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Thursday, November 13, 2008

CAT - How to Perform Under Pressure





   Competitive exams like the CAT can often prove tougher than they actually are owing to the pressure that inevitably builds up. There is a major difference between being able to solve a question in practice and being able to execute the same solving process under intense pressure. This is the only reason why many underperform in the exam. The dominant emotion in the hour after coming out of the CAT examination for almost all candidates is –“How did I miss this logic?” or “Why was I not able to think this way inside the examination hall?” Students who have started taking mock exams have probably already experienced this. 
   Look at it in the context of how just five to seven more questions solved correctly could make the difference between a 70 percentile and a 99 percentile result and how most 70 percentilers never believe that they have it in them to make it. Perhaps if you could learn to be able to perform despite the pressure, you too would be able to make this jump. 
   Using sport as an analogy of a pressure situation, you would realise that there is a difference in the level of pressure when the big points are on. For instance, give 100 club level tennis players a tennis ball and ask them to serve and you would see that perhaps a lot of them would be able to hit aces, but ask them to do it at a 15-40 point in a Wimbledon final- and you would need a Federer or a Rafael Nadal to do it. Or for that matter throw a cricket ball to your average batsman and you would be hit for a six by many, but you would require a champion batsman when the whole world is watching and six runs are needed off the last ball to win a world T-20 final. 
   The point here is that you should recognise the difference between performing under pressure and performing when the stakes are low. The transition from being good at something and being a champion, is the rare ability to perform under pressure. 
   The obvious question that arises then is: 

“What does one do?” From your past behaviour patterns check how you have performed under pressure in the past. Principally there are only two types of reactions to pressurea) Pressure improves performance:


If you have this rare ability consider yourself blessed- all champions that have ever lived in this world had this ability. 
b) Performance dips when you are under pressure- This is the normal bad habit that most of us pick up during our formative years. If you belong to this category, you really need to undergo a transmutation otherwise you will only be able to solve 50-70% of what you know when you take the CAT.


Second: Elevate the level of your performance, elevate the 
level of your work quality, and create an obsession for excellence in your life 
   The secret to making this transition is to think in terms of time frames. When do you need to become great? When do you need to create an obsession for excellence? When do you need to elevate the level of your work, your life? 
   The answer: You only need to do it for the next five minutes. And then the next five, and then the next five… 
   You have 288 five minute time frames in a day to live. Dhirubhai Ambani said once that if someone says that he works 15 hours a day he is lying. Great champions are able to use about 120-140 five minute time frames in a day. 
   Who can stop you from being the greatest individual you can be for the next five minutes? Only yourself! Stop being serious about your results, start being sincere about your work. This simple shift will take you a long way. 


Third: Ensure that you take your learnings to the point where they become your reaction — your reflex, ie the unconscious competence level. 
   Remember, pressure does not affect your reflexes. Pressure can only play tricks with your mind when you ask your mind to 
think. If you are responding to questions in CAT through reflex-based thought processes rather than thought out thought processes, pressure will not affect you. 
Thus, while you can trust yourself to do 12+17 even under pressure, your trust on your ability to calculate something like 27×44 under pressure would obviously be much lower. 
The tragedy for most aspirants is that they prepare only to the point of knowing something. If you want to bell the CAT you need to reach a point in your preparations where you not only know, but you also know that you know. 


Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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