Can Type One writing increase scores on high-stakes tests?

Mark Dressel, Featured Blogger

By Mark Dressel, Consultant, Collins Education Associates

A recent study reported in Science Magazine (1/14/11) at the University of Chicago (Ramirez and Beilock, 2010) found that students who were anxious about a major exam improved the results of that exam by writing down their thoughts about the test immediately before taking it. The laboratory and field experiments concluded that simply writing about one’s concerns can increase scores on high-stakes tests.

The results were most dramatic for those students who had the greatest anxiety. Students who felt extremely confident to begin with had little or no increase in their scores. The study further found that students needed to write about their anxieties – not simply write – in order to get improved results.

While the authors of the study do not claim its results to be definitive, it would seem that adding this kind of Type One writing ahead of major exams would be worth the expenditure of ten minutes time in almost any classroom.

[Note: Mark Dressel is the author of Writing About Literature, a Collins Writing Program publication.]