Managing CAT Stress

 | April 10,2010 11:33 am IST

You have spent many a days attending classes, giving mock tests, competing with fellow aspirants, et al, and many a sleepless nights with your nose buried in the books. Soon all your hard work would be put to test.

This very thought is enough to give anyone the jitters. So, no wonder many students suffer from the so-called 'CAT Scare'. And this fear gets all the more pronounced as the examination day approaches!


CAT, as popularly believed, is not just the test of Quantitative or Verbal Prowess. The top B-schools are more interested in your ability to handle uncertainty and stress. Numerous studies conducted by psychoanalysts have shown that 'stress', as opposed to general notion, is not entirely bad; it can have both a positive and a negative effect on us. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us into action; we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, give us a new awareness and perspective. Simply put, stress can be our driving force. Thus, our goal should not be to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it in a way that it works for us rather than against us!


Managing Stress


At the macro level, you must always keep in mind that you are gearing up to appear for an examination which aims at testing whether or not you have the requisite skill set to make a good manager. And as a manager, you would be required to face innumerous stressful situations, hence, it's a must that you learn how to handle stress effectively. And, at a micro level - focusing on only the next few days - now is the time that you must begin training yourself to avoid the influence of anxiety on your performance in the CAT.

Here are some tips for better stress management.


From Now Till the Day of the Examination


Become aware of your stressors and your reactions to them - We can't be experts at everything that we undertake. The same is true for the different sections of the CAT. We would be comfortable with some sections and sub-sections, and less than comfortable with others. Now is the time for us to identify our weaknesses and our reactions to the same. 


Recognize what you can change - Once you have identified your weak areas and your reactions to them, examine how you can change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating

them. In other words, each mock test that you undertake from now till the day of the examination must be carefully analyzed, not just to identify the errors you made but also your reactions to each sub-section. Work on your weaknesses so as to dispense any negative feelings that they might arouse.


Build your emotional reserves - Ten minutes of meditation and deep-breathing exercises can help build your body's emotional reserves and, thus, make you a more resilient person. This would be especially helpful during the first fifteen and the last fifteen minutes of the examination, because it is during these time periods that maximum number of students experience nervousness and anxiety. Learn to remain calm. This would definitely improve your productivity. The results would show in terms of a higher accuracy rate.


Improve your internal dialogue - Monitor your internal dialogue! As you must have observed, we're constantly talking to ourselves. The next time you find yourself anxious or worried, pause for a moment and pay attention to what you're saying to yourself. For instance, if you haven't performed well in a mock test instead of saying, "God! The test was too difficult for me," you should say, "This was an interesting test, it will help me better analyze the areas where I lack prowess."


Take Control - Be flexible, yet have an idea beforehand of what works for you. Which section would you like to attempt first, and within the section which questions if attempted first would boost your confidence. Having a plan gives you a sense of control over what can seem like a difficult situation. Feeling out of control only exacerbates anxiety and stress.


Be positive - Do you see your glass as half empty or half full? In either case, fill it up all the way with a healthy dose of optimism. A positive attitude goes a long way in securing better results.


The Day Before the Test


DO find out the exact location of the test Center - Sure, this sounds patently obvious. But in order to avoid

panic on the day of the examination, find out exactly (including building number, entrance, even room number, if applicable) where you're going!


DO put together what you'll need for the test - Gather everything that you'll need, like pens, pencils, your roll-number, etc., a night before the examination. It would be a good idea to carry along a bottle of water as well. A watch to keep tab on the time is a must!