Interview with Jaime Marcos Redondo (UPAD): competitive examinations and mental performance
We talked to an expert in getting the most out of people who are taking competitive examinations.
Jaime Marcos Redondo is a psychologist from Madrid with a long trajectory in achieving the maximum performance of his patients and clients.
Master in Psychology of Physical Activity and Sport by the UAM, Jaime works as a coordinator of sports projects in UPAD Psychology and Coaching, so he has specialized in helping his clients achieve goals at the highest level of elite sport.
Jaime Marcos Redondo: discovering the role of the psychologist in competitive examinations
It is precisely this vocation for helping others to achieve great goals that has made Jaime Marcos Redondo a psychologist who, in recent years, has dedicated part of his time to the field of psychology, has dedicated part of his time to the field of mental training for people facing competitive examinations..
To find out what this work consists of and also to discover part of his way of assisting in these processes, we wanted to have a relaxed conversation with Jaime.
Bertrand Regader: What are the similarities between preparing for a competitive examination and preparing for a sports competition based on physical effort?
Jaime Marcos Redondo: Precisely, mental training. Despite being activities that involve very different behavioral executions, the underlying psychological mechanisms involved are still the same. Motivation, activation, concentration... are variables that affect any performance involving high performance.
Normally, when we think about what it means to take competitive examinations, the concept of "willpower" comes to mind. Isn't this concept too simplistic? What is behind willpower?
Every behavior, every effort we make, can be explained through a very general mechanism: the administration of reinforcement. Willpower does not have a literal translation in technical terms, but its popular conception usually refers to the ability to postpone the immediate reinforcement in order to work on achieving a greater one, but deferred, something very counterintuitive for these mechanisms.
In addition, it is important to work on the satisfaction and well-being that comes from accomplishing those small goals that strengthen the routine. Good habits and generating new beliefs and sensations are fundamental to work on willpower.
How can we avoid that nerves and anxiety become an added problem, instead of being a help to take care of the mistakes we make?
Activation in general is necessary for performance. The more activation, the more performance... up to a certain point, where if we go over activation, performance begins to decrease, and then the labels of nerves, anxiety... appear.
It is a matter of finding, for each person, that optimal state of activation in which maximum performance appears, and then learning relaxation or activation strategies to reach it when necessary.
What about speed reading techniques, do they help to perform better in theory exams?
Speed reading, like all techniques, is applicable to different types of candidates. There are personality traits that mean that such active reading can saturate the reader, and there are others for whom slow reading is less attention-grabbing.
In the end, the muscles that can be trained are attention and motivation and, from there, apply the study techniques that are most appropriate for the person in front of us.
How long do you think it takes to learn to concentrate fully on the task that really matters, without giving in to distractions, both when studying and taking exams? When do you notice the first results?
There are so many variables involved that it is difficult to establish a specific time period that can be generalized to the population. Normally, candidates have been studying all their lives and already have good concentration strategies when they come to us.
Optimization, on the other hand, is eternally progressive. At UPAD we work with tools that accelerate the process so that learning is somehow faster, without losing any quality along the way.
As a psychologist, what do you think are the habits that most enhance mental performance when faced with the challenge of exams?
Having a set routine that adapts to the personal needs of each candidate. To use a cliché, it is a long-distance race, and it is more sustainable if we find time for effective breaks and motivating activities for everyone.
It is a hard process, but not a tortuous one. Establishing study schedules, maintaining a balanced diet (because in part we are what we eat) and physical activity will be essential to obtain greater guarantees of success in competitive examinations.
And how can these habits be strengthened with the help of psychologists?
Little by little, through small short-term objectives that work as small steps that lead us to our overall goal. This allows us to always focus on the next step, knowing that, if we always climb the next step, we will eventually reach the top.
In addition, the development of routines to work on attention, generating good feelings and beliefs that support these goals will be fundamental to reach the last step. Working with a psychologist will allow the candidate to learn all these tools that can make a difference on the day of the exam or tests.
When it comes to competitive exams, do you think that the importance of mnemonic strategies, which are only based on the storage of information when memorizing, is overestimated?
All resources that help are welcome. To become an expert in a subject, comprehensive study and the relationship of variables will always help more than mindless memorization. To pass an exam, we sometimes talk about something else. That is why our work is fundamental.
Many times we receive candidates who use study strategies that do not fit their profile as a student. It is important first to know the needs of the candidate by assessing their skills and then design an action plan tailored to their capabilities that allows them to face the competition with the best possible guarantees of success.
I emphasize again the idea that the mental factor can make the difference when it comes to achieving the goal set, hence the importance of working on it.