“You have to Train your Mind to Deal with Test Anxiety” – Dr. Nagananda Kumar, Executive Director – MYRA School of Business

I can hear many of you go “Not another article on how to crack the CAT. Spare us.”

OK!  It’s your problem, not mine. You are the one wanting to get into a great B School, not me!

I teach in a new and happening B School.  It’s called the MYRA School of Business (www.myra.ac.in). BTW, I am an alumnus of IIMA.  Check me out http://www.myra.ac.in/about-us/executive-director

So, how’s your preparation coming along? You are probably going to T.I.M.E. or its competitors for coaching. If not, you are probably going through a self-study program. Or, maybe you are sweating it out in a cram school in Kota, Rajasthan or some such place.  Good. Whatever works best for you.

You’re probably losing sleep and weight. You’re also getting plenty of input and practice in developing your math, verbal, data analysis and interpretation, and logical reasoning skills. No pain, no gain. You’ve got to exerciseif you want six pack abs. You’ve got to exerciseyour mind just as much, if you want to crack the CAT.  You don’t have a choice. Your competition – thousands of other young Indians like you with IIM on their mind – is doing it.

You knew this, right? That’s why you’re firing all cylinders, right?  You are thinking “I’m doing as much as I possibly can. So what more could I be doing? I don’t have the time. I don’t have the energy”, right. Well, you’ll just have to read this article to find out what more you could be doing and how.



Have you noticed?  Winnersin any field – sports, cinema, politics, business, research, engineering – the men and women who demonstrate excellence and success all say that they gave it their best shot, gave it everything they got and then some and gave it more than their 100 percent. Have you heard of ’10,000 Hour Rule’ advocated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success.”? End of the day success requires enormous time — sweat time.

This is where our ancients come in.  They figured out that the trick to excel and succeed in any endeavor was to simultaneously tap into and build up your Shaktis – the powers you carry within you. The more you use your Shaktis, you have more of them.



Our ancients identified three Shaktis – Gyan Shakti, Kriya Shakti and Iccha Shakti.

Gyan is knowledge. Gyan Shakti is the power that you get from knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge.  To do anything at all requires that you know what to do and how to do it. Having this knowledge and being aware that you have this knowledge gives you confidence.

Kriya is action. Kriya Shakti is the power that you get when you work a.k.a when you put in the effort to complete activities that’ll help you to achieve your goal. Just having a goal doesn’t mean you are goingto realize it. You’ve got to put in focused work if you are going to realize your goal.

You gain confidence when you slog and are aware that you are slogging to achieve your goal. Why? Because the hardest person you can ever con is you. You know when you are working toward realizing your goal. You know when you are going through the motions. You know when you are goofing off.

Iccha is deep, deep desire for something.  Iccha Shakti is the power that you get from having such intense desire. It is what keeps you going, especially when you want to say “Screw it, it’s too hard and not worth the trouble.” It is the bedrock of your motivation.  You must have experienced Iccha Shakti. You would have felt this tremendous desire at some point in your life.Gyan and Kriya give you confidence. Iccha helps you set your goals and stay committed to them.



Actually you are working the three Shaktis whether you are aware of it or not and whether you accept it or not.

You decided to take the CAT this year.  You were drawing on some deep desire, Iccha Shakti, that helped you decide that you’d get your PGDM.You set your goal. You worked your Iccha Shakti.

You have probably been working hard to prepare for the CAT. You wake up early to hit the books. When you are done with college/work, you race to get to the coaching school or home to get going on the study guide. You are likely sacrificing your social life, your entertainment and your youth.  You are working your Kriya Shakti.

Chances are that you dealt with your Iccha Shakti when you began thinking about “What to do next?” when you entered your FY or completed several years of work experience.  Once you decided on getting into a B School, your Gyan and KriyaShaktis likely took over. Chances are that you haven’t revisited your desire to get into a B School since. You need to keep working your Iccha Shaktito give your best test performance. Here’s why:

You could have acquired all the Gyan. You could have done plenty of Kriya.You could be acing your mock tests. However, these simplyaren’t enoughto ensure that you will perform at your peak on the CAT. Many students experience test anxiety before and while they take thetests. You have to train your mind to deal with test anxiety.

Where does this anxiety come from? The awareness that one is taking a test whose outcomes can profoundly influence one’s life; a keen recognition of competition for admission; anticipation of a challenging test; fear of failure; guilt atnot having better utilized one’s time; andmemory of prior disappointing test performances and the negative fallout such as criticism from significant others like parents– all contribute to build up of anxiety before one takes the test.  It can result in students being irritable, cutting back on sleep, measuring their progress by hours worked instead of knowledge and skills developed, loss of appetite, a gnawing fear that they may not “make it”, feeling helpless, think poorly of themselves, feeling confused and making silly mistakes during revisions and mock tests and beating themselves up.

During the actual test taking, many students experience an uncontrollable shaking of legs and arms, fidgeting, sweating, thirst, increased urges to visit the rest room, feeling confused, blanking out, feeling stuck while answering a question that they have done before, feeling remorse at having made a mistake and being unable to resist wanting to return to a difficult question. Anxiety causes them to perform poorly, regardless of the knowledge they have and the effort they put in to acquire this knowledge.




Show time is a few weeks away. You must dial down your anxiety. Here’s how:

You’ve used your Iccha Shakti to sustain yourself through the long prep slog. You kept telling yourself “Got to prepare. Got to crack the CAT.” Now, you use your Iccha Shakti to reduce your anxiety and crack the admissions test.

It doesn’t take much time. 3 minutes as soon as you get up. 3 minutes before you go to bed.  Spend a minute visualizing yourself getting to the test site, showing your id and admission card, walking to the work station, and answering the questions that crop up on the screen.  Does your breathing get faster as you go through the visualization exercise? Is your mouth feeling dry as you see yourself answer the questions? Don’t get disturbed. Such reactions are common. The idea is to bring down your anxiety level.

Spend the next two minutes talking to yourself.Don’t refer to yourself in the first person, namely, as ‘I’. Research has shown that self-talk is more productive when you address yourself in the second person, namely as ‘you’.

Tell yourself “You have worked hard”, “You are well prepared” and “You are controlling your anxiety”.  Say these aloud, so you can hear it. At first, you’ll feel foolish, but pretty soon it’ll become a habit. Pay attention to your breathing as you do your self-talk. Does your breathing slow down as you talk to yourself? Is the involuntary drying of mouth reducing as you talk to yourself? Is your body temperature returning to normal?

By doing this exercise, you are adding the desire to reduce your anxiety to your desire for admission to a B School. If you start doing these exercises now, your anxiety level will have reduced noticeably by the time you take the test. You won’t be getting stuck or making foolish mistakes because of test anxiety. The chances of your cracking the CAT go up dramatically. Try it. All the best! Your feedback is welcome.

– Dr. Nagananda Kumar


Dr. Nagananda Kumar, Professor, Strategy and HR, MYRA School of Business, Mysore. He studied his Bachelor’s degree from St. Stephen’s College New Delhi in 1973, Masters at Loyola College, Chennai in 1979, and PhD (Fellow) from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, in 1986.

You can contact him on his Email –  naga.kumar@myra.ac.in


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