Relationship Between Students Test Anxiety Levels And Academic Achievement In Secondary Schools

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The study investigated the relationship between students test anxiety levels and academic achievement in secondary scl-~oolsTheoretical. reports about the adverse effect of test anxiety on academic achievement have been rife but empirical evidence for indigenous samples is necessary. Test Anxiety Inventory (TAT) was used for data collection. The students' annual cumulative scores on English Language and Mathematics were used to measure their academic achievement. Stratified random sampling was used to compose a sample of 320 male and female students drawn from four secondary schools in Igbo-Eze South L.G.A. of Enugu State. Four research questions and three null hypotheses were formulated for the study. The data were analyzed using percentages, standard deviation, correlation and measure of central tendency (the mean) and T-test. On the bases of their scores on Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI), males were found to be more test anxious than females. The results showed that test anxiety increases with increase in class level. The result also revealed that the relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement was inverse. That is, the inverse relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement means that as test anxiety increases, the academic achievement decreases. The implications and recommendations arising from the findings were highlighted.









In everyday life, we have goals and objectives of a particular undertaking. At the end of the activity, the goal which one set will be assessed in terms of success or failure and in terms of satisfactory performance or under achievement. If it is possible to describe people psychologically in terms of a special kind, a particular type or as an ordinary number, it would simplify the problem of choosing or selecting. People cannot be categorized or measured as factually and accurately as products or machines. Many men and women may be of the same colour, but they all differ remarkably in height, weight and other less obvious physical characteristics. They will differ too in not easily observed psychological


characteristics as measured intelligence, arithmetic skills, clerical skills, and mechanical aptitude or ability and personality traits. This means that human beings differ in constitutional make up, abilities and potentials are assessed using tests and other measurement instrument.


All school children and many adults are tested at various times in their lives. School teacher identify student with the characteristics needed for promotion or placement in various classes. Likewise, employer's personnel departments constantly confront the problem


of identifying individuals with the characteristics needed for specific jobs within their organization. All these can only be achieved through tests.


The term "test" therefore is used loosely to include everything from brief school examination to complex inventories of personality traits (Durost, 2000). Some of these tests yield numerical grades whereas others result in a report of the examinee's impressions (Barbara, 1999).Walter (2002), defined test as a deliberate tendency to find out the level of interest, knowledge, skill and achievement on a given task.


A test is a systematic procedure for comparing the behaviour of two or more persons (Cronbach, 1980). According to him, intelligence cannot be visualized or measured as one can see and measure a sheet of paper. He stated that tests are constructed in such a manner that the evidence of an individual's behaviour or performance as evoked by the test is compared to the behaviour or performance of other individuals to whom the test has been administered. The test performance is evaluated and an interpretation derived is given. Many psychologists use the term measurement or evaluation rather than test as a way to suggest the scope of the field.


There are varieties of tests which include the following:-


    1. achievement tests


  1. mental ability tests


    1. aptitude tests


  1. tests of developed abilities


  1. school readiness tests


  1. interest inventories


  1. personality measures


Tests are used by school teachers to judge their students progress, by college admission's officer as an indicator for selecting or rejecting applicants, by personnel experts as a basis for hiring employees or promoting executives

., and by psychologists as a help in diagnosing personality problems and mental illness. According to Barbara, Davis and Gross, 1999 tests are powerful educational tools that serve at least four functions thus:-

    1. Tests help teachers evaluate students and assess whether they are learning what he or she is expecting them to learn.
  1. Well designed tests serve to motivate and help students structure their academic efforts. Studies report that students study in ways that reflect how they think they will be tested. If they expect an examination focused on facts, they will memorize details, if they expect a test that will require problem solving or integrating knowledge, they will work towards undersmding and applying information.
    1. Tests can help one understand how successfully he or she is presenting the material.

