How to combat test anxiety

Jan. 15, 2011 at 11:38 PM
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CHICAGO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. expert on "choking under pressure" advises anxious test-takers to write about their worries before taking an exam.

Senior author Sian Beilock of the University of Chicago says students prone to test anxiety who wrote out what caused their fears ahead of a "high-stakes test" improved scores by nearly one grade point.

"We reasoned that if worries lead to poor test performance and writing helps regulate these worries, then giving students the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about an impending examination would enhance test performance," Beilock says in a statement.

The study published in the journal Science found exam-takers known to choke under pressure showed a 12 percent accuracy drop from pre-stress testing to post-stress choking under pressure testing. However, students under the same stress but allowed to write about their anxieties experienced improved test scores.

"Despite the fact that people are often motivated to perform their best, the pressure-filled situations in which important tests, presentations and matches occur can cause people to perform below their ability level instead," Beilock says.

Beilock and colleagues conducted experiments with 20 college students. The college students first took a stress-free test. The second test added stressors -- money and team prestige performance rewards along with anxiety-increasing videotaping and teacher reviews.

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