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Grad School Test Prep: Strategies for Handling Time Pressure

Graduate school can be a challenging and demanding experience, and one of the biggest hurdles that students face is the pressure of exams. Whether it’s the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or any other graduate school entrance exam, the time pressure can be overwhelming. However, with the right strategies and preparation, you can effectively handle time pressure and perform at your best. In this article, we will explore some proven strategies for managing time pressure during grad school test prep.

Understanding the Impact of Time Pressure

Before we delve into the strategies, it’s important to understand why time pressure can be so detrimental to your performance. When you’re under time pressure, your brain goes into a state of stress, which can impair your cognitive abilities. Research has shown that stress can negatively affect memory, attention, and problem-solving skills, all of which are crucial for success on exams.

Additionally, time pressure can lead to rushed decision-making and careless mistakes. When you’re racing against the clock, you may not have enough time to carefully analyze each question and come up with the best answer. As a result, you may make errors that you would have otherwise avoided if you had more time.

Now that we understand the impact of time pressure, let’s explore some strategies for effectively managing it during grad school test prep.

1. Develop a Study Schedule

One of the most effective ways to handle time pressure during grad school test prep is to develop a study schedule. By creating a structured plan, you can allocate your time effectively and ensure that you cover all the necessary material before the exam.

When creating your study schedule, consider the following:

  • Set specific goals for each study session
  • Break down the material into manageable chunks
  • Allocate more time to challenging topics
  • Include regular breaks to prevent burnout

By following a study schedule, you can avoid last-minute cramming and reduce the pressure of having to cover a large amount of material in a short period of time.

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2. Practice Time Management Techniques

Time management is a crucial skill for handling time pressure during grad school test prep. By practicing effective time management techniques, you can make the most of the limited time you have during the exam.

Here are some time management techniques to consider:

  • Read the instructions carefully: Before diving into the questions, take a few moments to read the instructions thoroughly. This will help you understand the format of the exam and how much time you have for each section.
  • Skim through the questions: Instead of starting with the first question and working your way through, take a quick look at all the questions. This will give you an idea of the difficulty level and help you prioritize your time.
  • Answer easy questions first: Begin with the questions that you find easiest. This will help you build momentum and boost your confidence. Plus, it ensures that you don’t waste too much time on difficult questions early on.
  • Use the process of elimination: If you’re unsure about an answer, use the process of elimination to narrow down your options. This can help you make an educated guess and save time.
  • Manage your time per question: Divide the total time you have for each section by the number of questions. This will give you an idea of how much time you can spend on each question. Stick to this time limit to ensure that you don’t get stuck on a single question.

By practicing these time management techniques, you can improve your efficiency during the exam and reduce the pressure of time constraints.

3. Simulate Exam Conditions

Another effective strategy for handling time pressure during grad school test prep is to simulate exam conditions during your practice sessions. By replicating the exam environment as closely as possible, you can familiarize yourself with the time constraints and train your brain to perform under pressure.

Here’s how you can simulate exam conditions:

  • Set a timer: Use a timer to mimic the time limits of the actual exam. This will help you get used to working within a specific timeframe.
  • Eliminate distractions: Find a quiet and distraction-free environment for your practice sessions. This will help you focus and concentrate, just like you would in the exam hall.
  • Practice under timed conditions: When solving practice questions, adhere to the time limits set by the exam. This will help you get comfortable with the pace at which you need to work.
  • Review your performance: After each practice session, review your performance and identify areas where you struggled with time management. This will help you pinpoint your weaknesses and work on improving them.
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By simulating exam conditions, you can build your confidence and reduce the anxiety associated with time pressure.

4. Prioritize Accuracy over Speed

While it’s important to work efficiently under time pressure, it’s equally important to prioritize accuracy over speed. Remember, it’s better to answer fewer questions correctly than to answer more questions incorrectly.

Here are some tips for prioritizing accuracy:

  • Read the questions carefully: Take the time to understand each question before attempting to answer it. This will help you avoid misinterpretation and ensure that you’re providing the correct response.
  • Double-check your answers: If you have some extra time at the end of the exam, go back and review your answers. Look for any mistakes or inconsistencies that you may have missed.
  • Don’t rush through difficult questions: If you encounter a challenging question, don’t panic and rush through it. Take a deep breath, break it down, and try to come up with a logical solution.
  • Use your scratch paper: Many exams provide scratch paper for calculations and rough work. Utilize this resource to organize your thoughts and avoid making careless mistakes.

By prioritizing accuracy, you can ensure that you’re giving your best performance, even under time pressure.

5. Practice Mindfulness and Stress-Relief Techniques

Finally, it’s important to take care of your mental and emotional well-being during grad school test prep. Stress and anxiety can significantly impact your performance, so it’s crucial to practice mindfulness and stress-relief techniques.

Here are some techniques to consider:

  • Meditation: Incorporate meditation into your daily routine to calm your mind and reduce stress. Even a few minutes of meditation can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
  • Deep breathing exercises: Practice deep breathing exercises to relax your body and mind. Deep breaths can help slow down your heart rate and reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Physical exercise: Engage in regular physical exercise to release endorphins, which are natural stress-relievers. Exercise can also improve your focus and concentration.
  • Positive self-talk: Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Remind yourself that you’re well-prepared and capable of handling the exam.
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By incorporating these mindfulness and stress-relief techniques into your daily routine, you can better manage the pressure of grad school test prep.


Handling time pressure during grad school test prep can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can overcome this hurdle and perform at your best. By developing a study schedule, practicing time management techniques, simulating exam conditions, prioritizing accuracy over speed, and practicing mindfulness and stress-relief techniques, you can effectively manage time pressure and achieve success on your exams.

Remember, it’s important to approach your test prep with a positive mindset and believe in your abilities. With consistent practice and the right strategies, you can conquer time pressure and excel in your graduate school journey.

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