From the start of 3rd grade to the end of 12th
grade students are tasked with taking test and exams to measure their growth through
the academic year. Test anxiety is one of the major problems that can hinder
academic performance and it is considered as an obstacle in achieving good
grades (Sarason, 1984). Test anxiety research has had a strong history
demonstrating a connection between individual’s perceptions of tests as
threatening and eventual performance outcomes (Cassady, 2010). Test anxiety is a particular form of anxiety
that arises when an individual is being assessed in testing and evaluative
settings (Colwell, 2013). Test anxiety can be defined as “The set of
phenomenological, physiological and behavioral responses that accompany concern
about possible negative consequences or failure in the examination or similar evaluative
situation” (Zeidner, 1998, p. 17 It is very normal for students to feel nervous
before however for some students anxiety interferes with their learning and
test performance (Wittmaier, 1972). .Appropriate levels of stress can enhance
students? memory, attention, motivation, and can lead to improved test
performance (Salend, 2011).
The different types of testing
The test conscious atmosphere fosters anxiety and adversely affects
student’s scholastic performance (Asghari, Kadir, Elias, & Baba, 2012). In
literature, not only the functions of the test anxiety but cognitive and affective
attributes of test anxiety have also been broadly acknowledged. These two
dimensions of test anxiety are labeled as worry and emotionality respectively
(Liebert & Morris, 1967). Emotionality is the affective component of test
anxiety which is associated with physiological reactions to the evaluative
situations. It involves manifestation of physiological symptoms and emotional
reactions during the testing circumstances (Liebert & Morris, 1967). The
bodily reactions involved in the emotionality component are dizziness,
increased heart rate, sweating, panic attacks or feeling sick (Hembree, 1988).
In contrast, worry is defined as the cognitive component of test anxiety. It
involves the cognitive reactions associated with test anxiety and concerns
about being evaluated during testing situationResearch has consistently shown
that test anxiety is a correlate of poor academic performance (Culler &
Holahan, 1980). Much research has addressed the causes of and treatments for
test anxiety (Culler & Holahan, 1980). Researchers have been interested in developing
effective treatments for anxiety. It has been suggested that poor study habits
and the debilitating physiological effects of anxiety lead to poor academic
performance (Culler & Holahan, 1980).
It is widely claimed that gender,
which is connected to many developmental trends, affects the
growth and exposure of anxiety in
evaluative encounters (Basso, Gallagher, Mikusa & Rueter, 2011). In the
middle years of elementary school, gender differences in test anxiety start to
appear, and constantly female students tend to mention higher test anxiety
levels compared to male students since elementary school through high school
and college (Hembree, 1988; Hill &Sarason, 1966; Zeidner, 1998). The prevalence
of anxiety disorders in women has clearly increased, and compared to men are
two times more likely to develop the disease (Kinrys & Wygant, 2005;
Pigott, 1999, 2003; Basso et al., 2011).
According to Hodge, McCormic, and
Elliot (1997), for instance, explored the level of test anxiety in a large
group of adolescents as they approached their last exam. He found that most of the
students, especially girls, were encountering a high level of distress during
this time, and variables like poor socio-economic condition and the perception
of academic competence makes them to be most vulnerable to these negative
states. Cole, Truglio, and Peek (1999) in assertion of aforementioned studies,
found that female students mentioned elevated levels of anxiety and depression
and also devalue their academic competence, while male students showed a reversed
trend and overvalued their competency (Locker & Cropley, 2004).
