Test Anxiety in University

TEST ANXIETY AS A FACTOR IN UNDERGRADUATES’ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE AT THE NIGERIAN PREMIER UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION

Abstract
This study investigates the test anxiety as a factor in academic performance. Four hundred students were randomly selected from four Colleges in the University: (1) College of Applied Education & Vocational (2) College of Humanities (3) College of Social Management Studies and (4) College of Applied Sciences. One hundred students were randomly selected from each College. Students’ Test Anxiety Questionnaire (STAQ) was designed and used to collect data. While current grade Point Average score used as measure of academic performance. Data was analysed using Pearson Product Moment Correction and Student t test. The result of the data analysis showed a strong negative correlation between test anxiety and academic performance. The level of test anxiety experience by male and female students also differs significantly. Regular periodic programmes to reduce test anxiety should be organised by the University Counselling Centre, while parents should help female students to prepare better for examinations in order to reduce test anxiety.

Background to the Study
Anxiety is described as the apprehensive anticipation of future danger or misfortune accompanied by a feeling of dysphasia or somatic symptoms of tension. (Stanton,1993). From another perspective, anxiety is a feeling of unease. Everybody experiences it when faced with a stressful situation, for example before an examination or an interview, or during a worrying time such as illness.

It is normal to feel anxious when facing something difficult or dangerous and mild. Anxiety can be a positive and useful experience. Spielberger and Sarason (1998) defined test anxiety as a situation-specific trait that refers to the anxiety states and worry conditions that are experienced during examinations. The level of anxiety can fluctuate over time in response to both internal and external stimulation.

Naylor (1994) observed that test taking anxiety is significant for both educators and students While, Tobais (1985) suggested that test anxiety may be a function of poor study habits or deficient skills of test-taking which themselves have deleterious effects on academic performance. Observable behaviours of anxiety can be noticed during the completion process of a questionnaire presented to the students or participants. Some of those behaviours might include perspiration, excessive moment and questioning of instructions.

These behaviours are often compatible with the classification of high and low test anxiety groups (Smith, 1995). There are also stable individual differences in the degree to which anxiety is manifested in any given situation. A disruption or disorganisation of effective problem solving and cognitive control, including difficulty in thinking clearly, can also lead to test anxiety (Freidman & Bendas-Jacob 1997).

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the development of test anxiety. Oderinde(2000) explained that inadequate preparation on the part of students couple with attendant companion of fear of failure have affected academic performance and examination misconduct.

Another factor is self-concept, which is the overall sum of self-referent information that an individual has processed, stored and organised in a systematic manner (Spielberger & Sarason 1989). The self-concept can be viewed as an image of oneself. Worry of suffering a reduction of the self-image, particularly in the eyes of peers, leads to higher test anxiety level (Friedman & Bendas-Jacob (1997).

Self-awareness is another factor of test anxiety. It is defined as the feeling of being observed or evaluated by others. A more commonly recognised factor of test anxiety is the classroom climate. People, in general, have the need to manipulate and control their surroundings in order to produce a comfortable environment.

In a classroom setting, however, there may not be the opportunity to control the surroundings. This creates the possibility of different level of arousal. The degree of arousal in relation to one’s adaptation level will determine whether a positive or negative affective experience will result (Spielberger & Sarason1985). If an individual’s experience is negative, then the test anxiety will be higher leading to lower performance. Invariably, if an individual’s experience is positive, then the test anxiety level will be lower leading to higher performance.

Mauduabum (2001) also noted that the desire to satisfy parental expectations and ensure that future plans are not marred creates anxiety and tension, all of which make cheating attractive to students and often result in poor performance. It is also gathered that sex differences is observed whereby females rather than males tend to experience high anxiety. Overall, it is important to consider motives, aptitudes, cognitive assessments of the task, and past experience when analysing test anxiety and how it relates to academic performance (Heather & April 2002).

Test anxiety in general is expected to have a negative effect on academic performance (Smith 1995). While, stressful testing conditions arouse high anxiety which in turn arouses defensive processes and prevents the person from acknowledging the anxiety.

Statement of the Problem
The study investigated test anxiety as a factor in undergraduates’ academic performance.

Research Questions
(1) What is the relationship between students’ test anxiety and level of academic performance?
(2) Is there any significant difference between male and female students’ level of test anxiety?

Methodology
This is a descriptive study of the ex-post facto type in which the researcher simply conducts an objective study of factors, which already exist. None of the variables was manipulated.

Participants
The participants consisted of 400 students drawn from the four Colleges in the Universities that is, 100 students each randomly selected in the College of Applied Education and Vocational Technology, College of Humanities, College of Social Management Studies and College of Applied Sciences.

