Setting Yourself Up for Success the Morning of the GRE

After what feels like a lifetime of studying, it is hard to believe when the actual test day finally arrives. Pitfalls of self-doubt can be relentless when it comes to something really important to you - like acceptance into your dream grad school. If you follow this morning routine, however, you will be confident in showing the GRE what you’ve got!


From the outfit you pick out, to the food you eat and the steps you take to set your mind right, you can be proactive in creating a Stress. Free. Morning.


This routine will look different for everyone, so make sure to do some self-reflection on practice test days and find what might cost you energy vs. what gives you energy! For example, do you like to take your time in the morning?


Maybe setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier allows you to coast through your routine calmly, but for others, an earlier wake-up call puts them in a tired slump. Decide what is best for you and do a “rehearsal” on the day of a practice test!


If you are not sure where to start or are looking for a few tips to fine-tune your morning, you have come to the right place! Here, I have compiled a list of 7 strategies to set yourself up for success on the morning of the GRE.


1. Dress for YOU and in Layers

Wear something that you feel comfortable and confident in. For some, it’s sweat pants and lucky socks, but for others, it might be dress pants and a blazer! Regardless, be intentional with your outfit and have it laid out the night before. This reduces the number of decisions you’ll have to make the morning of.


Layers are CRUCIAL when it comes to a hot summer day and a frigid testing center. Even open-toed shoes might make you chilly. Try bringing a jacket or sweater and wear socks with your shoes so you are not distracted by goosebumps and shivers during the GRE.


2. Write out your equations

Without overstudying or overthinking, write out a few equations that you really want to nail on the quantitative reasoning test. At this point in your studying journey, these formulas should be second nature, but writing them on paper the morning of and trying to take a snapshot in your mind of the equations written in your own handwriting might help refresh your memory during the test.


However, do not let these formulas be an end-all-be-all or disrupt your test flow if you can’t recall one. Take a deep breath and rely on other GRE math strategies such as elimination! Sometimes this approach is even faster than solving the entire problem, so be sure to eliminate any obviously incorrect answers from the start.


3. Feed Your Mind

You may be thinking, why wouldn’t I just grab a delicious poptart and run out the door? Research shows that certain foods promote mental performance and energy levels before a big test.


First, berries contain flavonoids called Anthocyanins, which are believed to improve mental performance by increasing blood flow to your brain, protecting against inflammation, and improving certain signaling pathways that promote nerve cell production and cellular processes involved in learning and memory (Whyte et al. 2019).


Second, eggs are a great choice to kickstart your morning because they contain a vitamin called B12, which helps with the cellular conversion of food into energy. In fact, many natural energy drinks contain B12 to give you a midday boost! You might try a sunny side egg atop a rainbow of veggies to set your brain in test mode.


Third, healthy fats, such as nuts and avocado are great breakfast toppings! They are an excellent source of lutein, a carotenoid that can enhance visual acuity (Erdman et al. 2015).


Check out this article, A Full Week of Healthy Meals For Busy Students for some ideas that contain berries, eggs, and nuts that you can prepare ahead of time!


4. Pack Smart

Check out the official GRE “What to Bring” that you received upon registering. Make sure it is all laid out and ready to go - you would hate for a missing ID or mask to send you home.


Also, based on personal experience, pack snacks that are quick and easy to eat! Your 10-minute break during the test will absolutely fly by, and you probably won’t have time to take down something chewy or messy.


I packed a yogurt and a mix of nuts and dark chocolate. The yogurt was easy to eat quickly, and the homemade trail mix was satiating and filled with antioxidants.


5. Get a Breath of Fresh Air

Moving your body right when you wake up is the perfect start to your big day. Going for a brisk outdoor walk to your favorite song will get the endorphins pumping. Movement will also get your blood flowing and send oxygen to your brain, improving your cognitive functions so you’re energized and alert.


This is an especially important tip because you will be sitting inside for about four hours - Ah! A little Vitamin D from the sun will go a long way in successfully getting you through your day.


6. Find Affirmations to Come Back to When Doubts Creep In

As mentioned previously, your mindset on test day is just as important as the number of hours you have spent studying. A frantic and worried psyche can completely derail your hard work. By finding simple phrases that you can lean on to slow your heart rate and reset, you will feel more in control of your performance.


Before the test: “I am prepared, I am capable, I am ready.” Repeat this message to yourself during the drive to the testing center. Subliminally you will feel more and more assured of your competence.


A confident test-taker is a successful test taker.


During the test, you can tell yourself: “I am okay, I am doing my best, I am overcoming challenges.”


After the test: “My score does not define me, My score is not a reflection of my intelligence, I will end up at a school that values all of my accomplishments.”


It is absolutely imperative that you remind yourself how wonderful you are throughout the entire GRE process. Trust me, it is not an easy feat for anyone, and by even attempting it you are growing and deserve to be congratulated for that.


7. Trust Your Preparedness

Although the GRE is a beast of its own, you are no stranger to difficult exams. Think about all of the Anatomy and Phonetics tests you have probably stressed over and can look back on with pride and assurance. This is just another test.


If you have worked through practice problems, taken full practice tests, and checked out the article on 5 Top Tips for GRE Vocabulary Prep, you should know exactly what to expect. You are a strong student striving towards higher education!


Approach each problem tactically and trust your instincts. If a question feels familiar, there is a good chance you have had exposure to it. Tread with confidence and if you are absolutely stuck, try not to let it shake you as you move forward. It can be easy to fixate on uncertainties but manage your time and give your full attention to the problem in front of you.


Do not stay up all night studying the night before the test! This will be such a disservice to yourself because you will probably feel fatigued, mentally foggy, and nervous. Trust your preparedness and once you decide that you are finished studying, truly let yourself be done. The worst that can happen is having to retake the test, but you will be a pro by then!


As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can be proactive in creating a stress-free morning filled with energy and confidence! It is important that you do a practice run of this at least once before the real test, and then there will be no surprises!


I will be cheering you on, and you should be cheering yourself on too! :)


Feel like you need some additional GRE prep help? Check out Magoosh's all-encompassing GRE test prep options!


As always, feel free to join my email list for the latest grad school application tips & tricks!


I hope these 7 strategies to set yourself up for success on the morning of the GRE ease your nerves and help you reach your dream score. Have a lovely day!


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