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Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course

Grantly
September 21, 2018

Don’t let stress slow you down

Test taking anxiety can be unpleasant, but it can also hinder test performance. The authors at PSYCOM explain that: “your body releases adrenaline, and the energy used to do good thinking gets diverted into being on high alert. Our brains prepare for the worst, and it becomes all too difficult to imagine doing well and to answer questions.”

What is Mindfulness?

At Granite Prep we like to refer to Mindfulness as “pull-ups for your brain”. Similarly to how an athlete will run miles, do reps, or swim laps to get stronger or faster, a student can do mindfulness exercises to boost focus, calm, and even curiosity.
The reality is that being “in the zone” (calm and collected) isn’t just a gift; its something that can be trained and nurtured.
The reality is that being “in the zone” (calm and collected) isn’t just a gift; its something that can be trained and nurtured. LeBron James uses mindfulness to get over free throw nerves. Oprah talks about the power of mindfulness for relaxing. Wall-street giant Ray Dalio built his entire hedge fund (“Bridge Water Capital”) around the lessons he learned from Mindfulness.

The Science:

Before we go any further, lets be clear that mindfulness isn’t simply a fringe habit of a couple famous people; it is a well researched practice with evidence based support for test taking anxiety. A collaborative study involving Drexel University, Mass General, and University of Pennsylvania found that a 3 week mindfulness-centric class aimed at reducing test taking anxiety both helped students feel more calm, but also boosted grades by 8-points on a 100 point final-exam (compared to the prior 100 point midterm). In other words, doing mindfulness between the midterm and the final gave students a full letter-grade boost!
“In other words, doing mindfulness between the midterm and the final gave students a full letter-grade boost!”
As a point of reference, another group of students in the class received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for test taking anxiety. CBT is the current gold standard technique used clinically for reducing anxiety. Fortunately, the study revealed that BOTH mindfulness and CBT had a SIGNIFICANT impact on reducing test taking anxiety for the students.
“BOTH mindfulness and CBT had a SIGNIFICANT impact on reducing test taking anxiety for the students.”
Interestingly, however, only the mindfulness group enjoyed score increases from the midterm to final, the CBT group scores stayed basically the same. It is theorized that while mindfulness and CBT therapies are both highly effective at helping students relax and reduce anxiety, only mindfulness helps students score better because of it’s benefit of helping students focus on test material (instead of anxious thoughts). Results from the study are shown below:
Blue = Mindfulness-Centric (ABBT) Test Taking Anxiety Reduction
Red = CBT Test Taking Anxiety ReductionBlue = Mindfulness-Centric (ABBT) Test Taking Anxiety Reduction

Test Taking Anxiety Reduction Techniques vs Exam Scores

(Click on the image to read the full study)
CBT is the traditional approach used by therapist to help patients reduce experienced anxiety. This study shows that CBT is certainly effective in that capacity. That said, when comparing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Mindfulness, both seem to offer a reduction in stress and anxiety, but only Mindfulness also increases exam scores.

How do I learn Mindfulness:

“Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming.”
Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming. The simplest mindfulness exercise (a breathing meditation) only takes ten minutes a day and goes something like this:
  1. Find a comfortable seat and sit upright
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take a couple deep breaths
  4. Notice any sounds or scents in the room
  5. Notice the ground beneath your feet
  6. Notice what your breath is doing (don’t change it – just notice)
  7. Begin counting your breath 1 on the in breath 2 on the out breath (again we aren’t trying to control or influence our breath just gently count)
  8. Once you reach a count of 6 start back at 1
  9. If you notice your mind wanders just bring it back to whatever number you last remember being on. No need to feel frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath; you are building the “focus muscle” of your brain. Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”
  10. After 10 mins is complete open your eyes and go about your day!
“Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a ‘brain pull-up'”

If you think you could benefit from mindfulness and want to learn different techniques we love to recommend HEADSPACE (linked below). Headspace founder Andy is a brilliant teacher and has been working in the field of mindfulness for nearly his entire life.
HEADSPACE

Furthermore, if you are looking for in person mindfulness instruction specifically for test taking anxiety the instructors at Granite Prep are always happy to help. Using our proprietary technique of blending mindfulness with class or test specific material, we are able to give students a unique opportunity to perform at his or her highest level.
Whether it is the SAT or ACT, Pre-Calculus, or Physics we have created innovative solutions to help students thrive. Granite Prep offers both one on one private tutoring and institutional seminars.

Author

Grantly Neely is a certified mindfulness teacher and founder of Granite Prep a company dedicated to helping it’s students achieve their ambitions while building resilient minds.

Sources:

Brown, Lily & Forman, Evan & Herbert, James & Hoffman, Kimberly & Yuen, Erica & Goetter, Elizabeth. (2011). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Therapy for Test Anxiety: A Pilot Study. Behavior modification. 35. 31-53. 10.1177/0145445510390930.