve my GMAT scores?
The answer to that is: YES!
The way we teach the GMAT at CrackVerbal is centered around this approach. We ask our students to approach a question with a test-setter mindset than a test-taker mindset. You can sign up for CrackVerbal’s Free GMAT Kickstarter course to know how we bring about this approach in our GMAT coaching.
While we believe that the subject knowledge does matter in improving the GMAT day performance, we know that it will be your ability to maintain your focus on the day that plays a more important role in ensuring that you give your best.
Let us keep things simple. Let us dive right into the list of 23 tips that will help you do well on the GMAT day. Some of this is based on preparation, so you would do well to make a checklist for yourself.
Yes – you do.
The first thing you need to have for the GMAT is a passport.
We have had students who had not applied for their passport or had their passport given for Visa stamping. There were students who had left their passport at their parents’ house for safe-keeping as well.
And they all thought that: I have a passport but that is only required for registration, but I can still go ahead and take the test. I don’t think I have to take it to the exam centre.
The logic behind using the passport as an identification document is that when GMAC (owner and administrator of the GMAT) thought of the best way to validate your ID for the test, they realized that each country has its own identification system.
So, instead of complicating it and making it a bureaucratic nightmare, they just wanted to have one ID. And the passport has been chosen as the only form of identification.
Therefore, make sure that you carry the passport along with you on the day of the test.
Make sure that your registered name is the same as in your passport.
We have had our students come and say things like:
“My father’s name is Kalyan, but I use only the letter K against my name. It’s only in my passport that it appears as Kalyan. What should I do?”
Here’s the deal, if it is in your passport, it has to be on the GMAT registration too!
So make sure that you are getting the first name, middle name, and the last name sorted out while registering on mba.com (especially if you are from South India or one of those cultures where names can get really complicated).
Though it looks very obvious, the reason we are specifying this is because we have had a lot of students who on the test day have been refused entry at the centre. They were told that the name doesn’t match the registered details, and so they cannot take the test.
Note: We have had a few students tell us that the administrators have been kind enough to let them log into the portal to change the details. But why stress yourself out on the day of the test if you can fix it beforehand, right?
Whether you’re taking the morning or the afternoon test, check on Google Maps and figure out the time it will take you to get to the GMAT centre.
Google Maps also tells you the average time it usually takes for that trip at a given time.
Let’s say your test is on a Wednesday at 8 a.m.
What you should do is check for Wednesday in general and Google Maps will give you the data i.e. typically at this time of the day, it would take you this long.
If it says it’s a 30-minute drive, you should ideally be leaving at 7:10 a.m., keeping a 15- to 20-minute buffer until the exam time.
The reason we are asking you to check Google Maps data is not just so that you get in on time but also so that you do not become anxious.
Keep no more than a 20-minute buffer (of course depending on other factors such as rains, traffic, etc). We have had students reach the test centre an hour before, and they realize that waiting outside the centre for 45 minutes not knowing what to do is not going to put you in a great mood before the test. If you do plan on going early then maybe you might conduct a reconnaissance to see where you can potentially hang around within walking distance.
There is one more thing. Nobody is going to say that you can’t take the test because you’re late by a couple of minutes. But you want to ease the stress out. So you want to be on time.
So, it is the previous day of your GMAT. This is when you should have everything ready, including your plan to get to the GMAT centre.
It is not like any other day. This day is important for you and you cannot let any external factor impact your performance on the GMAT day.
So, which is the best way to travel to your GMAT centre? We have narrowed it down to four options:
- Drive yourself
- Take public transport (bus, metro, etc.)
- Take a cab
- Get dropped
In terms of risk involved, we reckon: 4 > 3 > 2 > 1
Getting dropped by someone is the best commute choice. You will not have to worry about driving. You can just relax and focus on the test you are going to take.
On the GMAT day, you really don’t want to stress your brain by making trivial decisions such as where to park your vehicle or what to do if it rains.
The next tip is about what time you should take the test.
Are you a morning person? Does your body clock feel best at 7 a.m? Or are you a late evening person? With your body going full fuel later in the day?
So, depending on when you wake up usually, pick a time slot for your test.
Here is one thing: please do not change the time you wake up.
