Stress – we all have encountered this mental condition at some point in time in our lives. Regardless of when, why and how much stress we have faced, there’s one thing that everyone would agree upon – Stress never feels good. The fact is that positive stressor ‘eustress’ can actually lead to better performance by an individual. Negative stress can depreciate your efficiency to a large extent making it difficult for you to achieve your goals.

This blog talks about managing the stress that you face while preparing or actually taking GMAT, GRE or other competitive exams. We also cover what you can do to tackle and overcome it.


Before delving into discussing the methods of overcoming stress, we shall discuss why stress occurs. When it comes to preparing for GMAT or GRE, various factors can make us anxious and stressed.


GMAT and GRE require you to start preparing months in advance. Addicted to instant gratification, students expect that a week’s preparation should be enough to help them achieve coveted scores. However, this is as good as impossible when it comes to tests like GMAT and GRE. GMAT and GRE are exams that test your analytical, verbal and other such skills discussed here elaborately through a set of questions. It’s impossible for you to mug up answers to the questions that will be asked in these exams. You need to brush up on these skills of yours, which can’t possibly happen in a day.


GMAT and GRE require you to take at least three to four practice tests before you actually sit to take the final exam. Unless you prepare yourself full circle for the D-day, you are bound to have apprehensions and likely to become anxious or nervous about how the exam is going to go. Enough practice, on the other hand, will give you confidence for facing the question paper. And also, the situation that you will be placed in while taking the final test. Above all, you will have confidence in yourself knowing that you have prepared enough and can ace the tests.


This is probably the biggest cause of stress when you have to appear for an exam. Your target score is 700 but you somewhere know that you haven’t practiced enough to achieve that score, or even if you have, you simply lack the power of believing in yourself. You also know that with a score any less than 700, your chances of getting into your dream B-school (or your parents’ dream B-school for that matter) are slim. It is the fear of not being able to meet your or your parents’ expectations that make you anxious, nervous and stressed.

That’s mostly all major causes of why stress occurs before or while taking an exam. Now, let’s discuss how to deal with or completely steer clear of such stress, focusing specifically on GMAT and GRE.

  1. Prepare – This pointer is more like an unspoken rule. You all know that before appearing for GMAT or GRE, you have to prepare. However, ‘how to prepare’ is somewhere that we all seem to lose our way. The most important thing about preparation is that you need to start it at least three months in advance. This article lists down a few tips that will come in handy while preparing for these exams. Enough preparation for GMAT or GRE is possible only when you have touched every topic, worked on all types of questions and reworked on the ones that you couldn’t solve or got wrong. Using the right preparation books can help you get a handle on these seemingly difficult tests. This instills a sense of confidence and hence avoids stress.
  2. Practice – At least three to four practice tests should be taken very seriously. This will help you discover the areas that you need to work on. The more you work on your weaknesses, the more confident you become about yourself. It also instills a sense of accomplishment in oneself, encouraging an individual to work more and more, harder and harder. It drives out all the negative feelings that cause one to feel pessimistic and hence stressed.
  3. Unwind – As much as people say that you need to give up on your weekend plans or family gatherings to fare well in GMAT or GRE, the fact remains that staying confined to the four walls of your study 24×7 in the name of preparing seriously is going to do you no good. Devoting some time listening to music, practicing your hobby, going out for a walk or exercising will, in fact, have positive effects on your grasping power and act as a great stress buster. This provides some amazing tips on how to keep stress at bay.
  4. Set Targets – Set weekly targets. Work on improving a specific skill set for a week and some other for the next week. This way you will know where you have been channelizing your efforts and will also have their results. This way you will not be lost a day before the exam as to where you stand. You will know well the topics that you still need practice and the topics that you know full well. If you set your targets clearly, you will be more comfortable and confident, knowing your position and where you stand.
  5. Take it Easy – At the end of the day, GMAT/GRE is neither the end of the world nor your B-School prospects. One may encounter a failure or a score that does not match your expectations in the first attempt. But, you will still have several chances available that you can use until you finally get it right. Remember, you’ll perform way better with a clear head than with a mind weighed down by stress.