Many individuals find themselves experiencing some form of stress or anxiety before an exam. Some people even say that being a little nervous will help you perform better than you would have if you weren’t nervous at all. But if you’ve noticed that your grades or performance is being affected as a result, this is something also known as test anxiety. Test anxiety is defined as a condition where individuals suffer from severe stress and anxiety in testing situations. It has been known to hinder test performance; making this condition a type of performance anxiety. There is a significant amount of research that has been conducted on how test anxiety affects an individual’s performance in an academic environment. Such research is capable of providing background information and evidence supporting the topic.
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Zhang and Henderson (2014) conducted a study on the relationship between test anxiety and academic performance amongst 166 chiropractic students. Participants began the experiment by taking a Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI). This questionnaire included 20 questions that asked students how often they experienced symptoms of anxiety prior to, during, and after taking tests. Scores on the test ranged from 20 to 80 points. The test also exhibited two sub-scores that determined the students’ worry and emotionality. Emotionality comes in many forms to include increased heart rate, dizziness, and nausea. These feelings are often accompanied by feelings of panic. Results showed that there was a negative correlation between the TAI scores and their written chiropractic exam scores. Moderate-to high test anxiety was observed in 85% of the participants. Results also proved that females exhibited higher anxiety and emotionality scores than males.
A disadvantage of this research is that it doesn’t fully explain test performance variability; meaning, there’s no real consistency here. These studies give very little insight into the roles of performance predictors. Another disadvantage is that this study design and sample used is somewhat limited. The TAI and written exams within the experiment may not represent overall academic performance of the students. This seems to be the first examination of the students’ academic performance, which could differ if students were tested a second third time.
Rana and Mahmood (2010) conducted a similar study in which they examined the relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement of post-graduate students. A randomly selected sample of 414 students were chosen to be a part of the experiment. In this study, the 414 students were given a TAI, similar as before, and questioned on their testing anxiety levels. A negative correlation was found to exist between test anxiety scores and students’ achievement scores.
Researchers began this experiment by randomly selecting participants from seven different departments of a public sector university in Pakistan. It’s important that researchers chose random samples so that the participants aren’t too close to each other. Being around peers that you’re comfortable with usually makes you less likely to experience anxiety as you would if you were alone. Especially when tests are involved; students typically like to sit next to their “friends” or close associates over strangers. A variety of survey techniques were utilized during this experiment. The TAI was administered as the initial questionnaire to determine the students’ anxiety levels. This questionnaire was further broken down into subsections to measure the students’ worry and emotionality level. Students were also surveyed on their specific demographic information (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.) so that researchers could develop statistics specific to the experiment. Data was then collected using specific instructions established between teachers and researchers, and then analyzed by using SPSS-15 software.
A disadvantage of this study is that although we know that researchers utilized the TAI in order to measure test anxiety levels, the TAI comes in many forms. Some TAI’s score both positive and negative aspects of testing anxiety among takers while some don’t. Some also focus on other areas outside of worry and emotionality. There is no way of determining if other factors were measured because the specific type of TAI used was not disclosed.
Studies conducted by A. Balogun, S. Balogun, and Onyencho (2017) showed that test anxiety had a negative effect on academic performance; but achievement motivation was found to affect students’ academic achievement in a positive manner. A group of 393 participants (201 females and 192 males) were used for this experiment. Undergraduate students were selected from a public university in Nigeria.
Students from Faculty of Art, Faculty of Science, and Faculty of Social and Management Sciences Universities were selected for this experiment, and were chosen by purposive sampling techniques. Ages of the participants ranged from 17 and 31 years old. Regarding academic level, 100 students were in 100 level (Freshman), 98 were in 200 level (sophomore), 91 were in 300 level (Junior), and 104 were in 400 level (Senior). A four part questionnaire was given to all participants. The first part gathered socio-demographic information (age, gender, academic level, faculty). The second section asked participants for their current Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA), and the third and fourth sections measured students’ test anxiety and achievement motivation. Students’ Test Anxiety was measured with a 20 question Test Anxiety Behavior Scale (STABS). Responses ranged from ‘Not at all’ to ‘very much’. Achievement motivation was also measured using a 20 question achievement motivation scale and responses ranged from 1=yes; 2=?; 3=No. High scores on this questionnaire indicated high achievement motivation and low scores indicated low achievement motivation.
Findings indicate that students with low test anxiety had higher test scores and those with high test anxiety had lower test scores. Those students with results that were higher than the “optimal level” were more likely to forget things they had read. Study results also showed that achievement motivation positively impacted academic performance. Higher achievement motivation meant higher academic performance and vice versa.
One disadvantage of this study was the location of the experiment itself. Students were chosen from a developing country (Nigeria) that had already noted a high rate of poor academic performance prior to the study. This factor alone could have an effect on the experimental outcome because many students already don’t have the best academic performance. A disadvantage that was actually mentioned in the article was that the chosen universities were not an accurate representative of Nigeria as a whole. The sample size was not large enough. Researchers also felt that the Testing anxiety scale was not complex enough. It should have included a measure of students’ worry, emotionality, lack of confidence etc.
This next experiment put a slight spin on the simple testing anxiety measurements we’ve witnessed in past articles. Hart, Little, Phillips and Wood (2016) took genetics into perspective when measuring how test anxiety affected reading comprehension. This study was comprised of 426 sets of twins from the Florida Twin Project on Reading. Three different dimensions of test anxiety were measured to include: namely intrusive thoughts, autonomic reactions, and off-task behaviors. Results found that test anxiety was negatively associated with reading comprehension test performance.
