Expressive writing before an exam.
My coursemates and I have an exam tomorrow morning. Yes, on a Saturday. Such is the nature of the MSc Science Communication at UWE. The course was designed for people with full-time jobs. In order to minimise the disruption to their work, modules take place in chunks, from Thursday to Saturday. Thus, we have exams at the weekend.
We have no specific indication of what the question will be. It will involve some case study material about science journalism, which has been available for a couple of weeks. We have had ample opportunity to ask questions. We can even take in a page of notes, so we don’t have to remember too many dates and names for references. The revision, by now, has been done.
However, there remains an element of luck in all this. Any one of us could wake up feeling terrible. Travelling to uni could be a nightmare. Everyone is affected by nerves, to a certain extent. Some people just aren’t very good at exams. In reality, of course, the formula for good luck is (hard work and preparation) multiplied by (time) multiplied by (random statistical fluctuations). But is there anything else we can do at this late stage to improve our odds of having a good day?
Apparently so. Although there is nothing we can do about the traffic, there is a little trick that we can all do to help ourselves do as well as possible on the exam: expressive writing. Putting pen to paper for ten minutes in the run-up to an exam has been shown to significantly improve students’ performance. By writing about how we feel about the upcoming task, even if that includes worries about being underprepared, it seems that we can get over some of those issues. I have written a previous post about a tool I use every day, the website 750words.com, to order my thoughts and clear out the mental clutter. I think it is a similar phenomenon at play here.