Exploring Expressive Writing to Reduce Test Anxiety on an Introductory Psychology Exam
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Psychology Honors Theses; 2017
Previous research suggests that a brief expressive writing exercise prior to a math exam can help alleviate anxiety and improve test-taking performance. Our study examined the effects of a short seven-minute expressive writing intervention among college students taking a mock introductory psychology exam. A total of N=93 students enrolled at The Ohio State University at Lima participated. Students first completed the Cognitive Test Anxiety Scale and a modified version of the Abbreviated Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale in order to establish how much anxiety they typically experienced during exams. We then randomly assigned participants to either write about their thoughts, feelings, and worries regarding an upcoming exam (experimental condition) or to write about factual content related to the course (e.g., names of theorists, how theories differed from one another, or facts learned in the course; control condition). Students then completed a 51-item mock exam covering content typical of an introductory psychology course. All students rated their anxiety level at multiple time points (i.e. pre and post-intervention, before, during, and after the exam). We found that students in the expressive writing condition had a larger reduction in perceived anxiety from pre to post-intervention compared to the control condition. As predicted, students who engaged in expressive writing scored higher on the exam, relative to controls. However, when we covaried out their pre-study average exam grade, the between group effect vanished. Expressive writing reduced self-reported anxiety before taking a social science exam; however, the effect didn’t extend to objective performance on the exam itself. Additional research is needed to better understand how expressive writing may reduce test anxiety and benefit students.
Denman Undergraduate Research Forum - Second Place Award for Psychological Sciences
Academic Major: Psychology
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