The Week Before Your GMAT:

by on August 18th, 2009

In my years as a teacher I’ve learned a lot about how to get ready the week before your GMAT. I’ve learned from my own experience in preparing for the test but also from the many students I’ve had. Eventually I put together what I think is a good routine for the week before the test and I’ve found that it works for me and a lot of my students have agreed. I would always share this advice with my students at the end of my time with them.

These suggestions are all about creating a routine for yourself. The more routine you have the less likely you are to get nervous and excited. A calm and cool state is the best thing you can do to actually hit your maximum potential score on the test. Having the week and day before the test planned out will help this a lot.

One week before your GMAT

I generally recommend taking no more than one or two full length CATs during the week leading up to the GMAT. If you do take any full length practice tests, try and replicate the routine you will have for the day of your real GMAT. For this week, try to have some un-worked practice questions that you can practice with. Timed practice is really important at this point because you want your mind and body to be used to the pace of the test. Try working some drills in which you give yourself two minutes to answer each question or ten minutes to answer five. It’s really important to make sure you’re putting the same effort into reviewing your work and not just doing more and more questions.

  • DO Stay healthy. Make sure you exercise, eat well, and get lots and lots of sleep.
  • DO Get a massage. If you can, try and get one two or three days before the test, but not the day before.
  • DO Clean your living space. A clean and organized living space helps promote a focused and confident mind. A lot of people don’t think this makes a difference until they try it.
  • DO Visit your test center. If at all possible make a visit to the test center you’ll be taking your test at. The less you have to think about in terms of traffic and road conditions on test day, the fewer excuses your nerves will have to get wired.
  • DO Check the GMAT Center’s website for what items you can and can’t bring to the test including any ID requirements. You don’t want to be surprised the day of the test.

Day before your GMAT

The theme of this day is rest, relaxation and recreation. Give your brain a break from GMAT work. This will accomplish a couple things. One, you’re less likely to get last minute nerves about the test and two, you’ll give your brain some time to get out of practice mode and into a cool state before the test. DON’T do GMAT work the day before the test. The one thing you can do is do a replica of your warm-up that you will do the day of the test.

  • DO Have fun with friends
  • DO Eat your favorite dinner
  • DO Watch a funny movie before bed
  • DO Sleep at least 8 hours

Day of your GMAT

I think it’s important to do a short warm-up before your test. The idea isn’t to get practice or to learn something new. The idea is to not have the very first GMAT questions you work that day counting for your real GMAT score. Working just a few questions without checking the answer choices will help prime your brain for the questions and timing of the test. Working a few question without checking the answers also preps you for what the test will feel like as you can’t find out how you’re doing as the test goes.

  • DO Wake up at least 2 hours before your test if you have a morning test.
  • DO Eat your favorite breakfast, but don’t eat too much.
  • DO Drink coffee if you usually do.
  • DON’T Drink coffee if you usually don’t.
  • DO Warm Up. Work 3 of each question type from each section of the test. (3 Critical Reasoning, 3 Reading Comprehension, 3 Sentence Correction, 3 Math Problem Solving and 3 Data Sufficiency)
  • DON’T check the answers to your warm up drill questions.
  • DO Arrive 30 min before the test starts.

At your GMAT

  • DO Bring a pocket snack like an energy bar – you can’t eat during the test but having a snack is good if you step out to the bathroom.
  • DO Have a totem for support – something small that belongs to someone you care about that you can have in your pocket or on you.
  • DO Bring everything your GMAT instructions tell you to bring.

If you’ve been doing good timed practice, you should have a good sense of the pacing of the test and how it should feel. Rely on this and the techniques you’ve learned for working the different types and styles of questions. The ideal state is basically being a robot. This means you’re just doing the work in an unemotional state. Remember, build a routine for the week before the test and you’ll be in your best mental state for the big day. Good luck!


  • Nice article Farb. I particularly agree with your day-before-test advice. So many people I know have tried to cram at the last minute, which is not wise because (1) you can't really pick up much new knowledge in one day of prep, and (2) you will burn yourself out before your test.

    Rest up!

  • Can agree more with the last week strategy.. I believe the GMAT is like a Marathon run and ample rest is the best thing to do a week before!!!

    • I definitely buy the marathon metaphor. In fact, some people have designed GMAT prep strategies in the past that were pulled almost directly from high-end athletic training workouts.

  • Nice Article. Thanks a lot!

    Just a quick question. Hope someone can address this.

    The two prep test that we get while signing up for GMAT exam at, does not provide answers or explanations to the incorrect answers. I just wanted to ensure if I'm missing out something.

    I would highly appreciate your response on this.


    • There aren't any explanations for the GMAT Prep tests. If you have questions about these tests, please feel free to post your query in the forums!

      Good luck!

  • Excelent advice! I took the GMAT last week and bombed it (550) after scoring very well during my practice tests mostly due to poor preparation 2-3 weeks before the real exam and exhaustion. I have scheduled a new test two months from now, I have purchased all the MGMAT study guides, the test sample booklet, I am under a strict study routine to cover all the basics and I plan on doing 1 practice exam per week. Additionally, I will apply this article's advice to prepare 1 week before the test. Thanks a million!

  • Greetings Farb,

    I have my GMAT scheduled on 28th Oct 2010 and I have a serious problem. I am a native of India and employee of a software company. In the month of September I was scheduled to appear for an appointment at the US consulate in Chennai, for my visa. After my interview I was notified that before my visa is granted / denied, a routine administrative processing will be performed which may take 3-4 weeks time. My problem is currently I do not have my passport, as it is with the US consulate, and as per the guidelines of GMAT Indians are required to mandatorily carry their passport. I have currently requested my employer to help in procuring the passport at the earliest, but I wanted to know whether there is an alternative to my problem?

    Kindly advice.

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