Writing to Ease Test Anxiety

A recent study published by researchers from the University of Chicago was brought to my attention yesterday that discovered allowing students a few minutes to write about their anxiety before a test will enhance their performance. According to the study, after students had written for ten minutes prior to completing a high-stakes test, their grades were improved by nearly one grade point.

As a writing center tutor, this is a wonderfully empowering notion. Writing can make a true difference in academic performance when it is reflective, self-focused writing. Perhaps this is an idea that we can put in to practice, either ourselves, or as a suggestion to the writers that we work with. Before midterms, maybe we could all take a moment to write about the anxiety that we are feeling (the consequences of not performing well, for example) and see if we do better than we expect! This is also an excellent argument for keeping a personal journal to get a better handle on anxiety that we face everyday.

The study states, “Other research has shown that pressure-filled situations can deplete a part of the brain’s processing power known as working memory, which is critical to many everyday activities.” By taking the time to reflect and write on the pressure and anxiety that we are feeling, our academic performance will be enhanced.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • natdesjardins says:

    I love this idea. Reflecting on your fears is such a great way to get to the bottom of them…am definitely going to try this before my next run-in with the dreaded blue book!

  • Mia Amélie says:

    I read about this lately through the Globe and Mail and was immediately gladdened. I certainly hope that this becomes a basic exercise for exams and wonder about the possibilities for other stressful situations: interviews, big purchases, moving, even breakups! Perhaps this is a practice that individuals should adopt into their daily lives- a backwards journal writing of sorts.

  • kmstoffel says:

    I hate when I go to take a test I am totally prepared for, but the pressure blocks my brain. This study makes perfect sense to me. Journaling always helps rid my brain of emotions and spill them on to the page. I will definitely start keeping a stress journal for tests and interviews, or perhaps it will be more of a de-stress journal. I should do one before my first shadowed tutorial next week!