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Write Your Test Stress Away
Date:1/13/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Whether it's winter mid-terms or the upcoming SAT that's got your teen's stomach tied up in knots, a simple intervention might ease their anxiety and improve their scores.

New research, published in the Jan. 14 issue of Science, found that when students spent 10 minutes writing about their test anxiety and fears just before a test, their scores went up. And, the biggest improvements were seen in teens who were most stressed before testing.

"We show that giving students an opportunity to write their thoughts and feelings about an exam before the exam can boost performance, especially for those who are anxious before the test," said study co-author Sian Beilock, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

"Students who are chronically anxious generally perform below their classmates," noted Beilock, who is also the author of the book, Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.

"With this intervention, we have an opportunity to erase that difference," she added.

In background information in the study, the researchers pointed out that while the idea of drawing attention to the problem of test anxiety by writing about it might intuitively seem to be something that would increase worry, other studies done on depression and other psychological disorders have found the opposite to be true. Expressive writing about a traumatic or emotional event is an effective way to get people to stop worrying about the experience.

To see if this type of writing might help lessen testing anxiety, the researchers performed four tests on high school and college students.

The first test included 20 college students who were asked to take two math tests. During the first test, the students were simply told to do their best. For the second test, the researchers adde
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