Consistent with previous research, some other studies also showed that
both female undergraduate and graduate students experience more test anxiety
than male counterparts in spite of having higher GPAs than male students (Ginter
et al., 1982; Hembree, 1988; Seipp, 1991; Zeidner, 1998; Chapell et al, 2005). It has been hypothesized that men and women
perceive and react to the assessment in a different mode (Lewis & College,
Age is another variable that
affects test anxiety (McDonald, 2001). As cited by McDonald (2001), studies
conducted by King et al. (1989) and Ollendick, King, and Frary (1989) showed
that fear of failing a test increased with age in American and Australian
students. In studies that use specific test anxiety scales, anxiety levels
typically increase with age (Hill and Sarason, 1966; Hill & Wigfield,
1984). According to Cizek and Burg (2006), test anxiety levels increase through
the early grades, stabilize during the middle school years, and begins to taper
off when students enter high school. This could be due in part to increasing
demands and pressures for success from parents and teachers and more
challenging learning materials (Zeidner, 1998). Hill and Sarason (1966) discussed
how test anxiety increases during the elementary school years because of increased
pressures for achievement from parents and teachers. Teachers place greater demands
on children to be independent and responsible (Hill & Sarason, 1966). Araki
24 (1992) found an
increase-decrease-increase pattern in Japanese children. Hernandez, Menchaca,
and Huerta (2011) stated that “elementary students are anxious and angry about
aspects of testing, including the length of the tests, extended testing
periods, and not being able to talk for long periods of time” (p. 581).
Elementary students are more likely to show physical signs while older students
have behavioral symptoms of test anxiety (Whitaker Sena, Lowe, & Lee,
Race and Culture
Different races are affected
differently by test anxiety (Zeidner, 1998). Cultural background influences the
way students view and interact with tests (Madaus & Russell, 2010/2011).
Although this dissertation focuses on students in the United States, classrooms
are made up of children from different cultures such as Asian, African, and
Latin American. It is useful to understand these cultural differences and how
they may influence anxiety. Spinks and Moerdyk (1980) discussed how “cultural
differences in anxiety scale scores depend on the fact that a given situation
known to be anxiety provoking in one culture may not give rise to anxiety, or
at least to very different forms of anxiety, in another culture” (p. 44).
Students from culturally
diverse backgrounds are likely to have test anxiety because of social,
cultural, and psychological stress and beliefs they feel when their poor
performance reinforces negative stereotypes about them (Salend, 2012).
“Stereotype threat refers to a performance decline in a task due to the fear of
confirming an existing negative stereotype about one’s social, gender, or
ethnic group” (Tse & Pu, 2012). Stereotype threat creates an imbalance
between one’s concept of self and one’s expectation of success (Tse & Pu,
Black students and other minority
students such as Asian Americans have negative attitudes toward tests and
acquire high levels of anxiety (Zeidner, 1998).
Latino students have more test anxiety than
White students (Cizek & Burg, 2006; Paul, 2013). Hembree’s (1988) study
also shows that Latino students across grade levels show more test anxiety than
Students in Mexico have higher levels
of test anxiety than students in the United States (Cizek & Burg, 2006).
This may be due to the fact “that a greater emphasis is placed on obedience to
adult authorities in Mexican cultures and therefore evaluations and tests pose
a greater threat to Mexican students, resulting in higher test anxiety” (Cizek
& Burg, p. 73).
Understanding the student’s cultural background may help explain how
such cultural differences influence his/her anxiety levels. Zeidner (1998) and
Chen (2012) stated that Asian-American students have high levels of test
anxiety because of the Asian belief in the efficiency of effort and hard work.
Zeidner extended this same observation to include Japanese students as well.
“Given the importance of school achievement and test outcomes in Japanese
culture, one would expect that test anxiety in Japanese students would be well
above the normative level of students in other developed countries” (Zeidner,
1998, p. 279). According to Chen 27 (2012), Chinese children are more likely to
feel more parental pressure than children in Western countries. Cultural
background and cultural experiences can clearly contribute to anxiety exhibited
Ergene (2003) found that many treatments have
been developed over time to treat test anxiety.
he treatments he found were
categorized to: (1). behavioural approaches, including desensitization procedure,
relaxation skills, biofeedback training, modeling skills, anxiety induction,
training for how to manage anxiety and so forth; (2). cognitive approaches such
as rational emotive therapy, cognitive restructuring methods; (3).
cognitive-behavioral approaches like cognitive-behavioral modification, stress-inoculation
skills and (4). Skill-deficit methods including training for study skills,
training for test-taking skills, and approaches, which have combined both the
cognitive and skill-focused methods (Beck et al., 1996; Jones & Petruzzi,
1995; Kondo & Gifu, 1997; Onwuegbuzie & Daley, 1996; Ergene, 2003).