Now, let’s do a reverse calculation using an example:
- Let us say that you have booked a morning slot at 8 a.m.
- Let us assume that you need to leave your house at 7:15 a.m.
- That means you will have your breakfast at about 6:45 – 7:00 a.m.
- And that means you need to wake up at about 6:00 – 6:15 a.m.
Now, a question to you.
On the day of the GMAT, do you think it will be easy for you to get up at 6 a.m.?
Here is what is going to happen: you are perhaps going to wake up before the alarm goes off! That is because you will be hypersensitive to the fact that it’s your exam day.
But guess what the harder part is? The harder part is actually sleeping the night before!
Now think about it. You have to wake up at 6 a.m., which means if you want to get eight hours of rest, you will have to go to sleep at 10 p.m. Guess what you’re thinking at 10 p.m. in the night lying on your bed with open eyes: Shoot! That’s it, this is the moment of truth! I’m going to get my GMAT score tomorrow. All these months of preparation come to this moment.
And that stress can sometimes make you stay up late.
So, we suggest getting used to sleeping at the same time and waking up at the same time. Ideally, 7 to 8 hours is good. Make sure that you get your circadian cycle in place and on the day of the test, you are able to put your body into peak performance mode.
You need to get enough rest the night before you take your GMAT. While you might be anxious about the next day, do not let it get to you and ruin your sleep.
There are some meditative apps like Headspace that gives you a routine to relax your brain and lets you put down your mental baggage for the day. For example, let’s say a nice warm shower the night before the day of your exam. This will calm you down and help you get a good sleep.
Just see what works best for you, but make sure that you’re relaxed because this is one big factor.
Also watch: GMAT Success Story: Here’s How Vishnu Cracked the GMAT and Got Into the Ivey B-School
And as mentioned in the previous point, if you have scheduled your sleep for over two weeks, you shouldn’t have a problem getting sleep the night before the GMAT.
We are not qualified nutritionists, but we have read plenty about how to get your body into a “peak performance state”.
One way in which you can get it into such a state is by having a good breakfast (ideally with more protein).
Not just eggs or cheese.
You can have idlis (for carbs) with sambhar (lentils provide the protein).
Or it could be poha with chutney.
Or corn flakes with milk (we love ours with cold milk!).
Or parathas with curd and pickle.
Or whatever else you would have on a normal day.
Just make sure that it will not only fill your stomach but also let you think nimbly.
Don’t eat junk before the day of the GMAT. You don’t want to upset your stomach.
Note: Don’t have pure sugar because sugar and carbs tend to make you go on a “high” and then you also end up crashing.
We have already told you about how you should eat healthy and how you should be careful while choosing the snacks on the GMAT day. People have different habits. Some people love coffee while others prefer tea. Some people smoke while others do not. Then there are a few people who believe that energy drinks help them function better.
You might either belong to one or more of the categories of people mentioned above or you may belong to none of those categories. Either way, what we would like to tell you is to not drink any energy drinks or caffeinated drinks on the GMAT day. Especially if you have not had it often enough. The thing is that such stimulants can adversely affect your performance on the day of the test.
If you are someone who smokes or has coffee on a daily basis, remember that you might not have those options at the GMAT centre. So, maybe you can carry a nicotine patch or any caffeinated drink with you.
You might be a very healthy person. But exams can get the better of you. And what if you get a headache at the GMAT test centre? You cannot withdraw your registration and walk out. Well, you can, but all your preparation goes for a toss.
So, the simplest way to take care of this is by carrying a small medical kit with you. It need not even be a kit. You could just keep a few essential medicines in your bag.
You can carry basic medication in the medical kit with you to the test centre. This kit could include:
- A couple of aspirins
- An asthma inhaler
- A nasal spray
- And maybe even a lip balm
Do you get the drift?
P.S. Don’t carry your whole medical kit with band-aids and all. Just make sure that you carry a few crucial things on the day of the GMAT.
Make sure you are dressed comfortably.
Perhaps carry a jacket or a sweatshirt – anything that you can put on top of whatever you are wearing. There is a reason why we tell you this. We have had students tell us that the A/C in the GMAT centre was too cold.