Finally, tests can reinforce learning by providing students with indicators of what topics or skills they have not yet mastered and should

concentrate on. School guidance counselors use tests to help young people choose careers. Also, tests are the measurement that evaluates student's academic performance which in turn may decide their future success in pursuit for their life goals. Despite these benefits, testing is also emotionally charged and anxiety producing (Barbara, 1999). This may be as a result of the uses of tests. Most often, tests are used to evaluate individuals in certain abilities.


The evaluators therefore classifi people according to their performance. These evaluations and classifications tend to influence people's chances of promotion to the next class, job opportunities, scholarships and other desirable outcomes. Testees are always aware of the

  • benefits of good performance and the consequences of bad performance in test and most often struggle to perform well. This situation can lead to the development of anxiety reactions during test taking.

 Anxiety has been defined as feelings of apprehension and nervousness accompanied by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system which gives rise to physiological changes to the body such as heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, perspiration increases, sweating and trembling crooks and Stein (1988). The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, 1994, defined anxiety as a discrete period in which there is sudden outset of intense apprehension, fearfulness or terror, palpitation, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling of choking, chest pain, nausea, decrealization or depressionalisation. Borkoveak, Weert and Berstein (1980) describe anxiety as a complex construct characterized by diffuse feelings of apprehension, tension and increased automatic activity in response to internal or external stimuli which are subjectively perceived to be threatening.

Anxiety describes the subjective experience of unpleasant tension,

  • uneasiness and distress that accompanies psychic trait or conflict (Spielbeger, 1995). According to him, anxiety is a construct commonly associated with deterioration in the performance of most human activities but it is such a difise and general emotion that most people either have a problem in recognizing in themselves or others or they mistake it for other ailment like fear or general body weakness. A lot of physical, social and psychological problems in school aggravate anxiety among students. For instance, financial hardship at school, inability to buy basic needs, heavy academic loads, and fear of embarrassment from parents, teachers and friends in examination further aggravate anxiety. Lewis,(1980) stated that anxiety can be normal or pathological, mild or severe, advantageous or disadvantageous to thinking, action, episodic or persistent due to physical disease, or psychogenic accompanying other features of mental disorder and may for the duration of the attack affect perception and memory. All anxiety is a reaction to anticipating something stressful (Aderson, 2002). Operationally, Anxiety is one of those emotional components of human life.
  • Test anxiety has been defined as a type of performance anxiety-a feeling someone might have towards an impending testing situation in which performance is crucial to the person (Aderson, 2002). A person can also experience performance anxiety in a situation when he or she is to try out for the school play, sing a solo on stage, present a research proposal before a panel or attend a job interview. Each of these situations engenders condition of tension and panic.

Test anxiety is defined by Morris and Davis (1981), as the evaluative apprehension aroused in the testee as a result of his concerns about the outcome of an impending test. The impending test increases the level of apprehension as the outcome of the evaluative increases is importance. For example, in Nigerian setting, academic achievement is looked upon as a basic condition for the improvement of one's socio-economic status. To secure a good job, to be recognized and respected depends on ones academic achievement, level. Due to this high regard given to students with high academic achievements, fear of failure constantly put anxiety on students during examinations and testing. The negative thoughts about the outcome of the examination (pass or fail) and what the parents and friends will comment if they fail such tests and examinations are atimes results to fear, trembling during the examinations, illegible writing, heat on the parts of the body and all sorts of somatic experiences are noticed during testing and examination periods.

Hancock, (2001) considered test anxiety as a trait characterized by debilitating psychological, physical and behavioural responses exhibited by someone prior to sitting for an examination or in anticipation of an examination. Such debilitating responses include -panic, worries and sweating all which constitute threatening situations that are not in the good health interest of the test anxious individuals.

