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Writing center offers in-class essay test workshop

By Jessica Sinn
University News Service
September 14, 2007

T he idea of having to write an essay test can cause palms to sweat and heart rates to skyrocket. For many students, the mere sight of a bluebook can induce an overwhelming sense of panic. 

In an effort to alleviate test anxiety and help students fine-tune their writing skills, trained counselors at the Texas State University-San Marcos Writing Center want to lend a helping hand. 

The Texas State Writing Center will hold a How to Survive the In-Class Essay workshop 5 p.m. Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 in Flowers Hall. 

The hour-long workshop will cover organization strategies, time management, clarifying question prompts and outlining techniques. Ashly Bender, Writing Center office manager, said students can completely misinterpret the question if they fail to analyze the prompts. 

“Organization, time and content are the biggest hang-ups,” Bender said.  “Another problem that I often hear about from teachers is that the students don’t answer the question correctly.”

Bender, a Texas State English and history senior from San Antonio , said time constraints can cause many students to feel anxious while taking an essay test.  She said outlining and bullet point techniques are useful visual aides that help students stay on track.

“Part of the time issue is anxiety and a lot of people have test anxiety,” Bender said.  “When you make an outline, you know where you’re going and what you’re going to write.”

Bender said she recommends arriving to class early and eating a good breakfast before the test.  Although test preparation tips can be useful, she said students should stick with methods that work best for them.

“In the research that I’ve done for this workshop, many people have said that it’s best to not talk to people in the classroom before taking a test because it will make you doubt what you know and you’ll get nervous,” Bender said.  “But for me, it’s better to talk to other people before a test.   So really, you need to know what works for you.”

Bender said the workshop attracts many students, especially those in philosophy and history classes.  History professor Rebecca Montgomery will provide a brief presentation at the Sept. 13 workshop.

“Part of the importance of workshops is that students from other disciplines can see that we have something to offer them,” Bender said.  “I think it’s important for students to know that we don’t only help students who are in English classes.  Writing is writing no matter what discipline you’re in.”

The Writing Center offers an array of workshops throughout the semester. The in-class essay workshop will be offered again toward the end of the semester.  For more information, call (512) 245-3018 or visit