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GMAT Exam Day Tips – Checklist for the D Day

It’s here. Your GMAT test day. The day that will decide the direction of your career, and hence the rest of your life too. The last thing you want is for today to spring a surprise and ruin your focus on the exam. So, should we take it that you’ve planned everything diligently for your test day, and the day before that?

Unless your answer is a resounding “YES!”, this article is a must read for you. In this article, we’ll discuss the complete breadth of GMAT test day tips, best practices, and strategies that will help you ensure a hiccup-free GMAT and enable you to give your best on this all-important day. We’ll provide answers to:

GMAT Test day Tips and Checklist

1. How do I book my GMAT date?

One of the most crucial GMAT test day tips is how to select the right time slot for your test. It might seem simple enough, but it is an important early step towards success. It is usually advisable to pick a morning slot as it minimizes the time you spend being nervous about the test and because for most people, their brain is the freshest in the morning. However, if you’re not a morning person, it is better to take the test in the afternoon or evening so that you get proper rest.

The best way to pick your time slot is to observe your own lifestyle and daily routine to make decisions that suit you. For example, if you’re used to taking a nap at 4 in the afternoon, you definitely wouldn’t want to take the test in a 3 PM slot. What you should do is find out the time of day when you’re most productive and try to take the test at that time.

Another important consideration is your travel time from your residence to the test center. If you think you can get stuck in traffic during the morning rush hour, it makes more sense to take up an afternoon or an evening slot.

*The actual time slots will depend on your center. Confirm the available time slots with your center well in advance.

GMAT Test Day Tip #1 Takeaways – When to take the test:

  • Morning slot minimizes the time you spend being nervous about the test
  • Consider your travel time
  • Consider your usual daily routine – if you usually rest at 4 PM, don’t book a 3 PM slot
  • Find out at what time you’re most productive
  • Practice full length mocks, every day at the same time, a few days before the actual test

 

1.1 What if I’m an early riser

Being a morning person implies two things – your mind will be fresher in the morning and you’re likely to be fatigued towards the second half of the day. This means you should try to get a morning slot, provided there’s no other constraint. If you do opt for a morning slot, ensure that you go to sleep early the previous night and get around 8 hours of rest. Also, on the day of your GMAT, it would be best if you have a light breakfast so that you remain active without feeling hungry.

  • Try to get a morning slot
  • Sleep earlier the previous night. Ensure 8 hours of sleep
  • Have a light breakfast

 

1.2 What if I’m a late riser

If you’re someone who likes to get up late, an afternoon or an evening slot is the obvious choice for you, and you can pick either of these depending on when you feel the most productive. Here’s an important GMAT test day tip for our nocturnal readers – avoid the pitfall of oversleeping just because you don’t have to get up in the morning. Instead, wake up at a reasonable time after having an 8-hour sleep and have a healthy breakfast to get yourself going. This will ensure that you’re not groggy and famished when you’re taking the test. At the same time, stay physically active between your meal(s) and your test by doing some light exercises or going on a walk.

  • Get an afternoon or evening slot
  • Have a filling breakfast so you’re not famished by lunch
  • Stay active between your breakfast and test time
  • Make sure you get 8 hours of sleep
  • Book a slot that is late enough for your brain to become fully active

Here’s a strategic, step-by-step guide to booking your GMAT test date.

2. Should I study/practice on my test day and the day before?

On the eve of your GMAT, the best preparation you can do is no preparation. Seriously, do not pick up anything new to learn or practice. This might sound like a counter-intuitive GMAT test day tip, but you should trust the preparation that you’ve done so far, and take a day to relax and calm your nerves.

Spend the day mimicking your test day – wake up at the same time, eat the same food, and practice taking timed breaks of 8 minutes at the expected time of actual breaks the next day. Remember that after every break, you need to register your biometric credentials again to enter the testing room which will take about 2 to 3 minutes. Your test will begin with or without you so make sure you have an idea of elapsed time during your breaks.

If you find that not doing anything GMAT related is making you nervous, just take a mock test at the time of your actual GMAT. Do not do an in-depth review of your performance and do not worry about it either. Remember, the aim is to get used to sitting in a chair for 3.5 hours with two 8-minute breaks, not to gauge your performance.

The no preparation rule applies to your exam day as well. Last minute cramming will not help you on a test like GMAT which is a test of your ability and not memory. Again, if staying away from all form of study makes you nervous, you may carry some flashcards or checklists of things that you’ve already learned and practiced.

