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Seeking some godly advice: I have performance anxiety issues

This topic has 3 expert replies and 1 member reply
MBAHopefully Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
25 Mar 2016
1 messages

Seeking some godly advice: I have performance anxiety issues

Post Fri Mar 25, 2016 12:36 am
Summary: Thanks for listening guys. I just took my GMAT today the second time and scored 650 (Q47,V33) - disappointed and frustrated, I'm aiming for INSEAD.


1) 2015-July Attempt: 680 (Q48,V35) - Prior to this exam I studied for about 1 month-ish, I cancelled the scores partly because I thought I could score higher.

Then I took a 7 month break from the GMAT.

2) 2016-March Attempt: 650 (Q47,V33) - Prior to this exam I studied for about 1.5 months, the three weekends prior to this exam attempt, I scored 700 (Q48,V38), 720 (Q49,V40), 760 (Q50,V42) on GMATPrep. So I thought I’d be alright..

3) 2016-May, I want to retake the GMAT in 5 weeks time.


I believe I am capable of achieving a 700+ score, but for some reason it just didn’t happen on exam day. Honestly, I’m baffled. All I want to do is apply to only one school: INSEAD. My professional work experience is in a Big4 accounting firm as an actuary in the consulting team. My undergraduate studies: Mathematics, Statistics & Actuarial Science. I’m a native English speaker (Chinese background).

Question) I believe I have the knowledge and understand the concept, but I failed to execute well on exam day. What do you recommend I do to help me score at my full potential on D-Day? Any advice is very much appreciated, THANK YOU.

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Marty Murray Legendary Member
03 Feb 2014
2037 messages
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Post Fri Mar 25, 2016 5:04 am
Red Flag Number One: Use of the words "frustrated and disappointed"

Both of those words have connotations of ways of responding to things, and those ways are not productive.

Consider how you things might go when you are taking the test. Rather than focusing on getting right answers whatever happens, you are worried that if it does not go well you might be frustrated or disappointed. Also, "frustrated" in particular has connotations of a static view of the universe, a universe in which you can get stuck for some unfathomable reason.

The truth is that in this universe "frustrated" is a meaningless word, and all that matters is continuing to play whatever game you are playing until you get better at it, as you can be sure that you will.

Rocking the GMAT itself, even getting an answer to a particular question, takes having that attitude of soldiering on whatever comes your way. I have seen people who get frustrated and disappointed get frustrated and disappointed even while doing a question, basically giving up and getting stuck within a question. Then after that some people get so freaked out that they miss the next five questions because of their experience with that one question.

So here's your prescription. You need to see yourself as a spiritual being with unlimited potential and as such who can keep getting better at whatever you want to get better at. So there is no frustration, only success now or later. You need to take that attitude toward your training for the GMAT, toward the test itself and toward every question that you see.

If you have anxiety issues, then partly you can solve them via exposure therapy. You could go to Veritas and Manhattan Prep and take their first free practice tests for one thing. Those tests are a little different from GMAT Prep tests, and having to deal with the differences would give you good practice dealing with stress and continuing to just do question after question.

You may even be best off buying a set of tests from one of them, and taking one or two a week for a while. One of the people who worked with me showed up at the test center after not getting enough sleep, and the center was so cold that she had to wear her coat to take the test. Did all that make any difference? Not really. She said she was used to "having breakfast and then taking a GMAT", and so that's what she did that day too, and scored 750.

If you feel anxiety, here's a great way to calm yourself down. Focus on getting right answers. Make doing questions and figuring out answers the way that you calm yourself. Then you will be set.

Meanwhile, go over your practice tests and look for areas you are not as strong in. Work on those areas to get yourself even more comfortable with the test, and being calm will be that much easier.

One thing I am wondering is whether your GMAT Prep tests were first takes or repeats. If they were repeats then your practice test scores were likely inflated. That issue would be surmountable too, though it would add another dimension to the project.

Finally, look into mindfulness meditation, as that can be really helpful in reducing anxiety and maintaining calm.

Five weeks sounds like plenty of time for you to accomplish your score goal. Just hit this thing from a few angles and take the attitude that sooner or later you will totally rock this test.

Marty Murray
GMAT Coach
In Person in the New York Area and Online Worldwide


Edison@VeritasPrep MBA Admissions Consultant Default Avatar
28 Jan 2016
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Post Fri Mar 25, 2016 6:19 am
Thanks for sharing.

It may help to know that at your GMAT score of 650, this is within range for INSEAD, although it is at the lower end. With your background in Mathematics, Statistics, and Actuarial Science, this would help address potential concerns about your quantitative and analytical ability.

Continue to study hard and maybe you can consider engaging the services of a test prep company, but putting less pressure on yourself may also be helpful.

Wish you all the best!

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Post Fri Mar 25, 2016 9:55 am
Hi MBAHopefully,

To start, 650 and 680 are both strong scores (they're both at/above the 80th percentile overall), so either of them could be enough to get you into INSEAD. With GMAC's new re-instatement policies, you could reactivate that 680 - thus, a retest might not be necessary. That all having been said, since INSEAD is so competitive, it's understandable that you might want to retest.

Many Test Takers spend 3 months (or more) of consistent study time before they hit their 'peak' scores, so one of the likely factors in your performances is that you just have not put in enough time and effort yet. Since your two Official Scores are so similar, you're likely 'seeing' (and responding to) the GMAT in the same general ways every time you take it.

1) Since you've studied twice, have you used the same CATs twice?
2) What other practice materials have you used?
3) When are you planning to apply to INSEAD?

GMAT assassins aren't born, they're made,

Contact Rich at Rich.C@empowergmat.com

Post Mon Mar 28, 2016 3:18 pm
I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get scores that matched your practice tests.

Here are some resources that might help you to reframe your thinking around test taking & anxiety:






Another thing that students often don't think about, but which can have a huge impact: decision fatigue. When you've made dozens of decisions in a row (as on a GMAT exam), it depletes your ability to make new decisions. One way to combat that - eat something! Increasing blood glucose has been proven to counteract decision fatigue.

“Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,”


Ceilidh Erickson
Manhattan Prep GMAT & GRE instructor
EdM in Mind, Brain, and Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education

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