A study of GCSE exam performance among 705 secondary school students in state-funded schools in England shows that it is OK for students to be tense, but not good for them to be anxious, about high-stakes exams.
The authors used self-reported data from the students to investigate the relationship between academic buoyancy (withstanding routine setbacks, challenges, and pressures), test anxiety (feeling threatened by exams), and high-stakes exam performance. Buoyancy was defined as distinct from resilience (withstanding more severe adversity).
The students used the Revised Test Anxiety Scale to report worry and tension components of test anxiety and the Academic Buoyancy Scale to report academic buoyancy. Academic achievement was measured using average scores from English, maths, and science GCSE exams.
Student data revealed that academic buoyancy was high where the worry component of test anxiety was low (and vice versa). This was reflected in exam results where low worry and high buoyancy were associated with better average GCSE scores. The tension element of test anxiety was unrelated to exam results.
The authors suggested that future studies could take past academic achievement into account and investigate other aspects of test anxiety, such as test-irrelevant thinking and off-task behaviours. They also suggested that insights from the study may inform interventions that aim to reduce test anxiety, improve academic buoyancy, and boost exam performance.
Source: Academically buoyant students are less anxious about and perform better in high-stakes examinations (2015), British Journal of Educational Psychology