GMAT Test Day Tip #2 Takeaways – To study or not to study?

  • Do not study/practice anything new on the day of your test and the previous day
  • Try to replicate your test day schedule on D-day -1. Wake up at the same time, eat the same food at the same time, practice taking timed breaks at the expected time
  • If not doing anything makes you nervous, take a mock test on the time of your actual test. Do a light review and don’t stress about your performance
  • On the test day, only bring some flashcards and checklists if you must.

 

3. What to take to the GMAT testing center?

You must carry the following items with you to your GMAT test center:

  • An approved ID
    • Make sure the ID you’re carrying complies with your local ID requirements. We can’t stress enough on confirming your local ID requirements as you will not be able to take the test without it. Oh, and also, your registration fees may be forfeited.
    • Make sure your name and date of birth on the ID exactly matches that on your GMAT registration
  • Your GMAT appointment confirmation
  • A 1-liter bottle of water. You can also carry some energy drink to sip during your breaks
  • Healthy and energy-boosting snacks (protein bars, nuts, etc) that you can keep in your locker and quickly have a bite during the breaks.

 

4. What items are not allowed at the GMAT test center?

Okay, time to get serious. Probably the most crucial GMAT test day tip coming your way – there are a few items that you should not carry with you to your GMAT test center. These are things that you won’t be allowed to store in your locker as they are not allowed anywhere on the center premises. Possession of these items can result in cancellation of your appointment unless you can dispose of them somewhere outside the test center.

  • Obviously, you can’t enter the test premises with firearms, knives, or anything that can be used as a weapon. This also applies to people with conceal and carry permits and off-duty law enforcement personnel
  • Testing aids like calculators, notes, study material, blank sheets of paper, stopwatches are not allowed anywhere inside the test center

There is some other everyday stuff that you can store in a locker at the test center but cannot access at any time during your test, including breaks. These include:

  • Watches
  • Books and notes
  • Phones
  • Writing material
  • Earplugs
  • Backpacks
  • Wallets, purses, and handbags

To avoid any trouble in being allowed to enter the test center and starting your test on time, make sure you do not carry anything from the list of banned items.

To avoid getting your score canceled, do not access anything from the list of items that you can carry but not use, even during your breaks. Test centers can be very strict about this rule, as this student, unfortunately, found out when they touched their phone, that was switched off, by force of habit.

For more information, read this guide on what to expect at the GMAT test center by GMAC.

5. How early should I reach the GMAT test center?

This is probably an obvious GMAT test day tip, so let’s get it out of the way first – do not arrive late or right at the time of your test. Keep some buffer to complete the formalities, check in, and settle down in your seat.

Generally, the best practice is to arrive about half an hour before your test. Many students make the mistake of reaching too early which only adds to your nervousness as you wait for your test to begin. If you find yourself in this position, request your test center administrator to let you start your test earlier than scheduled. Although keep in mind that this depends on the test center and not every center will let you do so.

GMAT Test Day Tip #5 Takeaways – Time to reach

  • 30 minutes before the test is ideal to complete the formalities
  • Your test center might allow you to begin your test earlier than your scheduled time if you’re ready for it
  • Don’t be too early as waiting at the test center can make you jittery.
  • If you arrive more than 15 minutes after your scheduled appointment, your test might be canceled

 

6. How can I make the most of GMAT test breaks?

You’re allowed two 8-minute breaks at the end of section 1 and 2. In the new GMAT format, you can select the order of sections. The available options and corresponding breaks are shown in the graphic below.

GMAT Exam Format - Select Section Order | GMAT Pattern | GMAT Structure

Although both the breaks are optional, our GMAT test day tip for breaks is that you take them. Remember that the 8-minute timer starts as soon as the prompt to accept or decline a break appears on the screen. So, accept the break and leave the testing room swiftly.

Utilize the break to use the restroom, have a snack like a protein bar, and drink some water and/or energy drink. Since sitting at a place for a long time can make you sluggish, do some light exercises like bending your back, moving your neck, etc to stay active.

Remember to get back to your desk in time, accounting for about 2 to 3 minutes for re-verifying your credentials. Essentially, you should take about 5 minutes to yourself outside the testing room and then begin the process of getting back to your desk. The test will restart in 8 minutes whether you’re there or not.

GMAT Test Day Tip #6 Takeaways – Utilizing Breaks on the D-Day?

