You may be wondering how mindfulness is useful in cracking the GRE or any competitive exam. In this article let’s explore what mindfulness is and answer the above question.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be understood in simple terms as being conscious and aware. When we are mindful and aware then we are more conscious of the present and are experiencing every moment of our life. Those of you who have been practicing for the GRE would vouch the test requires you to be totally in the moment. The questions are very tricky and one lapse in reading can result in leading you to the wrong answer.  There are many questions where the entire focus is on testing your alertness. Thus it is a direct test of your mindfulness and ability to be alert. Consider for example, a simple question such as if 5x is even is x even. Most may say yes. However there is an assumption inherent in it that x is an integer. It is possible that x is a fraction as well. You will be able to analyze these kind of small things during the test only if you are totally in the moment and with the question. We can’t afford to be thinking of anything else but the question in front. Thus it is a classic case of mindfulness.

How do we inculcate this?

There are many simple ways of cultivating mindfulness. Breath observation is the classic one where you can just sit daily for five to ten minutes and observe your breath. You will be amazed that as you sit to observe the breath, many thoughts will come but the key is to bring your awareness back to the breath. You are training your mind to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. Once you get into this habit then you can extend this to your academics. After a few days of practice you will find that you are totally focused when you are solving questions as well. Also mindfulness can be practiced and cultivated while eating. Often we are watching TV or doing something else while eating. But have you tried eating mindfully with total attention and not talking or watching TV. You will be amazed. The taste also will be enhanced as you observe and relish each bite. Try it. Mindfulness then becomes a habit of the mind to be totally focused on one thing at a time and transpires into the practice of GRE and other exams. Ultimately when you go for the final test you are in a very mindful and focused state.  

Managing stress and anxiety through mindfulness

Another factor which mindfulness helps is with handling stress and anxiety better. Often students don’t do well in the exam due to a lot of stress and anxiety. I have seen cases where students have fallen ill just the day before the exam. This is not just a coincidence but due to the stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practices will help you to overcome this. One aspect of mindfulness is to be just a witness to thoughts and feelings without getting too identified or attached to them. Just like clouds passing in the sky don’t affect the sky, you start observing thoughts and feelings passing through consciousness which don’t affect you. This takes care of anxiety as well as you can see the anxious thoughts for what they are- just thoughts which will pass. The ability to becoming a silent witness can assist a lot to keep you very calm and focused and ultimately to excel in the exam. Thus you can see that while preparing for GRE you can start becoming more self-aware and mindful which will not only help you to crack the test but also aid you overall in life to handle problems that arise with more ease.

Ankur Rupani

Head (Training) & Senior Counselor

Imperial Overseas Education Consultants

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