Drink Water To Improve Test Scores

Bring a bottle of water with you to your next exam and you may boost your test score, according to a new study from the University of East London. Students who brought water with them did better on an exam than those who forgot their water bottles.

Photo by Kevin Vertucio

The researchers accounted for the 447 undergraduate students' prior grades, so it's not just a matter of smarter students being more likely to bring a bottle of water.

Lead researcher Dr Chris Pawson explains there may be a couple of reasons for this link between bringing water (and presumably drinking it) and better grades:

  • Drinking water might have a physiological effect on the brain's cognitive functions. (Previous studies have shown that a dehydration level of just 1 per cent of your body weight reduces your thinking functions, so it makes sense that being well-hydrated is important for your mental performance.)
  • It's possible also that drinking water can reduce anxiety during test-taking. Psychology Today explains: "By offering a momentary distraction, [taking a sip of water] can break a chain of thoughts and free the mind to focus on the task, leading to better performance."

Drinking water might also also just active a placebo affect, Psychology Today suggests. If you believe water boosts your brain power, that belief alone could improve your performance.

Either way, don't forget that bottle of water on your next test.

Bring water into exams to improve your grade [University of East London via Psychology Today]


    Just don't overdo it so you don't have to run to the loo 5 times.

    Despite the claim that: "The researchers accounted for the 447 undergraduate students’ prior grades, so it’s not just a matter of smarter students being more likely to bring a bottle of water"; I still think this is a case of them jumping to conclusions.

    The reference to "remembering to bring their water bottle" is testing their memory; possibly at a stressful time. Clearly; those who have a better memory during stressful times; are more likely to do well in an exam.

    Also; perhaps those students found the idea of the exam less stressful in the first place - and therefore were more likely to remember the waterbottle AND do well in the exam.

    Importantly, due to better memory; and ability to handle stressful circumstances, these are the students more likely to IMPROVE from one exam to the next (thereby negating the value of assessing their prior grades).

    True that it may help some people; and calm them down; but there's no evidence it will automatically improve someone's results. Therefore; no useful; beneficial results can be concluded from this study.

    Don't believe everything you read - they still haven't established causality between water consumption and exam performance.

    For instance, for the students that forgot their water bottles - perhaps the very act of forgetting was symptomatic of some other temporary underlying problem (lack of sleep, other external factors) that caused them to do more poorly in the exams.

    Isn't it common sense that being hydrated over the course of a 3 hour exam would produce better results than being dehydrated?

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