Austin, Patridge, Bitner and Wadlingto (1995), were of the opinion that test anxiety is a sustainable feeling of tension and lack of self regulation of ones conduct as a result of an impending examination taking by the test anxious individuals. According to them, in some instances such un-usual fear and panic interfere negatively with the candidates ability to face the examinations. They also point to the stress and impatient that characterized candidate's behaviours ahead of the proposed test date. Such behaviours have been known to hinder or prevent the ability to the affected individual to prepare for such test. Krohne and Laux (1 982), observed that one of the most difficult things for a teacher to address at the classroom level is enabling test anxious students overcome their test anxiety behaviours so as to emotionally and physically settle down and prepare for an impending examination.

In line with Lewis (1980), test anxiety is normal and some anxiety is normal because some anxiety can be helpful, prompting one to be better prepared for the demands of ones course. It simply varies from person to person. At low level of arousal, one may put little or no effort into preparing for examinations. At medium levels of arousal, one can work and prepare well and give his or her best performance. Too much arousal can disrupt and harm performance. This level of arousal is unpleasant and where test anxiety can become a problem (Robert .A. Rando, 2005). Operationally, Test anxiety is that nervous feeling that students sometimes get when they are about to take a test. The nervousness they feel before a test can be so strong that it interferes with their concentration or performance. Many studies have found the significant relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement. For example, Spielberger and Sarason (1 985), Mckeachie (1999), have discovered a significant relationship between test anxiety and students academic achievement.

In United States Samples, individuals experience varying degrees of test anxiety. These varying levels were confirmed by Beston and Sarason (1989), who identified three levels of test anxiety which include-the low levels of test anxiety, the moderate levels of test anxiety and the high levels of test anxiety. This means that there is the possibility of different levels of arousal. The degree of arousal in relation to ones adaptation level will determine whether a positive or negative affective experience will result. Hill and Deffenbacher (1982), reported that high test anxious individuals perform poorly on laboratory tasks, intelligence tests, achievement tests and school grades than low test anxious subjects. Still on the foreign scene, John and Kenneth (1982), observed that high test anxious students made more errors and performed less than low anxious students.

Similarly, in Nigerian scene, some research work were carried out by Ebigbo(1982) and Kalu (1987) showing that our students both in the primary, secondary and higher institutions experience different levels of test anxiety. Likewise, Denga (1982), reported varying levels of test anxiety among Nigerian students.

Spielberger and Sarason (1989) were of the opinion that students with high test anxiety will have lower academic achievement while those students with moderate levels of test anxiety will perform the best. In line with Spielberger and Sarason, Hembree (1988) and Seip (1991) states that high anxious students tend to commit more errors than less test anxious ones. Similarly, test anxiety has been associated with lower academic achievement and self defeating behaviour patterns Swanson Howell, (1996).

Terry (1998), and D' Arcylyness (2004), identified several signs which indicate that a student is experiencing test anxiety which include the following: sweaty palms, rapid heart beat and tense muscles, frequent urination, headache, stomach upset.

There are varying components of test anxiety. For example, Holland (1980) identified three components of test anxiety thus-the physical component, the emotional component and the mental component. Also, Morris, Davis and Hutchings (1981) and Schwatza (1986) identified test anxiety as consisting of two important and interrelated components thus-the cognitive aspect and emotional component.

Some researchers for example, Levitt (1980), Spielberger and Sarason

(1989), Freidman and Bandas (1997), identified certain factors that contribute to the development of the test anxiety.

Having defined test anxiety, it is pertinent to identify and describe a number of important variables that are closely related to students test anxiety levels and their academic achievement. The variables include:

    1. Test anxiety in relation to gender (sex). That is who is more test anxious (males or females).
  1. Test anxiety in relation to class level is another variable. That is, the relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement in relation to the level of class attained.


Research literature on test anxiety in Nigeria is scanty because most of the reports centre upon foreign students only. However, Denga (1982) indicated the existence of test anxiety in northern Nigeria. Abone (1986) and Arnajiriownu (1982) reported that test anxiety exist among secondary school students in Imo State. Kalu (1987) investigated and revealed that test anxiety exists among Nigeria undergraduate students and that no significant different exists between the mean scores of the male and female students but Engbreton and O'Brien (1988), indicated that test anxiety was higher for females than for the males. So, test anxiety for both gender is inconclusive.