  • Breaks are optional, but it is best if you use them
  • You get two 8-minute breaks
  • In the new format, you can choose your section order. Depending on your choice, you will get breaks as shown in the image
  • The timer for the break begins as soon as the prompt appears on the screen.
  • Make sure you accept the break and leave the room swiftly
  • Since sitting at one place for a long time can make you sluggish, try to do some light exercises like bending your back, moving your neck, etc to stay active.
  • Eat a protein bar and drink some fluids
  • Get back to your desk within time – the test will start with or without you

 

7. How should I select the best GMAT section order?

In the new GMAT format, you have three section order options as shown in the image above. According to GMAC, the organization that delivers the GMAT, there is no advantage or disadvantage associated with selecting any of the three options. Simply put, the order in which you attempt the sections does not affect your score.

Our GMAT test day tip for order selection is to always start with your stronger area. This allows you to get a good start, get comfortable with the testing environment and build a momentum going into the second section. Hence, depending on your area of strength, you may choose to start with Quant or Verbal or AWA & IR.

You can personalize your order selection strategy further by figuring out how quickly you can get ready to tackle questions. If you’re someone who takes a little time to warm up, or if your senses require time to get used to your surroundings and computer, start with AWA and IR. Conversely, if you prefer taking on questions right off the bat, you’d be better suited to begin with either Quant or Verbal, whichever section is your strength.

We’ve covered the new GMAT format and section order options in extensive detail here.

GMAT Test Day Tip #7 Takeaways – Section Selection Order!

  • You have three options as shown in the graphic above
  • According to GMAC, the order in which you attempt the sections does not affect your score
  • Start with the one that is your strength
  • Personalize your strategy
    • If you’re someone who can take on questions from the get-go, start with either Quant or Verbal, whichever is your strength
    • If your brain requires a bit of warm-up or if your senses require getting used to your surroundings, computer, etc, then start with AWA and IR

 

8. How do I focus for almost four hours on the GMAT?

Some students have reported feeling either completely burnt-out by the time their GMAT date arrives or feeling fatigued during their test. This can and will impact your performance and score, if you don’t prevent it from happening. Thankfully, we’ve crafted a GMAT test day tip to nip these problems in the bud!

The first step you can take towards preventing burn-out is to distribute your preparation evenly over a period of time. This way, your effort is not concentrated in a small time frame, causing you to be fatigued by the time of your GMAT. You can do this by following a personalized study plan that will tell you how much time you need to invest in your GMAT preparation.

Watch Carrie Law describe how she used a personalized study plan to maintain consistency in her self-paced preparation.

However, if you’re already past your preparation phase, don’t worry, you can still maintain a high energy level going into your GMAT. Begin by picking the right time slot for your test – take the test at a time when you’re usually most active. Avoid time slots that overlap with your sleeping or eating time. In the days leading up to your exam, try to replicate your test day schedule to get your mind and body adjusted to it. If you’re a working professional, consider taking a few days off for this.

On the day of your GMAT, ensure that you’re well rested. Have a nutritious but light breakfast for a morning slot appointment, and a heavy breakfast for an afternoon or evening appointment. Try to keep yourself busy throughout the day with things that don’t stress your mind and body. Activities, such as taking a stroll, breathing exercises, and listening to some music will keep you active and distracted from exam stress. Finally, do remember to carry some light snacks and energy drinks that can be stored in the lockers at your center. Use your break time to have them so that you’re hydrated and energetic for your next section.

GMAT Test Day Tip #8 Takeaways – How to focus on the GMAT?

  • Make sure your test time is when usually you’re the most active and productive
  • Avoid taking the test at times when you usually have a meal or take a nap
  • On the day of your GMAT, make sure you’re well rested with a good night’s sleep
  • On the day of your GMAT, make sure you have a light but nutritious meal
  • Stay active without overexerting yourself before your test
  • Carry something to eat like a protein bar and an energy drink to have in your breaks

 

9. How do I mentally prepare for the GMAT?

Even if you’ve taken plenty of mock tests, the pressure of the actual GMAT can throw you off your game. Some students get caught up in analyzing their performance in real time. Add to that the on-screen clock ticking down, and you have increased levels of stress. Things can get out of hand pretty quick.

It’s crucial that you expect to come across a few questions that you can’t solve because it will certainly happen. And that’s okay, it happens to every GMAT taker, every day. If you find yourself in this situation, take a deep breath, and a few seconds, to remind yourself that you’ve prepared well for this exam and you will get questions that you’ll answer with 100% accuracy. Also remember that because the GMAT is a computer adaptive test, seeing tougher questions is a good thing.

