Writing and thinking are inextricably intertwined. Writing is a cognitive process that provides benefits aside from communicating coherently. Recent research demonstrates that writing can reduce test anxiety, assist in learning, and boost self esteem.

One of the strategies I advise my students to try to reduce their test anxiety involves writing. They should spend at least 5 minutes alone immediately before the test to write about their feelings before they enter the test room. Once they have transferred their worries into words on paper, they should rip the paper and toss it in the trash, thus “discarding” their concerns.  Evidence supports this practice: The Journal, Science, reported: Researchers found that students who were prone to test anxiety improved their high–stakes test scores by nearly one grade point after they were given 10 minutes to write about what was causing them fear. 

Writing by hand is also a significant component with retention.  In a previous article, I presented information that supported written rather than typed notes.  The tactile sense of putting pen or pencil to paper for note-taking boosts memory.  A study in the journal, Psychological Science, indicated that  taking notes with a pen and paper, rather than a laptop, leads to higher quality learning, as writing is a better strategy to store and internalize ideas in the long haul. Writing by hand strengthens the learning process, while typing can impair it.  Additional data from the National Institute of Health corroborates this finding: “Tasks that engaged retrieval (essay writing and free recall) led to better final test performance than those that did not (note taking and highlighting) .”

Finally, writing memoirs can have a positive effect on the writer’s self esteem.   “In the Journal of Personality, Kristina L Steiner at Denison University in Ohio and her colleagues reported that writing about chapters in your life does indeed lead to a modest, temporary self-esteem boost, and that in fact this benefit arises regardless of how positive your stories are.”

So pick up that pen or pencil, and enjoy the benefits that writing provides!