Using expressive writing to reduce test anxiety
Test anxiety can have negative impacts on students' performance and psychological health. This study published in PLOS ONE examined whether expressive writing could be beneficial to alleviate test anxiety. Lujun Shen and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial among high school students in China who were facing The National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gaokao), which is considered a very crucial exam.
The study randomly selected 200 students from three high schools in Xinxiang city. Students were first assessed for eligibility. A sample of 75 students was recruited into the study for having a high level of test anxiety. Next, 38 of the students were allocated into an expressive writing group, and 37 of them were allocated to a control writing group. Students in the expressive writing group were instructed to write for 20 minutes about the positive emotions they had each day, consecutively for 30 days. Students in the control writing group were instructed to write about their daily activities consecutively for the same period of time.
Students were assessed using the Test Anxiety Scale (TAS) during the recruitment (late April), and after the end of the writing (early June). The study also analyzed summaries of the writing manuscripts of the 38 expressive writing group students for qualitative data. The findings were as follows:
- The expressive writing group scored significantly lower than the control writing group in the Test Anxiety Scale post-test.
- There were no significant gender differences in the post-test TAS scores.
- Qualitative analysis of the writing found more elements of positive emotion in the last ten days of expressive writing compared to the first ten days among the expressive writing group.
The authors suggest that expressive writing is an easy, inexpensive, and convenient method to cope with anxiety because it does not require a psychological counselor nor a specific location.
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