Read this article on computer adaptive tests (CATs) to understand how they work and learn what you need to know as a GMAT taker.

Since you’re bound to come across questions that you can’t solve, it can also happen at the very beginning of your test. Whenever you come across such questions, the key is to employ skipping strategy to effectively tackle them.

Lastly, don’t overthink the clock. You might use slightly more time to solve a question but you’ll also come across questions that you’ll solve within seconds. If you’re an e-GMAT student, you must have learned the concept of Takt Time from our course. Try to internalize your Takt Time so you instinctively keep yourself on track.

Here’s a complete guide to Takt Time and other GMAT timing strategies that can help you take the clock out of the equation.

GMAT Test Day Tip #9 Takeaways – Keep calm during the test!

  • It is natural to come across questions that you can’t solve
  • Slow down, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve prepared well for this test
  • Do not worry about time. You’ll get some questions that can be solved in seconds while few others will take some time.
  • You’re bound to come across questions that you can’t solve. This can happen right at the beginning of a section also. Employ skipping strategy to tackle these questions

 

10. How do I get help during my GMAT test?

This might be something that you’ve not thought of yet, but you’ll soon realize how critical this GMAT test day tip is. Look out for a couple of links in the next paragraphs, you’ll want to have read them!

Before you begin your GMAT, test all your equipment and infrastructure – your chair and table, computer, writing material, etc. make sure you’re comfortable, everything’s working as expected and there are no distractions that can interfere with your concentration. If you encounter any problem, even something that seems ‘minor’, don’t hesitate in bringing it to the invigilator’s attention. If you don’t, it can potentially snowball into a big pile of trouble and once you’ve started your test, there’s very little you can do. Exhibit A – this student who unfortunately faced multiple, unrelated problems that combined to affect their score.

Now, what if a problem arises during your test? Simply, just stay calm and quiet and seek the invigilator’s attention by raising your hand. Absolutely do not try to handle any problem yourself, especially by talking to other candidates or getting up from your seat without permission. The testing rooms are equipped with audio-visual surveillance and if you’re found breaking any rules, your score, and even the test itself, can be cancelled with the fees forfeited. Exhibit B – this student whose score of 770 was unfortunately cancelled for accidentally taking their water bottle inside the testing room.

GMAT Test Day Tip #10 Takeaways – Support during the Exam

  • Settle down in your seat and test all the equipment and infrastructure
  • Make sure you’re comfortable in your chair and all your writing material and computer is working smoothly
  • Ensure that there are no distractions or noises that can interfere with your concentration
  • If there’s any problem, inform the invigilators before starting the test
  • If some problem arises while you’re writing your test, remain calm and seek the invigilators’ attention by raising your hand
  • Do not attempt the troubleshooting yourself. Your score can be cancelled if you’re suspected of cheating

 

11. What can I expect at my GMAT test centre?

It is best to go through online reviews of test centres before booking one. You can find these reviews here. These will give you a fair idea of what to expect at the test centre of your choice.

Once you reach the centre, the first thing you should do is scope out the facilities. Locate your testing room and then walk around a bit to find out where the lockers, water fountains and restrooms are. This is important because you wouldn’t want to have to locate these things in the 5 minutes that you’ll have for yourself in your break.

Once you’re done with that, begin the process of checking in to the testing room. Here’s a summary by GMAC of the steps that you’ll go through:

  1. Present appropriate identification
  2. Provide your palm vein scan (where permitted by law)
  3. Provide your digital signature stating that you understand and agree to the Test Taker Rules & Agreement
  4. Sit for a digital photograph
  5. Begin your GMAT Exam

Read our in-depth guide on selecting a test centre.

GMAT Test Day Tip #11 Takeaways – About the Test Center

  • As soon as you reach the test centre, scope out the facilities so that you don’t waste your 8 minutes of break time in looking for the restrooms, water coolers, etc
  • You can refer to test centre ratings and reviews given by your peers
  • Read our guide on selecting the right test centre

 

We hope you now fully appreciate the fact that your GMAT journey is not only about the prep, score, and applications. The D-day, or rather G-day as the GMAT community calls it, is truly boom or bust, and so, deserves careful planning and execution. We hope you found this article helpful and would love to hear your GMAT test day stories in the comments!

If you wish to revisit any of the GMAT test day tips in this article, here’s a list of the topics we’ve covered:

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