There’s nothing worse for a student than studying hard, knowing you have a good grasp of the material, then walking in to take the test and choking like you’ve just tried to swallow an entire roast chicken, bones and all.
For a lot of students (and I include myself in that group. Well, when I was a student. . . ) that horrible anxiety of walking in to take a test can overwhelm all the studying and preparation, causing what should be a slam-dunk to end up as that horribly funny miss that keeps getting shown on ESPN highlights for the day.
There is, however, good news. Actual good news. Actual scientifically backed good news. Dudes, I’m telling you there is something you or any student can do that will help significantly decrease your test-taking anxiety and help boost the test score.
And it’s simple.
Students who quickly write down their fears and anxieties just before the test begins, actually score substantially better than those students who don’t write down their fears.
A new study suggests that students who write down their anxieties a few minutes before taking an exam are much less likely to choke on the test. University of Chicago psychologists Gerardo Ramirez and Sian Beilock ran one study for two years at a high school. Students who spent ten minutes writing about feelings and worries about the test scored six percent higher than those who wrote about non-“expressive” topics.
Just on the face of it, this really makes sense to me. I mean, the worry that hurts the most is the one you can’t really pin down. If you actually face your worries, face your fears, I know I can get a much better handle on them and that helps to squash them like the bugs they really are.
The researchers published their findings in the current issue of the journal, Science. Here’s something transcribed from the podcast:
Beilock: There’s work in clinical psychology showing that getting clinically depressed individuals to journal or write about emotional or traumatic experiences in their lives can help decrease rumination. And we have a lot of work in our lab showing that students worry in testing situations, and this is something that can really derail their ability to attend to and remember information they need for the test. So, we hypothesized that perhaps having students write about their thoughts and feelings about an upcoming test before they took the exam might, in a sense, allow them to deal with some of these worries, such that when they were in the actual exam situation they were less likely to pop up.
I’m going to start encouraging both Sarcasmo and Zippy the Monkey Boy to try this out. Sarcasmo especially, as he’s got some severe test worries before most exams. I’ll let you know if it works for them.
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