On the other hand, we have sometimes also heard that the test centre was very warm. It may be hard to change such situations, but it is better to be prepared.
By the way, you can always let the administrators know of any kind of problems that you face in the GMAT centre. And if there are any kind of irregularities that you want to report, you can directly report to GMAC. You can find the details here.
We would only ask you to do one thing with your mobile phone – please switch it off. Now, you may think that you can put your mobile phone on silent or on aeroplane mode. Please do not do that.
We are asking you to switch it off so that you do not defocus and get distracted. You never know what messages or calls you might receive on your cellphone during the test or the breaks.
Here’s a very interesting (and unfortunate) incident that happened to one of our students:
He had attempted Quant first and then took the 8-minute break before going in to attempt Verbal. So he walked out of the test room, opened the locker and checked his phone. He was shocked to see six missed calls from the same number. So he inadvertently called that number to know what had happened.
While he was talking on the phone in the centre, one of the administrators spotted him, and they ended up cancelling his test!
(And the worst part is that the calls were from an Amazon delivery agent!)
So, please make sure that you put your phone on silent or better yet, switch it off!
Also, why do you need to look at messages? Checking WhatsApp messages can take you out of the zone.
These are all small points, but we have noticed that sometimes they can cause problems. You do not want your months of GMAT preparation to go for a toss.
At the GMAT test centre, you will be provided with something similar to a big spiral notepad. This is the GMAT scratch pad.
Each pad contains a couple of sheets, and along with it, you also get a Staedtler permanent marker pen. Make sure you scribble to check if the ink has dried out. Also, ensure that you are comfortable with your scratch paper.
Make sure that you optimally utilize it. You might do a lot of calculations – so if you keep the sheet organized, it will help you.
Make sure that you ask for the scratch paper in advance. You just need to raise your hand and the proctor will come over to help you.
Here is one more thing that you should be doing when you have the scratchpad given to you – Strike off the wrong answers.
You ask why?
Because, specifically in Sentence Correction, when you are working through the answer options you can actually keep striking off the wrong ones!
As the GMAT is a test of elimination, not a test of selection, we believe you should keep track of the ones you have eliminated.
Sometimes, you might want to compare the final answer option to the “next best” option. Here too, it might be convenient to have some kind of marking for an answer option that you are not sure of but don’t want to eliminate right away.
Also, keeping track of the options like this reduces cognitive overload, thereby helping you conserve your mental energy.
Did you know that there is an option to cancel your GMAT score?
Nobody wants to walk into the test centre with a negative mindset thinking what if I have to cancel my scores. But it’s better for you to have some kind of a “cut off” in mind.
Say, 650 is your cut off. Immediately after your GMAT, whether you have scored more or less than 650, you will be asked whether you want to accept or cancel your score. At that point, it becomes very important to make a quick decision as they give you only two minutes. If the time expires before you make a decision, your score will be automatically cancelled.
Trust us when we say this, a lot of times we have seen students confused because they have not thought about it. So, be ready to make this decision before you sit down for the GMAT.
Let us assume that you accepted your score at the GMAT centre. Can you cancel it later? Of course you can. You can cancel your score online up to 72 hours after the completion of the exam. But you will have to pay a fee to cancel your score then.
And what if you cancelled your score at the GMAT centre and you want to reinstate it? You can do that too. This can be done up to four years and 11 months from the time of completion of the exam.
One simple advice we have for you is that if you are confused, it is better not to cancel your GMAT score.
And what can you do once you cancel the score – You can retake the GMAT and may be score much better! It is not that difficult to score better in your GMAT. Retaking the GMAT – five effective strategies to score better in your next GMAT.
Which section are you going to take first? Based on that, you can decide the section selection order.
There are three options for you to pick from:
We suggest that you try out your choice at least a couple of times when you take practice tests.
A word of caution over here: Suppose you take two tests, and let’s say there is a difference in the scores between the two tests. It is important to confirm if the difference is because of the section selection order and not because of other reasons.
The first section, be it any section, will give you high mental energy but also higher inertia i.e. you will feel the initial few questions drag.
The second section would give you a good “tempo” provided the first section went well. On the other hand, if the first section did not go too well – you might find yourself panicking a little bit.
