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Want to Boost Your GMAT Score? Be Happy!

GMAT Tips - Be Happy!When it comes to improving your GMAT score, most students spend a majority of their time in the obvious places: Studying GMAT math and verbal content (e.g. GMAT grammar rules); learning shortcuts and GMAT test-taking strategies (e.g. non-standard math techniques); and improving time management skills (e.g. by taking full-length computer-adaptive GMAT practice tests).

We obviously advocate all of that at Dominate the GMAT as well, and we even suggest some less obvious but nevertheless effective score-boosting strategies like understanding GMAT scoring, getting a good night’s sleep the day before your test, dressing up on test day, and drinking Gatorade during breaks to make sure your brain gets enough sugary goodness so that you don’t bonk halfway through the GMAT verbal section.

But what if there were something else you could do that would be just as effective as everything mentioned above? What if, instead of memorizing more GMAT math formulas or learning more argument patterns, all you have to do is be happier? As crazy as it sounds, there just may be a tangible happiness advantage that can translate to more right answers for you on test day.

Don’t believe me? Check out this quote from a book called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor:

“…For instance, students who were told to think about the happiest day of their lives right before taking a standardized math test outperformed their peers.”

When I read that, I had to investigate further. Sure enough, there are numerous studies verifying such a claim, including two published in a Journal of Learning Disabilities article titled “Positive Mood and Math Performance.”  The results are summarized as follows: “In both studies, students were randomly assigned to a positive-mood induction condition or a no-treatment control condition. Following this, they completed a measure of self-efficacy for math and were then given 5 minutes to do 50 math problems. In both studies, analyses of covariance using standardized math scores as the adjustor variable found that children in the positive-mood condition completed significantly more problems accurately than children in the no-treatment control condition.”

So, what does this mean for you? Well, it means that it might just pay dividends for you to be happy on the day you take the GMAT! Here are five tips to help increase your happiness on test day:

  • Do some deep breathing exercises the morning of your test. Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empaty.
  • Pre-determine a reward for yourself for after you finish the GMAT. Having something to look forward to is a proven strategy for increasing happiness. In one study, for example, people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.
  • Buy the coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks on your way to the testing center. Conscious acts of kindness contribute to enhanced mental health and augment feelings of happiness — not just in the short-term, but in subsequent days as well. Talk about a positive hangover!
  • Avoid watching the news for several days before your GMAT. Studies show that the less negative TV we watch, specifically violent media, the happier we are.
  • Go for a jog the morning of your test. Exercise is a proven happiness-raiser. Exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins, and more importantly, it also reduces stress and anxiety levels. Wouldn’t it be nice to sit for the GMAT after de-stressing first?

For more on this so-called happiness advantage, watch this short talk by Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. In addition to providing interesting insights about the connection between success and happiness, Shawn delivers some pretty funny one-liners that are bound to make you laugh — and heck, who couldn’t use a good laugh, especially if your goal is to boost your happiness?!

I still encourage you to master the content tested on the GMAT, because no amount of happiness will help you if you don’t know the basic rules of right triangles, for example. But if you’re looking for that little extra edge to ensure that you get the GMAT score you’re looking for, try one (or all!) of my happiness tips on test day. The best case is that it actually works and you score 10 or 20 points higher than you otherwise might have! The worst case, of course, is that it doesn’t do anything special for you GMAT-wise. But even in that case, you’ll still be a happier person (for a few hours, at least) which is bound to make the world a little bit better place, and there’s certainly no harm in that.