The previous studies were carried out in the northern part of the country (Nigeria) and Imo State and non in Enugu State particularly Obollo-Afor Education Zone. Therefore, there is a need for the present study to under take an empirical investigation of test anxiety levels among secondary

school students in Igbo-Eze south local government of Enugu state. Also, Sarason (1980), study investigated the relationship between test anxiety and class level. After the correlational analysis, it was found that test anxiety decreases with increased number of years in the school. Contrary to the above findings, Cherkes-Julkowski, Groebel and Kuffer (1982) reported that there is a general increase of test anxiety for students of upper academic class.

From the foregoing therefore, it is obvious that the problem of the relationship between test anxiety and class level as it affects students' academic achievement is inconclusive and therefore need additional investigation within the context of a developing country Nigeria. Thus, the problem of the present study to be investigated is the establishment of the relationship between test anxiety and students class level and then the consequent relationship on academic achievement.


The main purpose of this study is to identify and describe those students' situation specific behaviours during examination in English anguage and mathematics that constitute test anxiety and the relationship between such behaviour and their academic achievement in both subjects.

Specifically, the study looked for data to address the following problems:

    1. IdentifL the anxiety levels of both male and female students during English Language of Mathematics examination.
  1. Determine the level of test anxiety of JSS11 and SSl 1 Students
  1. Determine how test anxious lower class level students (JSSl1) differ from the high class level test anxious students (SS11) in academic achievement.
  1. Determine the relationship of test anxiety on students overall achievement in English language and mathematics.


One of the most important aspects of education is the assessment of learning outcomes among students. Assessment is expected to provide accurate and reliable evidence of what students have learned or that have not learned. In the school environment, it is the case that each time an assessment test is scheduled for students, majority of them exhibit anxiety reaction to school proposed test. In the context of such an environment therefore, it is important to build up information on the nature and scope of assessment induced anxiety so as to build up a body of knowledge on students' anxiety towards assessment and the impact it has on their academic achievement. This therefore, is considered theoretically significant because its findings will add to existing already body of knowledge on the whole issue for the relationship between student test anxiety levels and academic achievement in secondary schools.

This study is considered to be of practical significance in the sense that its findings will provide bases for solving problems of test anxiety among secondary school students.

For instance, the findings of this study will yield useful data which can be used to draw the attention of the negative consequences of uncontrolled test anxiety among students.

This study is considered to be of practical significance with regard to the teachers in the sense that the findings will form the bases for teachers of mathematics and English language awareness and preparedness to help their test anxious students overcome test anxiety behaviours.

It is expected that by being aware of these test anxiety behaviours among their students, they should be in a position to help those students who exhibit such behaviours. For instance, teacher can adopt alternative method of assessing students on both subjects. Such method as the use of continuous assessment in evaluating the students learning out comes. Hence, the problem among students with high and low test anxiety will be eliminated by using this method.

Also, it is expected that the data from this study will create awareness among the curriculum planners on different categories of test anxiety among students and the negative consequence of low and high test anxiety. The curriculum planners will therefore entrench in the curriculum the different categories of test anxiety among the students (high and low). With this entrenchment, teachers attention is further drawn to the high & low levels of test anxiety students and can give the teaching of English Language and Mathematics more weight in the curriculum.

Equally, this study will become first hand information to subsequent researchers who may wish to find out how to control the high and low anxiety levels among the students.


This study covers all the secondary schools in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State. The study centered upon such variables as gender and class level. Using the above variables, it investigated the nature of the relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement of students who have varying levels of test anxiety as well as the nature of the relationship with regard to gender and class level.

The relationship which test anxiety has on students' achievement will be on JSS11 and SSI 1 students' English language and mathematics.

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Relationship Between Students Test Anxiety Levels And Academic Achievement In Secondary Schools