If you want to know about the updated GMAT structure, here’s a video you can watch that will tell you all about the GMAT section selection order.
What do you eat on the day of your GMAT? What snacks do you choose?
The first thing we are going to say is to eat stuff that you normally would eat. We have seen a lot of students, especially Indian students, who tend to read about this from online sources such as the GMATClub. And there they would have come across these threads which talk about how someone scored a 760 or 770 and how he ate a Snickers bar or drank a can of Red Bull during the break.
My question to you is this:
If you are hungry in your day-to-day life, do you drink a Red Bull or have Snickers?
If you don’t, then please don’t do so on the GMAT day too!
Usually, a banana or a few biscuits can work. The GMAT is restrictive in the kind of food items you can bring inside the test centre.
Make sure that you carry only the most essential items to the test centre and the test room. You can browse through the GMAT test day checklist to get a better idea of what you cannot carry to the test centre on your GMAT day.
Just like the name, these are trick questions that you will find while taking the GMAT. By trick questions, we do not mean to say that they are created to trick you into achieving a lower score. These questions are created by the GMAC to recognize the difficulty level of the rest of the exam. They also help them gauge if the rest of the exam is testing the same concepts.
The tricky part about these questions is that you will not know which ones they are – You cannot identify them.
But there is something that you should know about the GMAT Experimental questions – they do not count towards your final three-digit GMAT score. You can take a guess and answer these questions.
Let us give a little more information.
In the Quant section, you’re going to get three such experimental questions. Whereas, in the Verbal section, you’re going to get about six such experimental questions.
Here is something that we do know for a fact.
The experimental questions will typically appear in the middle of the GMAT.
So, if you are going to guess answers, you probably shouldn’t do it:
- in the beginning of the GMAT, and
- at the end of the GMAT.
You would want to kind of “intersperse” your mistakes throughout the test.
So the best time to make a guess is somewhere in the middle of the test.
Have you heard of this phenomenon called “decision fatigue”?
To explain it simply: think of your brain as a mobile battery. So, as you consume more information, you are consuming more power from your battery. Similarly, the human brain also has limited battery power. This is why you might have noticed that sometimes at around
6-7 p.m., after a very tiring day, you feel “brain dead”. This is because your brain is just feeling the heaviness of all the decisions that you’ve made.
So, how do you conserve your energy on the day of the test to ensure you are at your peak performance state?
First, don’t leave any decision-making for the morning. As mentioned in the previous points, ensure you have made all the logistical checks the evening before — packed the passport, picked out the clothes to wear, food to eat, the route to take, etc.
Second, don’t engage in difficult conversations with anyone on the GMAT day. Don’t try to do any other work before you take the GMAT – especially those who take the afternoon slot. On the GMAT day, you should have near-perfect mental energy and composure to ensure that you will perform at your 100%.
First, let us look at what a pacing chart is.
A pacing chart is essentially the number of questions and the amount of time available for each question.
You don’t want to stress out on the day of the GMAT. So let us create a simple pacing chart for your GMAT.
Note that we are allocating a 5-minute buffer for you to attempt the first set of questions.
If you have a pacing chart like this, you can understand how fast or slow you’re going. In case you want to speed up – you will need to start guessing on the GMAT. A “guess” is nothing but an answer that you are not entirely sure of.
As mentioned earlier, it is better to pepper your “guesses” throughout the test. Also, remember that all the experimental questions are somewhere in the middle of the test. So better to guess in the middle rather than at the end.
Remember that on the GMAT day, your timer is going to be a countdown timer. It means it’s not going to count up from zero, but it will count down to zero.
All right. So, you get two breaks on the GMAT day.
The first break is after the first section – Verbal or Quant or AWA/IR. You have an eight-minute break before you get onto the next section. The next one is after the next section – another eight-minute break.
So what you can typically do during these breaks are:
- come out of the test room
- go to the washroom
- go to your locker & open it
- eat something
- drink something
- get back to the test room
Now, remember that you don’t have a watch during the breaks. So you don’t know how long you have spent outside.
If you think that you should get back in a few minutes and enjoy the break inside, then you are wrong. The proctor is going to start the test as soon as you sit down in front of your computer.
