High school students tap into success at exam time

October 21, 2015

As students prepare for their all important end of year exams, Bond University has released the findings of an Australian-first study that provides a simple solution to tackling 'test-taking anxiety'.

Bond clinical psychologist Dr Peta Stapleton has just completed the research, involving 121 Year 10 students from Varsity College and the Queensland Academy of Health Sciences, which found the use of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), or rapidly tapping with two fingers on specific acupuncture points on the face or body, had a significant positive impact on student stress at exam time.

Dr Stapleton, Assistant Professor at Bond University's Faculty of Society and Design, said the research would help students who suffered from 'test-taking anxiety', which can lead to poor performance.

"Fear of failure and emotional issues at exam time are common and can result in failure or lowered scholastic achievement in students who would otherwise have the personal characteristics necessary for success," she said.

"Higher levels of self-esteem and resilience have been shown to protect against this, and also predict improved academic outcomes in both high school and university students.

"However, very few studies have investigated the efficacy of low-cost group intervention methods aimed at improving  self-esteem and resilience.

"Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) represent an emerging therapy approach that has been shown to improve a range of psychological disorders.

"Our research found that EFT resulted in increased student resilience, and that resilience was still improved when we followed up with participants three months later."

Dr Stapleton said EFT was often called 'psychological acupuncture' as it was similar to the technique in that it used pressure on acupuncture points, but without the use of needles.

"Using two fingers to rapidly tap on pressure points on the face or  body, a person focuses their mind on the problems at hand," she said.

"It has been suggested that EFT has an impact on the amygdala, a  part of the brain responsible for the stress response and it has been researched in more than 10 countries by more than 60 investigators.

"The combination of a short-term intervention, easy to master technique, and immediate results contribute to the hypothesis that EFT may be an effective tool for students in classroom situations.

"It has also proven to be effective in relation to food cravings, weight loss and psychological well-being."

Assistant Professor Stapleton said the Year 10 students in the latest survey were selected from the two schools with no significant group variances observed on baseline outcome measures.

She said that they took part in five sessions of 75 minutes each at school to learn the techniques.

"The results showed that EFT might be a cost-effective group intervention for students," she said.