Chewing Gum Before a Test May Boost Performance

But Study Shows Chewing Gum During a Test May Give You Worse Results

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 2, 2011 -- Chewing gum before a test may give students an extra edge during finals season.

A new study shows chewing gum for five minutes before a test improves performance.

But be sure to get rid of the gum before the test starts. Researchers say chewing gum during testing may detract from your performance.

"Clear performance advantages emerge when gum is chewed prior to (but not during) [mental] testing," write researcher Serge Onyper, assistant professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., and colleagues in a recent issue of Appetite.

Researchers say previous studies have shown that any type of physical activity may improve test performance. The new findings suggest that even mild activity may be enough to do the trick.

Chewing Before Test vs. During Test

In the study, researchers compared the effects of chewing gum before or during various testing situations in a group of about 80 undergraduate students.

The results showed students who chewed gum for five minutes before a test performed better than those who didn't.

But the benefits of chewing gum were short-lived, lasting only about 15 to 20 minutes into the test.

Researchers say the performance benefits of chewing gum before a test are likely due to chewing-induced arousal of the brain. Chewing gum during testing, however, may detract from test performance by competing with mental or thinking processes in the brain.

In other words, don't feel bad if you can't take a test and chew gum at the same time.

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SOURCES: Onyper, S. Appetite, October 2011.News release, St. Lawrence University.

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