Tag Archives: GMAT breaks

an easy way to improve your GMAT score: eat

If you know me personally, you probably know that I’m obsessed with food.  If you ever want to torment me, watch this video for inspiration.  And if you ever want to get on my good side, take me to one of the interesting places on this crazyass NYC food website.

So when somebody asks me how I managed to get a perfect score on the GMAT, I sometimes point to my stomach and grin stupidly.  And I’m only half-joking when I do that.

As you already know, the GMAT is a brutal, four-hour marathon, and the worst part is that the verbal section appears at the end of the GMAT, when you’re completely exhausted.  And fatigue is one of the primary reasons why unfortunate GMAT test-takers experience GMAT verbal underperformance.

There are plenty of ways to improve your GMAT verbal score—such as completing 4,000 GMAT CR and RC questions if you’re into that sort of thing—but I would argue that a thoughtful approach to your test-day food and drink intake is a simple and often underappreciated way to maximize your performance on the GMAT.

Your brain is a hungry little bugger, and studies suggest that your brain uses 20% of your caloric intake.  Your brain tends to run best when it has a steady supply of carbohydrates, and if you starve your brain of energy, you’re pretty much guaranteed to perform badly on the GMAT.

Your gastronomic goal on test day is to keep your blood sugar as stable as possible, so that you don’t suffer through a sugar crash or a food coma while you’re taking the test.  Ideally, you want to eat a solid—but not gut-busting—meal an hour or two before your test.  And during each of your breaks, you want to make sure that eat some sort of snack to help keep your brain moving.

And here comes the important part:  you definitely want to avoid consuming overly sugary snacks (M&Ms, Skittles, chocolate, etc.) during your breaks, since they’re likely to lead to a blood-sugar crash before the GMAT verbal section is over.  Stick with something a little bit healthier, ideally with a lower glycemic index:  energy bars, a mix of nuts and dried fruit, or a light sandwich on whole wheat bread.

Pure sugar might work for a short-term boost, but it can hurt you during a four-hour GMAT marathon.  A number of years ago, one of my high school students loaded up on Skittles before the SAT, was a brilliant ball of energy for the first 45 minutes of the test, and then literally fell asleep.  I swear that I’m not making this up.

So don’t mess around.  Plan out your meals and your snacks well before you take the real GMAT, and think carefully about the nutritional value of your snacks.  When you do full practice tests, be conscious of your food and caffeine intake; experiment with different meals and snacks and drinks to see what works best for you.

You might end up choosing snacks that aren’t particularly tasty, like chalky energy bars.  But even though some energy bars aren’t particularly delicious, they always taste better than a subpar GMAT score.


GMAT and GRE test center glitches

Disclaimer: I have no real reason to share this batch of GMAT horror stories, other than to scare you just a little bit for no good reason.

Pretty much everybody faces some serious time pressure on the GMAT quant section, and many people are forced to scramble on the verbal and AWA as well. So if you lose two minutes due to a computer glitch, it’s pretty maddening. Two minutes won’t destroy your GMAT score, but it might make you flustered and cause a cascade of errors.

In the past 12 months, at least five of my private tutoring clients have been affected by GMAT test-center glitches. This past weekend, two of them–one in NYC, one in DC–had issues. In both cases, the dudes working for Pearson VUE (the company that runs the testing centers) had a hard time logging the test-taker back into the system after a break. In both cases, the students lost a couple of minutes for the quant section. Pretty crappy.

In another couple of cases, the GMAT testing center dudes accidentally shortened the test-takers’ breaks by failing to notice when the test-taker was finished with a section. When you’re ready for a break after a section, you’re supposed to tell the computer that you’re ready for a break, and then raise your hand so that you can be escorted out of the testing room. Supposedly, the “escort” didn’t notice when a couple of my GMAT students were ready, and a few minutes passed before the proctor noticed the test-takers’ flailing hands. It isn’t a big deal to have eight minutes instead of ten for your break, but it’s still annoying.

And then there are the computer glitches. In one case, the system crashed during a break, and somehow restarted with several minutes already elapsed in the quant section. (I can’t explain why these problems seem to occur between AWA and quant. GMAT hates you?) Another student faced a really bizarre glitch which prevented him from clicking on certain radio buttons–if I remember correctly, he was literally unable to select most of the answer choices, and had to click “next” with some questions unanswered. He complained at the testing center, but they couldn’t really do anything about it. I don’t think that he even finished the test. In both of these cases, the test-takers called GMAC every single day until they were allowed to re-take the GMAT for free.

Again, I have no real point here. I’m not trying to criticize Pearson VUE; generally, I think that the company does a solid job administering the GMAT, and I’ve had good experiences in their test centers. (The GRE is another matter–last time I took the GRE at a Prometrics test center, I was forced to an old, flickering monitor which made my eyes hurt. By the time I left, I felt like I’d been staring at a strobe light for four hours, which made me a little bit crazy.) As a full-time GMAT tutor who watches students spend craploads of time and money on the MBA admissions process, it’s painful to see people get thrown off by these stupid glitches.  But human and computer errors happen, and all you can do is roll with the punches.  And if the glitches really affect your score, you can always bitch and moan until GMAC compensates you for the errors.