Test anxiety and performance in high-stakes testing

A study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology suggests that the relationship between test anxiety and performance in high-stakes tests is positive, but the relationship varies for pupils with different achievement levels.

Yao-Ting Sung and colleagues at the National Taiwan University used data from 1,931 Taiwanese ninth grade (Year 10) pupils 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 pupils, 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.

Findings include:

  • The overall relationship between text-anxiety and learning achievement in high-stakes testing was positive (r =+0.18).
  • Lower levels of test-anxiety were found among high-achievement and low-achievement pupils while higher levels of test-anxiety were found among moderate-achievement pupils.
  • For higher achievement pupils, the relationship between text-anxiety and achievement in high-stakes testing was found to be negative (r = -0.16), while for the group of pupils with lower achievement, a positive relationship was found (r= +0.22).

Source: Reexamining the relationship between test anxiety and learning achievement: An individual-differences perspective (July 2016), Contemporary Educational Pyschology, Volume 46

Focus on early maths to raise standards

East Asian countries dominate international standardised tests in mathematics. This new working paper, produced by the Institute of Education, compares English children with those from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, to see how their performance changes between the ages of 10 and 16.

The results suggest that, although average maths test scores are higher in the East Asian countries, the achievement gap does not increase between ages 10 and 16. The conclusion is that policy makers should concentrate on reforms at pre-school and primary level if English children are to catch up. Although they do not believe that reforming secondary education is the answer, the authors do note that there is also a need to ensure that English high achievers manage to keep pace with the highest achieving pupils in other countries during secondary school via, for instance, gifted and talented schemes.

Source: The Mathematics Skills of Schoolchildren: How Does England Compare to the High Performing East Asian Jurisdictions? (2013), Institute of Education