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How different types of anxiety affect oral exam scores

psychology 2422442

New research has revealed fascinating insights into the interplay between the different types of anxiety individuals can experience and their effect on oral test results, Federica Tedeschi reports.

The researcher, Danny Huang, was surprised to find that both male and female EFL learners experienced similar levels of anxiety and this resulted in the same negative impact on their test scores.

Huang analysed the interactions among four different kinds of anxiety and their effects on English speaking test performance. The test adopted was GEPTI-S, a general proficiency test of spoken English used in Taiwan.Findings from 251 young adult Taiwanese L2 learners demonstrate that both an individual’s general individual tendency to anxiety (trait anxiety) and the level of anxiety occurring when a student learns a new language (language anxiety) negatively affect their English oral test performance.

The data showed a negative correlation between trait anxiety and oral test performance, and between language anxiety and exam performance. In other words, the higher the trait and/or language anxiety are, the lower the test scores will be.

However, the oral test score was not significantly affected by either an individual’s tendency to anxiety around assessments (test anxiety) or their anxiety prompted by threatening circumstances (state anxiety).

Results prove to be true when applied to both genders which showed no significant difference.

All findings are the result of self-reported data collected through a set of four anxiety scales, one for each type of anxiety studied, and containing a range of 20-37 questions each.

For example, under ‘trait anxiety’, participants were asked to say to what extent they ‘feel nervous and restless’ on a scale ranging from ‘almost never’ to ‘almost always’.

Critically, participants were only asked to answer the ‘state anxiety’ questionnaire after they had recalled the emotions experienced while taking the oral English L2 exam.

According to the researcher, this is the first study to examine the interactions among the four different types of anxiety. It paves the way to considering anxiety variables in designing English L2 exams.

The 2016 study confirms the original hypothesis that test anxiety and language anxiety relate to each other.

The authors point out that all participants completed the oral test voluntarily and that the research did not take into account students’ familiarity with this type of exam.


Participants: Undergraduates at National Taiwan University
English language level of the students: elementary to advanced
Average time they spent learning English: 9.4 years


⇒ Modelling the relationships between anxieties and performance in second/foreign language speaking assessment, Danny Huang, National Taiwan University