Monday, 24 January 2011

Write your exam anxiety away

There's an interesting article in Science magazine this month titled "Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom".  It reports on a study by two psychology professors at the University of Chicago who found that having students write about their test anxiety for ten minutes  before taking a high-stakes exam significantly improved students' exam test scores.
College students were given a challenging math test involving a subject they hadn't encountered before (sounds like a nightmare I've had). Then they learned they'd win $10 if they increased their score on a second test, and that their performance would also determine whether another student got $10. To add to the pressure, they'd be videotaped and their methods evaluated. Before the second test, the students either sat quietly for 10 minutes or wrote about what they were feeling. The nonwriters "choked," the researchers said, with their scores dropping by 12 percentage points. But those who wrote about their anxiety raised their scores by four percentage points. In field studies in real high-school biology classes, students with high test anxiety scored the equivalent of B-plus on a final exam when they did the writing exercise, and B-minus when they didn't.
The authors conclude that a brief expressive writing assignment that occurred immediately before taking an important test, can significantly improve students’ exam scores, especially for students habitually anxious about test taking. Simply writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.

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