Adolescent Test Anxiety: An Examination of Intraindividual and Contextual Predictors

  • Lea Ann RaymoEmail author
  • Cheryl L. SomersEmail author
  • Robert T. Partridge
Original Paper


The purpose of this study was to examine intrapersonal and contextual variables in relation to test anxiety among adolescents. Participants (n = 297) were students (male = 165; female = 132) in grades seven (n = 120) and eight (n = 177) from a public, suburban, middle school in the Midwest. All seventh and eighth graders at the participating school were invited to participate via information sheets mailed out to their families. The suburban middle school from which participants were sampled was chosen because of the school district’s reputation of high academic demand and its relative closeness to U.S. census information. Parents could opt their adolescent out of the study by contacting the examiners. All student responses were gathered in the form of questionnaires administered at the school campus. Academic self-concept was not found to mediate the relation between academic performance (as measured by GPA) and test anxiety. Effortful control and perceived threat of tests were found to significantly predict test anxiety in the sample. School climate, however, was not found to be a significant predictor. Implications for school psychologists are discussed. The study provides support for the importance of intrapersonal variables in predicting test anxiety among adolescents.


Test anxiety Adolescent Effortful control Academic performance Self-concept Perceived threat Parental expectations School climate 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Ablard, K. E., & Parker, W. D. (1997). Parents’ achievement goals and perfectionism in their academically talented children. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 26(6), 651–667. Scholar
  2. Aljalil, L., & Asadi, J. (2015). Relationship between parents’ perfectionism and test anxiety of elementary school students during 2014–2015. International Journal of Review in Life Sciences, 5(6), 33–37.Google Scholar
  3. Baron, R., & Kenny, D. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182. Scholar
  4. Birenbaum, M. (2007). Assessment and instruction preferences and their relationship with test anxiety and learning strategies. Higher Education, 53(6), 749–768. Scholar
  5. Brand, S., Felner, R., Shim, M., Seitsinger, A., & Dumas, T. (2003). Middle school improvement and reform: Development and validation of a school-level assessment of climate, cultural pluralism, and school safety. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(3), 570–588. Scholar
  6. Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Capaldi, D. M., & Rothbart, M. K. (1992). Development and validation of an early adolescent temperament measure. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 12(2), 153–173. Scholar
  8. Cassady, J. C. (2004). The influence of cognitive test anxiety across the learning-testing cycle. Learning and Instruction, 14, 569–592. Scholar
  9. Cassady, J. C., & Finch, W. H. (2015). Using factor mixture modeling to identify dimensions of cognitive test anxiety. Learning and Individual Differences, 41, 14–20. Scholar
  10. Cassady, J. C., & Johnson, R. E. (2002). Cognitive test anxiety and academic performance. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27, 270–295. Scholar
  11. Chapell, M. S., Blanding, Z. B., Takahashi, M., Silverstein, M. E., Newman, B., Gubi, A., et al. (2005). Test anxiety and academic performance in undergraduate and graduate students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 268–274. Scholar
  12. Cohen, M., Ben-Zur, H., & Rosenfeld, M. (2008). Sense of coherence, coping strategies, and test anxiety as predictors of test performance among college students. International Journal of Stress Management, 15(3), 289–303. Scholar
  13. Downer, J. T., Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Pianta, R. C. (2007). How do classroom conditions and children’s risk for school problems contribute to children’s behavioral engagement in learning? School Psychology Review, 36(3), 413–432. Scholar