As mentioned above, participants were drawn from a twins project in Florida. Monitoring and achievement data for reading was obtained from a statewide educational database called Progress Monitoring and Reporting Network (PMRN). Twin behavior was also obtained from both parents and the opposite twin via a questionnaire. Children in grades 3 through 7 were analyzed; 54% being Caucasian, 22% Hispanic, 16% African American, 5% mixed race, and 3% other/unknown. All twins 9 years and older took a 30 question Children’s Test Anxiety Scale self-questionnaire measuring their test anxiety. Trained administrators then collected reading comprehension data and test scores were put into the PMRN system. Their thoughts, off-task behaviors, and autonomic reactions were measured on a 4-point scale with 1 being almost never and 4 being almost always. Students’ reading comprehension was measured by the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) Reading test which included short and/or long multiple choice questions. Results indicated a high genetic influence on thoughts and FCAT scores. Environmental factors also influenced students’ thoughts and FCAT scores.
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A disadvantage of this experiment was the lack of variety for comparison. Only same-sex twins were analyzed which limited the study of twins in general. Including male-female twin sets as well as male-male twin sets would extend the limitations of this experiment. Different types of twin sets could be compared for further genetic and socio-demographic influences on reading comprehension. Another disadvantage is that the test anxiety questionnaire wasn’t presented along with the FCAT. Therefore, many students may not have taken the Test anxiety questionnaire with the intent of it being strictly related to the FCAT. They could have assumed it was related to testing in general.
In an article written by Alenezi, Almutary, Dawood, Ghadeer, and Mitsu (2016), the idea of test anxiety and academic performance is further tested among undergraduate nursing students. Although most of the students performed good throughout the semester, their final exam scores proved that test anxiety did play a role in their academic performance at that time.
This was a cross section correlational design meaning researchers studied two continuous variables amongst a single population while using data collected at a single point of time.
The study was comprised of 277 female undergraduates of all academic levels at the College of Nursing, King Saudbin Abdul-Aziz University for Health Sciences. Each participant gave voluntary consent to participate. Each participant was briefed on the nature and purpose of the study, and their confidentiality of the collected data was guaranteed. The students began by taking a two part survey that included background demographic information such as their age, academic level, GPA, and any prior mental/medical illnesses.
Student ages ranged from 19 and 23 years old and their GPA ranged between 2 and 4.87. Fifteen students reported a pre-existing medical condition including things such as gastrointestinal disease, hypertension, anemia, allergy, respiratory disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Individuals with depression and PTSD were excluded from the analysis. The survey also included a Spielberger Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI) which included 20 simulations on how often the students experienced anxiety in the given situations. Eight questions on the TAI further measured the worry component of the participants and 8 measured emotionality. It was found that test anxiety had a negative impact on academic performance. Researchers provided recommendations based on findings of the experiment to include the following: Students should be encouraged to prepare better for exams to reduce test anxiety; Counseling guidance should be activated in nursing colleges especially prior to examinations; and a guide to help students cope with test anxiety during exams should be put in play.
Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” states that our lowest level of needs must be fulfilled before our higher-level goals can be met. This highest point would be known as our self-actualization. In other words if I fail to satisfy my hunger (at the lowest level of the hierarchy), I will be more likely to develop a sense of test anxiety and less likely to do well on an exam as a result.
In an effort to study how self-actualization adds to the effect that test anxiety has on students’ academic performance, Alishahi, Mohamadi, and Soleimani (2014) studied behavior in BA students in the University of Tehran in Iran. Their research question asked if there was a significant relationship between test anxiety and self-actualization. Two classes of BA students studying different non-English majors were chosen as participants (19 males and 36 females). All students were bilingual and their ages ranged from 18 to 30 years old. A Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI) developed by Carver and Scheier (1991) was used to measure test anxiety among participants and a Self-Actualization Index (SAI) developed by Jones and Crandall (1986) was used to measure the students’ self-actualization level. It was found that there was a negative relationship between test scores and self-actualization. Alishahi et al., (2014) suggest that teachers develop certain tactics to help students raise their self-actualization level in hopes of reducing their test anxiety.
Collectively, the experiments mentioned above provide a more in-depth look at human behavior. More specifically, how testing anxiety affects academic performance among students in different educational settings around the world. One of the main disadvantages I noticed across these studies was the absence of comparison results. In the specific experiment being held in each article, students were given some form of test anxiety survey prior to an educational exam but this was the only set of variables researchers used to determine their study results. Multiple TAI-Exam combinations should have been provided to each students on separate days do determine similarities and differences among them. The day of the week, or time of the day may also play a role in how well or poorly someone performs on a test.
- Balogun, A., Balogun, S., & Onyencho, C. (2017). Test anxiety and academic performance among undergraduates: The moderating role of achievement motivation. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 20(14), 1-8.
- Cassady J. C. (2010). Test anxiety: Contemporary theories and implications for learning. In J. C. Cassady (Ed.), Anxiety in school: The causes, consequences, and solutions for academic anxieties (pp. 7–26). New York, NY: Peter Lang.
- Dawood, E., Ghadeer, H., Mistu, R., Almutary, N., & Alenezi, B. (2016). Relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement among undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(2), 57-65.
- Mohamadi, M., Alishahi, Z., & Soleimani, N. (2014). A study on test anxiety and its relationship to test score and self-actualization of academic EFL Students in Iran. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98, 1156-1164.
- Rana, R., & Mahmood, N. (2010). The relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement. Bulletin of Education and Research, 32(2), 63-74.
- Wood, S., Hart, S., Little, C., & Phillips, B. (2016). Test anxiety and a high-stakes standardized reading comprehension test: A behavioral genetics perspective. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 62(3), 1-19.
- Zhang, N., & Henderson, C. (2014). Test anxiety and academic performance in chiropractic students. The Journal of Chiropractic Education, 28(1), 2-8.
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