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.
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.
In the study, students who didn't perform writing exercises "choked under pressure" and their test scores dropped by 12 percent, according to the study. Those who wrote about their feelings regarding the test improved their scores by 5 percent.