  14. Ellis, L. K., & Rothbart, M. K. (2001). The early adolescent temperament questionnaire (EATQ-R). Paper presented at the 2001 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, Minnesota.Google Scholar
  15. Eum, K., & Rice, K. (2011). Test anxiety, perfectionism, goal orientation, and academic performance. Anxiety Stress and Coping, 24(2), 167–178. Scholar
  16. Fite, K., Howard, S., Garlington, N., & Zinkgraf, S. (1992). Self-concept, anxiety, and attitude toward school: A correlation study. Texas Association for Counseling and Development Journal, 20(1), 21–28.Google Scholar
  17. Fraser, B. J. (1984). Differences between preferred and actual classroom environment as perceived by primary students and teachers. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 54(3), 336–339. Scholar
  18. Fraser, B. J., & O’Brien, P. (1985). Student and teacher perceptions of the environment of elementary school classrooms. The Elementary School Journal, 85(5), 567–580. Scholar
  19. Fraser, B. J., & Rentoul, A. J. (1982). Relationships between school-level and classroom-level environment. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 28(3), 212–225. Scholar
  20. Frost, R. O., Marten, P., Lahart, C., & Rosenblate, R. (1990). The dimensions of perfectionism. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14(5), 449–468. Scholar
  21. Hembree, R. (1988). Correlates, causes, effects, and treatment of test anxiety. Review of Educational Research, 58(1), 47–77. Scholar
  22. Hopko, D. R., Hunt, M. K., & Armento, M. E. A. (2005). Attentional task aptitude and performance anxiety. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(4), 389–408. Scholar
  23. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indices in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55.Google Scholar
  24. Kubiszyn, T., & Borich, G. (2000). Educational testing and measurement: Classroom application and practice (6th ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  25. Lapointe, J. M., Legault, F., & Batiste, S. J. (2005). Teacher interpersonal behavior and adolescents’ motivation in mathematics: A comparison of learning disabled, average, and talented students. International Journal of Educational Research, 43(1–2), 39–54. Scholar
  26. Lerner, R. M. (2005). Promoting positive youth development: Theoretical and empirical bases. Washington DC. White paper retrieved from
  27. Lerner, R. M., & Castellino, D. R. (2002). Contemporary developmental theory and adolescence: Developmental systems and applied developmental science. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31(6), 122–135. Scholar
  28. Loukas, A., & Murphy, J. L. (2007). Middle school student perceptions of school climate: Examining protective functions on subsequent adjustment problems. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 293–309. Scholar
  29. Loukas, A., & Robinson, S. (2004). Examining the moderating role of perceived school climate in early adolescent adjustment. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 14(2), 209–233. Scholar
  30. Lowe, P. A., Lee, S. W., Witteborg, K. M., Prichard, K. W., Luhr, M. E., Cullinan, C. M., et al. (2008). The test anxiety inventory for children and adolescents (TAICA). Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 26(3), 215–230. Scholar
  31. Lowe, P. A., & Reynolds, C. R. (2004). Psychometric analyses of the adult manifest anxiety scale-adult version among young and middle-aged adults. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 64(4), 661–681. Scholar
  32. Marsh, H. W., Martin, A. J., & Cheng, J. H. S. (2008). A multilevel perspective on gender in classroom motivation and climate: Potential benefits of male teachers for boys? Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(1), 78–95. Scholar
  33. McCoach, D. B. (2002). A validation study of the school attitude assessment survey. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 35(2), 66–77.Google Scholar
  34. McDonald, A. (2001). The prevalence and effects of test anxiety in school children. Educational Psychology, 21(1), 89–101. Scholar
  35. Midgley, C., Maehr, M. L., Hruda, L. L., Anderman, E., Anderman, L., Freeman, K. E., et al. (2000). Manual for the patterns of adaptive learning scales.