But if you end up overshooting your time, then you might end up losing a few precious minutes on the GMAT. A few minutes of lost time is really not a make-or-break factor. But on the day of the test, you may get into a panic mode because of this. You might also have a negative frame of mind that might end up affecting the test.
In conclusion, taking a shorter break is better than taking a longer break.
Did you know that you need to name the five B-schools of your choice on the GMAT before you take the test? They will send your GMAT score for free to these B-schools that you have chosen.
A bit unfair you could argue – but that is how it is going to be. So, have the list of schools ready a few days before your GMAT. It is easy to pick based on what you think might be a realistic scenario.
You don’t need to remember the B-school code. You just need to know the name of the B-school and the program you wish to apply for. They will have a search bar where you can find the schools of your choice. Say, you are applying to IIM-A. Then there are two programs: PGPX and FPM – both take the GMAT score and so they will each have a different code.
Just be careful when you make your choice. You don’t want to waste the free opportunity on MBA programs that you do not wish to join.
Want to know how to select the right B-school for you? Know the six factors to consider while selecting an MBA program.
And if you wish to send your GMAT score to more than five B-schools, you can do so by paying a fee.
Sometimes when you are in the middle of the GMAT, there could be other candidates who may be either typing away or murmuring while solving the test. You might find this very distracting. There may also be some noise you may hear from the road.
At the GMAT centre, you will be provided with simple earplugs during the test. In some centres, you may be provided with Sennheiser noise cancellation headphones. However, they may not be enough to keep all the noise out.
Also, mentally prepare yourself for this. Try not to worry about such sounds and try to focus on the test. Trying out the GMAT mock tests in a slightly noisy place might help you on the day.
When you take the GMAT mock test, you can even use apps like Noizio or My Noise to train yourself to stay focussed amidst the background noise or disturbance.
Also, as mentioned earlier, if you feel that the noise or disturbance is too much in the test centre, you can definitely report the problem. They will find a solution to it.
While what you eat might affect your performance on the GMAT day, there is one more factor that will have a huge impact on you – having a positive mindset. This will help you in ways that you might not even realize. So, here are a few tips to help you maintain a positive frame of mind on the day of the GMAT.
The first thing is to read all the student debriefs written by those who have actually done very well in the GMAT. It talks about what they did and how they prepared for the GMAT. And when you hear a good story, it automatically makes you feel more positive. It just makes you feel a little better.
Here’s something we would like to share with you – You can check out our students’ success stories and be inspired by them. They are sure to help you perform better.
Have you ever heard that dreams are made twice? Once in your mind and once in reality? Well, if you haven’t, let us tell you how this can work for the GMAT. You’ll see that this stuff actually works!
As you prepare to leave for the test, visualize yourself taking the test from the very beginning. Imagine yourself knocking off one question after another with relative ease; you’re keeping up with the time, and you’re doing really well!
Imagine yourself during the break time. Run through the things you’ll do in your mind. You go out, freshen up with a bar of chocolate and come back to your seat with renewed energy. Now, imagine yourself looking at the next set of questions.
What we are essentially telling you is that you should not underestimate the power of positive thinking. Now, finally, imagine yourself clicking on that submit button! You are visualising your success in your mind even before it happens!
Now you should believe that you see a 760 score on the screen. In your mental eye try to see a score of 760 and it will make a difference in terms of the way your brain processes it.
You should try and visualize this a couple of times before the actual test. You will see the difference.
With the twenty three tips coming to an end, we would like to let you know that the tips mentioned above have been curated by us based on the knowledge we have acquired over our years of industry experience.
We have seen students struggle in the last minute despite completing all the preparations, and we wouldn’t want that for you. We would like to guarantee you that if you consider these twenty three tips, you will be able to give your GMAT in the most organized and efficient manner.
But your preparation for the GMAT plays a huge role in your confidence level on the day of the test. You can try our Free GMAT Online course if you feel you need help with your GMAT preparations now.
Also, we would like you to know that we are always here to help you out with anything regarding the GMAT Preparation or your MBA applications.
If you found these tips useful, please share our post with your fellow GMAT-takers. Let them also have an easy GMAT day experience.
And if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below. This will help us help you better.