To be mentally tough is to resist the urge to give up in the face of failure, to maintain focus and determination in pursuit of your UMAT goals, and to emerge from adversity even stronger than before. Everyone can benefit from strengthening their resilience skills.
Mental toughness comes from thinking like an optimist. People who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local and changeable. When in the face of adversity, try to say to yourself, “It’s going away quickly; it’s just this one situation, and I can do something about it.” Analyze your beliefs and emotions about failure. Try to avoid describing failure as permanent, pervasive and out of your control — this can affect your resilience.
Resist “catastrophic thinking”, the tendency to assume the worst. Learn to fight back negative thoughts, challenge their accuracy and search for a more positive spin. However, at the same time make sure to reflect and act on genuine concerns and problems.
Keep in mind gratitude and generosity. Learn to “hunt for the good stuff”— look for and appreciate how fortunate you already are. It is important to focus on building personal strengths and fostering positive relationships.
Resilience won’t deal with every issue in the UMAT, but it can give you’re a good understanding of how to toughen your mind in the face of difficult questions.
Stereotype threat can affect the way students perform in the UMAT.
Some students are vulnerable to “stereotype threat.” This is being aware the group they belong to is often stereotyped as intellectually inferior. The fear of confirming the stereotype by doing poorly on a test actually creates an anxiety. It is this anxiety that poorly affects their performance on a test, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Consider this study conducted at Stanford:
A group of undergraduates — some athletes and some not — was given a test made up of questions from the Graduate Record Examination (G.R.E.), the admissions test for graduate school. Just before tackling the questions from the G.R.E., the students completed a questionnaire that asked whether they belonged to a sports team, what sport they played and whether they had experienced scheduling conflicts between athletics and academic activities like course meetings and laboratory sessions. (A control group received no questions about athletics, instead answering questions about the dining services on campus.)
Student-athletes who were reminded of their identity as members of a sports team did significantly worse on the test than student-athletes who were not so reminded, and the effect was stronger for male students than for female students.
What does this mean?
Psychologists theorize stereotype threat affects individuals’ performance in three ways.
- Stress: The physiological stress they feel at the prospect of being unfavorably evaluated impairs areas of the brain responsible for complex thinking. This can decrease students’ ability to apply problem solving skills in the UMAT.
- Excessive self-monitoring: in an effort to ensure they will triumph over the stereotype, people monitor their own performance closely — How am I doing? Am I smart enough for this? Do I belong in college at all? This monitoring, while intended to aid their performance, actually uses up mental resources that would otherwise be applied to the UMAT. The UMAT requires full concentration, cognitive resources should not be wasted on unnecessary thoughts.
- Uneven distribution of cognitive resources: individuals under stereotype threat try hard not to think about their performance worries, pushing away negative thoughts and feelings — another well-intentioned move that costs them mental resources needed for the test itself. Students should try to focus on the UMAT.
What can you do about it?
Simply being aware of stereotype threat can help reduce its effects. Parents can explain students how stereotype threat works. Having read this article also helps raise awareness.
Students should adopt a “growth mind-set”. The belief that ability is not fixed, but can expand through effort and practice. That is, your ability to do well in the UMAT is not fixed based on the “group” you belong to. You can change it through effort and practice.
Don’t worry about it. Instead of being concerned about fulfilling the stereotype, focus on the UMAT. Your mind needs support during these difficult times, not negative thoughts to weigh it down.
Here are some useful tips for you the morning of the UMAT:
- When you wake up on the day of the UMAT, consider taking a shower or doing some brief exercise to get the blood flowing.
- If your parent, guardian, friend or relative is taking you to the UMAT, make sure they are up too.
- Eat a normal breakfast on the morning of the UMAT, by that we mean eat whatever you eat normally for breakfast. You don’t want to eat too much, or something that you don’t normally eat as it may upset your stomach or cause you to be groggy.
- Caffeine should only be consumed on the day of the UMAT if it is in your normal routine to do so.
- Before you leave for the UMAT, make sure you have everything you need with you. (Perhaps even have the bag packed the night before hand)
- Allow enough time to get to the UMAT test site 30 – 40 minutes before the recommended time. This allows for traffic delays, and to get in a good position to enter into the exam room. (Remember, there are thousands of students getting to the UMAT test site, traffic is probably not going to be very smooth)
- It may even be helpful to listen to some music in the car trip before arriving at the UMAT test site. If you listen to music that makes you feel good, you will be in a better position to solve the Understanding People questions on the UMAT. (Imagine if you were angry, it is likely that you would think others are also feeling angry, like you.)
- When lining up with other candidates at the UMAT test site, exchange of general conversation may be useful, but try not to talk too much about the UMAT itself.
We hope these tips will help you in keeping calm, focused and relaxed for the UMAT. Ultimately, just remember, you have prepared for this, and the UMAT will allow you to showcase those skills you have practiced.