Instrumentation
Students’ Test Anxiety Questionnaire (STAQ) developed and validated by the researcher was administered, while their currents Grade Point Average was used as measures of academic performance. The questionnaires are five-point Likert Scale type. The students were asked to indicate their feelings by ticking “Strongly Agree”, “Agree”, “Undecided”, “Disagree”, and “Strongly Disagree” in front of each item in the STAQ.

The questionnaires consist of 16 items. Students were not asked to indicate their names on the questionnaires so as to make responses anonymous. The split-half reliability coefficient of STAQ is 0.732

Data Analysis
Data analysis was carried out using Pearson Product moment correlation, and t-test analyses.

Research Question 1
What is the relationship between student’s test anxiety and level of academic performance?

Test Anxiety Academic Performance
Pearson Correlation Test Anxiety
Academic Performance
Sig. 2 tailed
N 1.000
-0.83
.041
400 -0.83
1.000
.041
400

Table 1 above shows a very high negative correlation between test anxiety and academic performance (r= -0.83, P<0.05). This means that there is a significant relationship between test anxiety and academic performance. The direction of the relationship is negative meaning that as test anxiety level rises, academic performance decrease and vice-versa. Research Question 2 Is there any significant difference in test anxiety between male and female students? Table 2 Comparison of male and female students' Test Anxiety. Gender N Means Standard Deviation df t.value t.critical Remark Male 146 41.3 3.8 398 16.1 1.96 Significant Female 254 48.2 4.6 P<0.05 Table 2 above depicts t-calculated value =16.1 which is greater than the t-critical1.96 at 0.05 level. This means than the difference between the observed test anxiety of male and female students differ significantly. Discussion The observed significant relationship between test anxiety and academic performance is plausible considering the nature of examination itself. Examination being a cognitively tasky exercise demands that the examinee maintains a relatively stable mind that would enable him/her to maximally utilise cognitive skills. Test anxiety tends to make the individual to be unnecessarily anxious and unstable, thereby reducing possible cognitive functioning and academic performance. The finding of the present study corroborates previous notion that test anxiety creates fear of failure and affects academic performance (Oderinde, 2000). It also lends credence to Maduabum (2001) who noted that test anxiety makes cheating attractive to students and often results into poor academic performance. The observed difference between male and female students' level of test anxiety is understood in terms of the gender variation in cultural sex roles identity and the non- residential nature of the University. In most Nigerian societies the female student is expected to perform more household chores than the male student. This may mean additional responsibility to the female student who would still have to struggle to keep pace with academic demands. Thus, the male student is likely to have more time to prepare for examinations than the female students. Inadequate preparation for examinations was identified as a major cause of test anxiety (Oderinde, 2000). Recommendations The following recommendations are made based on the findings of this study. That the University Counselling Centre should organise periodic programme to sensitise students about the negative consequences of test anxiety, train them in study skills and encourage them to prepare well for examinations. That student should learn necessary study skills, prepare well for examinations and learn how to boost self-concept, confidence and morale in order to reduce test anxiety. That parents should be enlightened on the need to relief female students of some avoidable chores in order to give them adequate time to prepare for examinations and reduce their test anxiety level. References Friedman, I. A., & Bedas-Jacob, O. (1997): Measuring perceived test anxiety in adolescents: A self report scale, Educational and Psychological Measurement; 57, 1035-1047 Heather, L. Vogel & April, L. Collins. (2002): The relationship between Test Anxiety and Student Achievement. Maduabum, M.A. (2001): The incidence of examination malpractice and it's impact on Educational development in Nigeria: In Olatoye, R.A & Afuwape M.O (2003): Test Anxiety as determinant of examination misdemeanour: Ibadan Journal of Educational Studies 3,1&2: 32-39. Nayor, F.D (1994).Test- taking anxiety and Expectancy of Performance. In: Olatoye R.A& Afuwape M.O (2003): Test Anxiety as determinant of examination misdemeanour: Ibadan Journal of Educational Studies 3,1&2: 32-39. Oderinde, B.D. (2000): Professional teachers' perception of examination across examination malpractice connection. In: O.C. Nwana & M.A. Mkpa (Eds) Reading Owerri: Barloz Publishers Ltd. Spielberger, C.D. & Sarason, I.G (Ed (,(1998): Stress and Anxiety (vol2) Washington: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation. Smith C.P (1995): The Influence on Test Anxiety score of stressful versus neutral conditions of test administration: Educational Psychology Measurement, 25, 135-141.

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