More recently, a method known as the Mind-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which
is a clinical intervention program made for groups to lessen cases of deterioration
or reappearance of major depressive disorder (MDD) has been utilized for
different psychological problems including social phobia and generalized
anxiety disorder (Piet & Hougaard, 2011) and It may also possibly be used
for the reduction of anxiety. Ergene (2003) stated in his study that compound
treatments, which combine skills, focused approaches with behaviour or
cognitive approaches were the most effective. However in the study done Barrett,
and Turner (2001; Gregor, 2005) few trials of universal and evidence based
programs for preventing anxiety in young people have been found to date. They defined
the concept of universal programs as interventions, which can be used for the
all population, with their risk status disregarded. The majority of research
thus far is focused mainly on adult contributors. Another of Ergene’s (2003) assertion
is that there is an intense demand for the formation of helpful test anxiety
reduction methods for primary, middle and high school students as most of the
current programs are designed for college and university students.
on, another factor that should be considered in the treatment of test anxiety
as noted by Zeidner (2007), is that research on anxiety interventions may be
considerably benefited by the perception of test-anxious individuals’ profile.
Indeed, examining the related significant predictors of anxiety make the test
anxiety theories and approaches more comprehensible, which probably lead to the
development of the best anxiety-reduction methods (Reeve, Bonaccio &
Austin and Partridge (1995); Cheek, Bradley, Reynolds, and Coy (2002);
Larson, El Ramahi, and Conn (2010); Nemati and Habibi (2012); Paul (2013),
Schutz, Distefano, Benson, and Davis (2004); and Segool, Carlson, Goforth, Von
Der Embse, and Barterian (2013) promoted relaxation training to decrease test
anxiety. They suggest using tension reduction strategies to slow down breathing
which helps the student relax. “Teachers could use relaxation strategies in
their whole classrooms prior to high-stakes testing or when students express or
exhibit negative thoughts, feelings, or anxiety about evaluative situations”
(Segool, Carlson, Goforth, Von Der Embse, & Barterian, 2013, p. 497). Art
and music can also be used to reduce stress and add an element of fun (Cheek,
Bradley, Reynolds, & Coy, 2002). Teachers can encourage their students to
de-stress by providing opportunities for verbal and non-verbal expressions
before and after the test (Hernandez, Menchaca, & Huerta, 2011).
Food and mental
Some foods such as coffee and chocolate are recognised as ‘feel-good
fares’, but other foods can have a long-lasting influence on general mood and
mental wellbeing (Cornah, 2006). There is now a growing body of scientific
research linking food to mental health. A significant international study in
2009 identified a direct link between the consumption of a healthy diet and
positive mental wellbeing (Akbaraly et. al.2009) and there is consistent
evidence that an unhealthy diet is a ‘key modifiable risk factor’ for some
mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and dementia (Jacka, et.
al. 2014, 1) ).
Subsequent work has shown an affirmative link between consumption of
omega-3 fatty acids and positive mood (Appleton et. al. 2007, Beezhold et. al.
2010). Turkey in particular, with its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, has
been recognised as beneficial to health, potentially contributing to low levels
of depression, memory loss and anxiety (Maddock et. al. 1999, Appleton et. al.
2007, The Economist, 2010). Rodgers (2001) also supports this but suggests that
the relationship between diet and anxiety needs further exploration.
education experts agree that testing has helped shape the form and substance of
American education” (Zajano, 1993, p. 4). Students are tested more frequently
and at younger ages. The increased pressure to do well causes anxiety and
stress. Research shows that highly anxious students do not perform well on
standardized tests. Age, gender and ethnic background are significant
predictors of test anxiety scores (Putwain, 2007).The purpose of this research is
to see if turkey, chocolate, avocado and
bacon can limit testing anxiety among high school students at Olympia High
School. The results of this study will contribute to the knowledge and
literature in the field of anxiety. Although this study will close gaps in the field,
there are many questions about test anxiety that still exist.