  36. Moriya, J., & Tanno, Y. (2007). Relationships between negative emotionality and attentional control in effortful control. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1348–1355. Scholar
  37. Mulvenon, S., Stegman, C., & Ritter, G. (2005). Test anxiety: A multifaceted study on the perceptions of teachers, principals, counselors, students, and parents. International Journal of Testing, 5(1), 37–61. Scholar
  38. Muris, P., & Meesters, C. (2009). Reactive and regulative temperament in youths: Psychometric evaluation of the early adolescent temperament questionnaire-revised. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 31, 7–19. Scholar
  39. Ng, E., & Lee, K. (2015). Effects of trait test anxiety and state anxiety on children’s working memory task performance. Learning and Individual Differences, 40, 141–148. Scholar
  40. Parker, W. D. (1997). An empirical typology of perfectionism in academically talented children. American Educational Research Journal, 34(3), 545–562. Scholar
  41. Pianta, R. C., Belsky, J., Vandergrift, N., Houts, R., & Morrison, F. J. (2008). Classroom effects on children’s achievement trajectories in elementary school. American Educational Research Journal, 45(2), 365–397. Scholar
  42. Posner, M. I., & Rothbart, M. K. (1998). Summary and commentary: Developing attentional skills. In J. E. Richards (Ed.), Cognitive neuroscience of attention: A developmental perspective (pp. 317–323). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  43. Preckel, F., Zeidner, M., Goetz, T., & Schleyer, E. J. (2008). Female ‘big fish’ swimming against the tide: The ‘big-fish-little-pond effect’ and gender-ratio in special gifted classes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 33(1), 78–96. Scholar
  44. Putnam, S., Ellis, L. K., & Rothbart, M. K. (2001). The structure of temperament from infacy through adolescence. In A. Eliasz & A. Angleitner (Eds.), Advances in research on temperament (pp. 165–182). Germany: Pabst Science.Google Scholar
  45. Putnam, S. P., & Stifter, C. A. (2008). Reactivity and regulation: The impact of Mary Rothbart on the study of temperament. Infant and Child Development, 17(4), 311–320. Scholar
  46. Putwain, D., Woods, K., & Symes, W. (2010). Personal and situational predictors of test anxiety of students in post-compulsory education. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 137–160. Scholar
  47. Raufelder, D., Regner, N., & Wood, M. A. (2017). Test anxiety and learned helplessness is moderated by student perceptions of teacher motivational support. Educational Psychology. Scholar
  48. Rothbart, M. K., & Jones, L. B. (1998). Temperament, self-regulation, and education. School Psychology Review, 27(4), 479–491.Google Scholar
  49. Sarason, S. B., Davidson, K. S., Lighthall, F. F., Waite, R. R., & Ruebush, B. K. (Eds.). (1960). Anxiety in elementary school children. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  50. Schermelleh-Engel, K., Moosbrugger, H., & Müller, H. (2003). Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: Tests of significance and descriptive goodness-of-fit measures. Methods of Psychological Research Online, 8(2), 23–74.Google Scholar
  51. Segool, N. K., von der Embse, N. P., Mata, A. D., & Gallant, J. (2014). Cognitive-behavioral model of test anxiety in a high stakes context: An exploratory study. School Mental Health, 6(1), 50–61.Google Scholar
  52. Tanzer, N. K. (1990). A dual-level approach to assessing social climates as perceived by students, teachers, and parents. German Journal of Psychology, 14(1), 13–20.Google Scholar
  53. Triplett, C. F., & Barksdale, M. A. (2005). Third through sixth graders’ perceptions of high-stakes testing. Journal of Literacy Research, 37(2), 237–260. Scholar
  54. Turner, B. G., Beidel, D. C., Hughes, S., & Turner, M. (1993). Test anxiety in African American school children. School Psychology Quarterly, 8(2), 140–152. Scholar
  55. Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., Oldehinkel, A., DeWinter, A. F., & Ormel, J. (2006). Temperament, environment, and antisocial behavior in a population sample of preadolescent boys and girls. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 30(5), 422–432. Scholar
  56. Weems, C. F., Scott, B. G., Taylor, L. K., Cannon, M. F., Romano, D. M., Perry, A. M., et al. (2010). Test anxiety prevention and intervention programs in schools: Program development and rationale. School Mental Health, 2(2), 62–71. Scholar
  57. Whitaker Sena, J., Lowe, P., & Lee, S. (2007). Significant predictors of test anxiety among students with and without learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40(4), 360–376. Scholar
  58. Whittle, S., Yucel, M., Fornito, A., Barrett, A., Wood, S. J., Lubman, D. I., et al. (2008). Neuroanatomical correlates of temperament in early adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(6), 682–693. Scholar
  59. Wilson, H. K., Pianta, R. C., & Stuhlman, M. (2007). Typical classroom experiences in first grade: The role of classroom climate and functional risk in the development of social competencies. The Elementary School Journal, 108(2), 81–96. Scholar
  60. Zeidner, M., & Schleyer, E. (1998). The big-fish-little-pond effect for academic self-concept, test anxiety, and school grades in gifted children. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 24, 305–329.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

Personalised recommendations