It’s almost the D-day, the first step of what’s sure to be an exciting new adventure! You’ve worked hard to prepare and you feel ready, so don’t let minor distractions get in your way come exam time. You may have experienced circumstances wherein your mind went completely blank in an exam hall and you probably panicked. Let’s face it, stress can make us look really stupid.
Writing TAT stories in SSBs can be the most difficult part for some, but it is not impossible. You don’t have to be a professional writer to take this test. All you need to do is organize materials from your own personal experiences, partly as a result of the stimulus that you receive, i.e. what you find in the picture and partly your associations with such stimuli recalled from the past experiences. But that requires hell a lot of concentration in such times of pressure when you are time bound and the picture is too hazy to discern quickly.
Here are ten tips to maintain your focus and achieve your best when it counts most:
1. Practice concentrating: Each day, take some time to eliminate all distractions and concentrate on writing one single story. Start by trying to commit your full attention to some story setting from a book or sit in a park and visualize what’s going on near you. Write whatever comes to your mind, think for some time and then write taking 5-10 minutes.
2. Try to create the situation of your exam hall in your room: It’s obvious that you won’t be able to create 100% copy of the exam environment. But here is a schedule you can follow.
A- Switch your phone off.
B- Use chair- table to write the test for proper setting instead of sitting on the bed.
C- Use a timer and fix the time equal to time provided in the exam.
D- Minimum interaction with others during that interval.
3. Get in the flow: Psychologists define a powerful form of concentration called ‘flow’. It happens when you concentrate fully engaged on what you are doing. When you are writing in like this, you can hold all the pieces of a story in your head and write fluently. We all recognise this state. “Time flies when you’re having fun” is one version. Meditation is, perhaps, another version. If you play sports or video games and you find yourself ‘at one’ with what you’re doing, that’s another. All these mental states require concentration.
4. Know what to expect: Coming to SSB with an understanding of what you will be asked to do will help you focus. Take time to review the instructions and time limits for TAT conducted in SSB.
5. Get plenty of exercises: Exercise is one of the single most effective ways to maximize mental performance. Researchers have found that regular exercise releases brain chemicals that are key for memory, concentration and overall mental sharpness. So do some yoga, meditation or exercise daily.
6. Focus on one story at a time: During the actual test in SSB, don’t waste energy thinking about how you did on the last story, or how you will do on the next one. To obtain peak performance, you want to put all your concentration into one task at a time. Multitasking doesn’t work here.
7. Visualize writing the stories in the exam hall: Mentally rehearsing a task will help you feel calmer and more confident when it comes time to actually do it. A week or so before it’s time to take the test, spend 30 seconds to one minute each day visualizing yourself in the exam hall; with a picture displayed to you for 30 seconds and how you respond on the paper for the next 4 minutes.
8. Note down the time you’re able to focus or able to sit continuously with full concentration: Let’s suppose the time you get for writing the story is ‘T’ (30 seconds to see the picture and 4 minutes to write the story) and the time for which you are able to concentrate properly is ‘t’. You may find that initially t<T. But if you work with this logic again and again then after 2–3 times you will feel that the value of your ‘t’ has increased. Although the value by which your ‘t’ will increase depends completely on your dedication towards your goal, definitely you will feel some difference.
9. Breathe deeply –3 Sighs: Often when we get stressed or nervous, our breathing becomes shallower and faster. You can decrease your anxiety level by consciously slowing down your breathing and using the “3 sighs” breathing technique during or before the test. This strategy requires you to take a deep breath in (filling up your chest), then hold and let out a big sigh. Repeat this twice. Letting out a big sigh is the fastest way to relax your body. This strategy takes only 10 seconds to do and can be repeated as many times as you like throughout your schedule.
10. Learn actively: To help you concentrate and remember; read, write and discover actively. Active learners do something with what they have acquired, this may include:
- Putting what they learned or received into their own words.
- Comparing what they are experiencing with what they already know.
- Linking new facts to what they already know.
- Applying what they are learning to their own situation, and
- Using the new information. Feel free to post suggestions, queries, and feedback in the discussion box given below.