A study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology suggested that the relationship between test anxiety and performance in high-stakes tests is positive, but the relationship varies for students with different achievement levels.
Yao-Ting Sung and colleagues at the National Taiwan University used data from 1,931 Taiwanese ninth grader from 37 schools. The Basic Competence Test (BCTEST) was used to benchmark their achievement. The BCTEST is a high-stakes test for Taiwan junior-high school students, determining to which high schools with different levels of prestige and tuition fees they will be admitted. Subjects in the test included Mandarin, English, Mathematics, Social studies, Science and Writing. Test anxiety was measured by the examination stress scale.
The findings include:
- The overall relationship between text-anxiety and learning achievement in the high-stakes testing was positive (r =+0.18).
- Lower levels of test-anxiety were found among the high-achievement and low-achievement students while higher levels of test-anxiety were found among the moderate-achievement students.
- For the group of students with higher achievements, the relationship between text-anxiety and learning achievement in the high-stakes testing was found to be negative (r = -0.16), while for the group of students with lower achievement, a positive relationship was found (r= +0.22).
The authors suggested that the motivation to perform well may override the negative impacts of test anxiety in high-stakes tests. However, for moderate-achievement students, their high test-anxiety may be due to the uncertainty they face about which kinds of schools they will be admitted to and to their not knowing how to study more effectively. Schools could relieve their uncertainty-anxiety by helping them to choose suitable schools and to explore their career aptitude and interests.
Source: Sung, Y.-T., Chao, T.-Y., & Tseng, F.-L. (2016). Reexamining the relationship between test anxiety and learning achievement: An individual-differences perspective. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 46, 241–252.