Saturday, 16 May 2015

Boosting your stamina for the GMAT

With a 170 IQ and amazing problem solving skills, I was extremely confident that my first GMAT test would be my last. I thought I would be able to score that 700+ score quickly and be on my way to a business school.

Turns out, I was wrong.

I kept running out of steam in the last hour of the test. By the time I got to the verbal section, my mind was already fried and that meant a lower score on the GMAT.

And I am not alone. People fall short all the time. There are many of us with the right skillset and there are many of us who can compensate for talent by sheer hard work. But, it turns out that on the GMAT, even IF you could combine the right talent with the right amounts of hard work, you would still fall short.

The Internet is filled with comeback stories. Mine was no exception. I went from meager 500s to the coveted 700s. And nothing much changed. I did not study extra, did not suddenly learn new skills. The two things that really changed:

1. My psychological approach to the test

2. My stamina for taking the test

While I cover the first point in great detail in my Kindle book GMAT Mind Games, psychology would of little use without the mechanics to back it up. Stamina is what helped me score in the top 95 percentile. And that is saying something.

The GMAT is a four hour long, grueling test of wit and stamina. By the end of the four hours you could end up making as many as 350 to 400 decisions. And that takes a toll on the mind.

So, how do you make sure that you do not run out of energy?

Here are a few things I'd recommend:

1. GMAT practice tests: sitting for four hours

You HAVE to practice sitting in for four hours straight. The best way to do this is to take GMAT practice tests every week. Most people like to solve only the quant and verbal sections on the GMAT while skipping through the first two sections. That saves time, but does not help your preparation.

You have to go through the essay and IR sections, even on the GMAT practice tests. On the real test, you'll have to go through these sections as well. And whether you like it or not, you will only be able to reach the quantitative section on the real test after going through the first two sections.

Make sure you don't take GMAT practice tests that allow you to pause the tests. Even if you do use such tests, make sure you don't use this feature. The GMAT practice test conditions should simulate real test conditions.

2. Reduce the number of decisions you make

As already mentioned, you may have to make as many as 350 decisions during your four hours on the GMAT. That is assuming you would be able to make the decisions at all during the last hour of the test!

In addition to practicing sitting in for four long and mentally strenuous hours, reducing the number of decisions you make during the test also helps improve your ability to conserve energy.

Knowing when to quit is important. If you don't know a concept, or if you've spent over two minutes on solving a question, it is better to guess the answer and move on. Do not spend time trying to find a solution to a problem that is beyond your skill or ability.

The moment you let go of the need to ‘not quit’, your GMAT score will immediately take a jump.


Because, you'd probably be leaving/guessing over five questions before you reach the verbal section. This means you would be able to save your mind 20 to 25 decisions. Additionally, you'd be able to save 7 to 10 minutes - time that you could use on solving questions that you know how to solve.

3. Take planned breaks to increase stamina

Looking at a computer screen for four hours is tiring as it is. But, trying to solve questions, make decisions, stress about your performance, etc. can take a toll on the mind. So why not take planned breaks?

Most timing strategies will tell you that you should only make the clock visible after every 10 questions. That way you know whether you need to quit a question or if you need to pick up the pace.

But none of the timing strategies tell you to take a rest. Well, why not take a rest? Close your eyes for 20 seconds every ten questions, practice some deep breathing and calm yourself down.

So, on the quant section you would only be stopping after the 10th, 20th and 30th questions. After the last question in any case you'll get the longer break. So that means you'll be spending only 60 on planned minibreaks.

That is not so bad, considering the boost in your performance later on. Similarly, even while going through the verbal section, you can take planned breaks. By taking a rest, you'll be able to get to the end of four hours with a fresher mind, and a higher score. My own test experience and that of many of my students has been that you get a minimum score boost of 30 to 40 points, if you've scored in the 600s during past tests with this.

Of course, skills and knowledge matter too. But, stamina matters just as much.

If you follow the above advice, I can guarantee you that you won't run out of energy or stamina. And you'll be able to score higher without your mind going numb during the last hour of the test.

By Digvijay Katoch

If you’re considering pursuing an MBA, join the QS World MBA Tour in India from 20-27 May. Register online to secure your place

Notes to the Editor

About QS

QS is the world's leading network for top careers and education. It links graduate, MBA and executive communities around the world, with recruiters and education providers, through websites, publications, selection services and events.

The company was founded by Wharton MBA, NunzioQuacquarelli, in 1990. Fellow director Matt Symonds, and the Paris team joined in 1994. Today QS operates globally from offices in Beijing, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Washington DC.

QS’ mission is to provide a lifetime of educational and career information to high-achievers.

It achieves this through the platforms of: publications, web services, events and software; all of which aim to support candidates at each stage of their career path, helping them reach leadership positions.

Our communities include: QS, QS TopMBA.comand QS Global

The QS team of over 140 individuals from the four corners of the world represent the experience and goals of the achievers we aim to assist. They include internationally recognized experts in the higher and business education arena.

QS operates globally from offices in London, Paris, Stuttgart, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney, Washington DC, Boston, and Johannesburg.

QS World MBA Tour

The QS World MBA Tour is the world’s largest series of recruitment and information fairs for business school applicants. In 2013, over 100,000 MBA candidates registered to visit 85 events in 66 cities in 43 countries. The QS World MBA Tour offers a unique opportunity to meet admissions officers of the world's most influential business schools at venues around the world. Now in its twenty-second year, the Tour will consist of 200 events across 51 countries over five continents during 2014.

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