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CAT is not a matter of life and death. It is more important than that.'

If you feel this way, you are not alone. Over 1.8 lakh students across the country are busy preparing for the November 19th CAT and are feeling the pressure.

While some stress and anxiety is expected and natural, excessive stress is bad for health, bad for the people around you and bad for your CAT percentile. Girls, please note, it is also bad for the skin and causes hair fall.

So, let us look at techniques that can help you control stress. Some of these techniques are inspired from famous books. Hence I plead intentional plagiarism.

3 valuable lessons from a CAT aspirant
Focus on a circle of influence

This quote by Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is very relevant for any stressful situation, like CAT, for instance. Draw/imagine a circle of influence and then take each of the issues causing stress, and plot them inside or outside your circle of influence. So effectively, you learn the wisdom of focusing on what is in your control and leaving the rest to providence.

In this case, issues like the CAT pattern, difficulty levels, will there be more geometry or permutations and combinations, etc, lie clearly outside the circle of influence. Staying calm, doing key area revision, taking care of your health and getting some before CAT, these lay inside your circle of influence. This is a very effective technique and it also takes you from anxiety mode to action mode. This happens because once you identify the issues within your circle of influence, you automatically get cracking on them.

There's life beyond CAT
Twelve years ago, my friend and I took the CAT together. I made it and he did not. Today he is settled in Boston, has a house there, drives a Hummer (Modified US Army Humvee vehicle costing upwards of US $ 70,000). So, as you see, not cracking CAT is not the end of life. Not then, and definitely not now. Opportunities will come your way throughout your life. It is 2006 and probably the best time to be a young and talented Indian. So, think ahead for the next ten years. If you have the talent, you will be successful in one field or the other.

All's fair in LOVE and CAT

The IIMs are NOT going to cutomise a difficult paper especially for you. Any pattern changes, surprises and difficult questions will affect the performance of all aspirants. During the paper think: "If this DI paper is tough for me, the rest of the country would probably be dead after reading it". Therefore, an increased difficulty, or for that matter, a reduced difficulty, will not make a difference as it would only change the score and cutoffs, but the ranks, and therefore, the percentiles would stay more or less the same.

6 mantras for success

So, stop worrying. Focus on the simple things you can do.

1. Make sure you know exactly where your CAT centre is. I see some students every year, asking for directions on the morning of the test.

2. Get your pencils, erasers and sharpeners ready, in good quantity. If your neighbour is boorish enough to ask for it during the exam, don't allow the disturbance to reduce your concentration. Lend and get back to your paper.

3. Forget stopwatches. Take a simple watch with a large face, preferably with a digital display.

4. You get the question paper at least 15 minutes before the exam start. Make sure you check out pattern and re-align your strategy accordingly.

5. In the exam, make sure you mark each answer in the Optical Mark Recognition sheet. Please do not indulge in block marking. It's too risky and just not worth it.

6. Make sure you mark the answers in the question paper before marking them in the OMR sheet. You get the chance of calculating your score (check our site for the key) as well as an estimate of your percentile. It might help you in your B-school applications.

One last word: Nobody has ever committed suicide for not doing CAT well. In case you goof up, forget the IIMs. Go set up a company, make it big and the go out and hire some IIM chaps.
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