Be a Player in the GMAT Game and Not Just a Fan

This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

On the GMAT, you want to be a player and not just a fan.

Sports fans can be an obsessed group. They identify with a particular team and really want that team to win. However, because fans cannot play in the games, they are concerned almost exclusively with the outcome.

This is why fans are so much more nervous than the players are. Players are involved in the process; they are paying attention to what they are doing in that moment. A player may even really enjoy a game that he happens to lose. Fans rarely enjoy a game that “their” team does not win. In fact, a fan is often so nervous during a game that the fan does not enjoy the game. This comes from being too focused on the outcome.

Don’t be too concerned about the score
Anxiety can be thought of as “the distance between where you are and where you want to be.” If you are in the middle of the test, but a large part of your mind just wants the test to be over and to receive your score and be “done with it,” that is when the anxiety comes in. You cannot be in two places at once, and if your mind is focused on estimating your score, trying to figure out how well you are doing, or just plain wishing that the test was over, you will never be able to give your best effort.

Think of something that you really love to do, some sport, musical endeavor, dance, or other creative outlet. When you are doing something that you truly love to do, you are so lost in the moment that you are not even thinking about the result. Musicians, actors, athletes, and others do their best work when they are truly “present.”

The same is true of the highest GMAT scorers. Those who have scored really well on the exam often report that they did not remember what any of the previous questions were about and were not worried about what questions they might get in the future. They were too focused on the question in front of them to be distracted by the past or the future.

How to play the game like a pro
Any winning athlete will tell you that leading up to the big game he or she is simply focused on doing the best possible job. It is not helpful to approach any game with the mindset “I really need to win this game.” Instead the athlete focuses on the game plan: overall strategies to adopt, responses to various circumstances, moves and countermoves.

As a GMAT pro, you want to take the same approach. While other people are focused on the one thing they cannot control—the score—you focus on all of the things you can control: your preparation, game plan, focus, timing, mindset, and effort.

Here are some “game day” tips:
• Believe in your training. Test day, like game day, isn’t the time to doubt yourself. When a problem looks tricky, remind yourself which processes have worked on similar problems in your homework.

• Laugh off small setbacks. Ever notice that pro athletes often smile or laugh after they make a bad play? That’s not (usually) a lack of caring; it’s a strategic decision to pick themselves up with an upbeat attitude to “get the next one.”

• Never look back. Great shooters in basketball are said to “have no conscience,” like great quarterbacks in football “have short memories.” What does that mean? As soon as that play is over, they’re already thinking about the next one. If you had to guess or just realized you made a mistake, that doesn’t matter—what matters is the question in front of you.

By the time you take the GMAT, you should know exactly what it takes to succeed. So don’t waste your time and attention thinking about the score. You will know your score soon enough. Like any great athlete or artist, your focus in on the process. Let the “fans” obsess about the result; be a “player” instead!

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