News / Health

Brief Written Exercise Eases Test Anxiety

Students take a university entrance examination at a lecture hall in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain. Researchers created a technique involving having test-takers write down their fears – in turn dramatically improving their test scores
Students take a university entrance examination at a lecture hall in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain. Researchers created a technique involving having test-takers write down their fears – in turn dramatically improving their test scores

Researchers say they've developed a way to help people with extreme test-taking anxiety to relax before their exams.  The technique involves having test-takers write down their fears, and that simple exercise is credited with a dramatic improvement in test scores.  

Many people are nervous before they take a test.  But some people are so consumed by anxiety that they actually sabotage themselves, performing poorly on the exam even when they know the material they are being tested on.

Sian Beilock is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago in Illinois who has studied why students become so nervous that they are unable to perform in a test-taking situation.

"They start worrying about the consequences.  They might even start worrying about whether this exam is going to prevent them from getting into the college they want.  And when we worry, it actually uses up attention and memory resources,” he said. “I talk about it as your cognitive horsepower that you could otherwise be using to focus on the exam."

Beilock and colleague Gerardo Ramirez developed an exercise in which students identified as high anxiety test-takers spend ten minutes, just before an exam, writing down all of their fears and concerns.  

The researchers tested the intervention first in a group of college students and then in younger students.  They found that students who spent a few minutes describing their fears in writing seemed able to put those anxieties behind them before beginning their exam.

"What we think happens is when students put it down on paper, they think about the worst that could happen and they reappraise the situation,” Beilock explains. “They might realize it's not as bad as they might think it was before and, in essence, it prevents these thoughts from popping up -- from ruminating -- when they're actually taking a test."

In a series of laboratory experiments, a group of 20 anxious college students was given a short math test and told to do their best.  Afterwards, the students were either asked to sit quietly before taking the test again or to write about their thoughts and fears regarding the upcoming retest.  

Researchers created a stressful testing environment, telling the students they would receive money if they did well on the second test.  The researchers also told the students their performance on the retest would affect the grade of other students.

Beilock says the group of students who sat quietly before retaking the second math test scored worse, their accuracy dropping by 12 percent on the second test.   

But students who wrote about their fears immediately before the re-test showed an average five percent improvement in accuracy on the second math test.

Researchers next took their writing intervention to younger students in a biology class, who were instructed before final exams to either write about their feelings on the test or to think about some other topic.

Researchers found that students who hadn't written about their fears had higher test anxiety and a worse final exam score.

Highly-anxious students who took the intervention received an average grade of B+, compared with the highly anxious students who didn't write; they received an average grade of B-.

"What we showed is that for students who are highly test-anxious, who'd done our writing intervention, all of a sudden there was no relationship between test anxiety and performance,” Beilock said. “Those students most prone to worry were performing just as well as their classmates who don't normally get nervous in these testing situations."

Beilock says that even if a professor doesn't allow students to write about their worst fears immediately before an exam or presentation, students can try it themselves at home or in the library and still improve their performance.

An article on writing to relieve test-taking anxiety is published in the journal Science


You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs