Tackling the GMAT? Treat Yourself!

By Eileen Jacob

Dog receiving a treatIf you've ever trained a dog, taught a child, or persuaded yourself to exercise after a long day, you've probably used some sort of reward-based practice.

Studies show that we–along with animals–are highly motivated by positive reinforcement; if we're incentivized by a positive stimulus, we're more likely to put in the time and energy to get what we want.

Reward-based strategy is also applied in more subliminal forms than, say, obedience training—it permeates technology use, crowdfunding, consumer behavior, and even test taking. In fact, past research indicates that students perform better on exams when there's a reward involved.

Whether you're registered to take the GMAT, or you've been putting it off for months, if you're considering MBA programs, it may be time to activate your own reward-based system to:

a) Give yourself something to look forward to after the exam, and

b) Perhaps do even better on the exam by making your studying experience a more positive one.

Plus, if you need a little more GMAT motivation and guidance, download our free Ebook for expert tips on exam planning and more.

Here are just a few suggestions from Berkeley-Haas on how to treat yourself after you take the GMAT.

  1.  Take a day trip. Chances are that you're going to be pretty exhausted after completing the GMAT. While travel is a great way to relieve stress and redirect your mental focus, you may not want to celebrate with a big trip that requires logistics and planning. Instead, take a day trip to a park, a lake, even a historical monument. Distancing yourself, both mentally and physically, from your studying environment is one of the best ways to acknowledge the end of test preparation.
  2. Get moving to get your mind right. Sign up for one of your favorite workout classes, or plan on a hike or bike ride with friends. You'll have been sitting in an exam room for hours, so go get your blood flowing to reenergize. Maybe you even take a class that you rarely get to attend, because of time or price—now is the time to do it!
  1. Find your favorite (fill in the blank). Take yourself out for an afternoon with your favorite things. Go delight in your favorite ice cream, IPA, or vintage wine. Visit your favorite coffee shop, find the newest issue of your favorite magazine, buy a  big bouquet of your favorite flowers. Whatever it is that's at the top of your list, make your post-test treat all about enjoying your favorites.

4.  Tune in to Take a break. Tune out the rest of the world and zero in on your favorite album. Take a walk and savor every song. Or if you've got TV series that you could watch for hours–and would normally feel guilty about such a marathon–sit back, get comfy, and watch as many episodes as you want—you've earned it!

For more tips on taming the GMAT and GRE, get our free ebook, Avoiding the GMAT/GRE Blues

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Eileen Jacob
Eileen was Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2017-2019. She enjoyed meeting prospective students and helping them explore the benefits of an MBA, and hopes these blog posts provide valuable insight into the Berkeley MBA experience.