Megan Gronau

You Have 10 Minutes Remaining: An Examination Into Common Test-Taking Anxieties’ Effect on Academic Performance in Relation to Academic Intrinsic Motivation and Achievement Goal Orientation

April 2, 2021   /  

Student Name: Megan Gronau
Major: Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience
Advisors: Dr. Ashley Abraham, Dr. Susan Clayton

Between 25% -40% of students experience test-taking anxiety to some extent, whether it is low anxiety or high anxiety pertaining to testing situations in academic settings(Onyekuru & Ibegbunam, 2014). Test-taking anxiety can have both positive and negative effects on academic performance. Low test-taking anxiety is necessary among students in order to maintain focus and encourage effort to reach maximum achievement on assessments. High test-taking anxiety leads to decreased attention to assessment material, and a heightened focus on the internal narrative of eminent failure. Along with test-taking anxiety, motivation and achievement goal orientation play an imperative role in academic achievement. My Independent Study sets out to examine how common test-taking anxieties and the administration of a competence threat affects academic performance on a fraction assessment. To test this, participants were asked to complete a set of fractions and to evaluate their own motivations and achievement goals within academic settings. From these responses, significant effects of the level of test-taking anxiety and the application of a competence threat on academic performance were exhibited. Motivation and achievement goal orientation did not have an effect on academic performance. Ultimately, this study concludes differing levels of test-taking anxiety and the application of a competence threat does influence overall academic performance. From this research, professors, teachers, instructors, etc. Need to be cognizant about wording when describing assessments, assignments, and expectations to students. Using statements like, “Most students don’t do well on this exam” or “This class is difficult and is going to take up majority of your time,” can be harmful and a self-fulfilling prophecy will be implemented by the student. Constant support and encouraging words from instructors within academic settings can help to alleviate anxieties that may be paired with testing situations.


Megan will be online to field comments on April 16: Noon-2 pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

53 thoughts on “You Have 10 Minutes Remaining: An Examination Into Common Test-Taking Anxieties’ Effect on Academic Performance in Relation to Academic Intrinsic Motivation and Achievement Goal Orientation”

  1. Thanks for sharing this work Megan. I think your data indicating the need to push past the “I feel comfortable” point is very interesting and important for students to know that some controlled level of anxiety can actually improve performance. But, I have never seen that color of text matter, can you say a little more about why red ink might be thought to alter performance?

    1. Thank you so much for the wonderful question Dr. Stavnezer.

      Overall, the effect of color on academic performance can be rooted in the repeated pairing of the color and particular concepts, messages, or experiences. Specifically in academic settings, the color red is a conditioned stimulus that is paired with negative connotations, often used while grading assignments or assessments. With the constant use of red colored ink while grading, students will constantly and consistently pair the color red with negative feedback, and therefore can have a negative effect on academic achievement or performance.

  2. Your teammates and coaches are so proud you. This is amazing research! Congrats

    1. Thank Coach!! The IS process was very enjoyable, yet challenging at some points, but I knew that I could always count on the constant support from you and all of my teammates.

  3. Great job, Megan! It was my pleasure to be your advisor. Good luck in all that you do after Wooster!

    1. Thank You Dr. Abraham!! Thank you for your endless support and positivity throughout the duration of this project. Your constant encouraging words have pushed me to be a better student. It was truly a pleasure to work with you on this project.

  4. Congrats Megan! This is such an interesting topic with important implications. I was wondering what you think these effects would look like (the same or different) in individuals with anxiety disorders such as General Anxiety Disorder?

    1. Thank you Rachel for the great question.

      I think that the effects of test-taking anxiety would look very similar in individuals with anxiety disorders such as General Anxiety Disorder. Test-taking anxiety comes in many forms, whether it be uneasiness or apprehensiveness before, during, or after an examination or assessment, or worry of eminent failure. Test-taking anxiety can prove to be debilitating to academic performance when the fear-of-failure and self-preoccupying thoughts over take an individual.

  5. Interesting work, and some implications for how we discuss the interaction of anxiety with course-work. It’s quite useful for students and professors to know the relationship between anxiety and performance.

  6. Congrats Megan! Your topic is very interesting and has some important implications, both for students and educators!

  7. wooohooo!!! Go Megan!!! Congrats on a great IS. You have worked so hard and it has all payed off. Love you:)

  8. Congrats Megan! This is a very interesting and relevant project, everything looks great!

  9. Very informative. I’m sure there are many who can relate to your findings. A question…is there any evidence that a person having high anxiety while taking a test will begin to start guessing on there answers instead of thinking the question through?

    Nice work. Congratulations

    1. Hi Dad, thank you for a great question.

      Those with high test-taking anxiety experience divided attention and an internal negative dialogue irrelevant to the task at hand that will have a negative impact on academic performance. As the brain is actively addressing emotional distress accompanied with test anxiety, the worry obstructs some of the capacity and resources typically allocated for the working memory system as well as attention. The reallocation of resources from the working memory system and attention will increase the self-preoccupying intrusive thinking, which leads to a reduction in self-directed attention. As self-directed attention decreases within the individual, there will be more self-preoccupying intrusive thinking, leading to lower academic performance. From this information, students with high test-taking anxiety may overthink questions and answers while completing the assessment.

      Thank you for your constant support!! Love you!!

  10. What an important project and study to take on this year. I think your project really brings to light some aspects of test-taking that both students and teachers have not thoroughly considered. I hope you can bring your IS and its important implications with you in your future endeavors. Congratulations, Megan!! So proud of you and all you’ve accomplished.

  11. Congrats Megan, what a cool topic! I am so glad your tricky survey led to some very interesting implications!

  12. Congratulations, Megan! This is such an important and relevant study for students’ and teachers’ experiences in the classroom. Thanks for sharing! Wishing you all the best!

  13. Hi Megan, this is such a pertinent topic and I enjoyed reading your summary. I have always wondered whether the format of a test influences the degree of anxiety experienced. For example, does a multiple choice test with negative penalty for wrong answers cause greater anxiety in the test/taker that a similar test with no penalties for wrong responses? I am not sure if this was within the scope of your IS, but I would love your POV on this. Congratulations!

    1. Hi Arvind,

      Although my IS did not look specifically at the format of the assessment, I definitely think that the format of the assessment could have an influence on academic performance overall. There are many formats that an assessment can be administered in, examples include, short answer (like my IS), multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blank. A possible extension of my IS could include the administration of different formats of the same fraction assessment. Participants could receive different formats of the assessment while still evaluating accuracy on the fractions assessment. Post-study questionnaire questions could assess if the format of the assessment effected self-competence while completing the fraction problems.

      Thank you for the interesting question!

  14. Congrats Megan, this research is so relevant and you did such an amazing job with it! I’m so proud of you and how hard you worked! You’re the best! 🙂

    1. Thanks Mom!! Thank you for your constant encouragement throughout the duration of this project. Love you!!

  15. Congratulations! Your project is super interesting and relevant and I enjoyed reading about it!

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