Can people be “bad test takers”?

I was listening to Daniel Tosh the other day and in one of his stand ups he says, “don’t you love it when people in school are like, ‘I’m a bad test taker.’ You mean you’re stupid. Oh, you struggle Test1with that part where we find out what you know?” Are some people just really bad at taking tests or is there a third variable involved? I predict that being a bad test taker is a myth and I think maybe a factor of not knowing how to study or perhaps a brain deficiency may be the true cause of bad test taking.

In April of 2013, Annie Murphy Paul, wrote an article about how to be a better test taker, and she explained that test anxiety is a prominent factor that demonstrates many students inability to preform well on tests. The problem is this anxiety can affect a students working memory capacity and much of their brainpower goes towards the anxiety rather than the answerTests needed for the test. Researchers and their studies commonly accept explaining that test anxiety is the reason for “bad test takers” (Paul).

In one of the first studies ever conducted on the topic of test anxiety, George Mandler and Symour Sarason, grouped 553 boys and girls from third and fourth grades to serve as subjects for the study. To evaluate these children they followed the “Test Anxiety Scale for Children” and compared it to the “General Anxiety Scale for Children.” They found that certain cues on the test cause the children to realize they are in a situation of danger because they are being evaluated by authority figures and should they fail, they would be in even more danger. Because tests in general tend to be an evaluation for students given by authority, the kids with test anxiety tend to not do as well on every test they are given (Sarason).Test2

Over the years many similar studies have come to this same conclusion and even gone further as to say that gender effects test anxiety. In a study done in Bangladore, published in the Indian Streams Research Journal in may 2015, by the Assistant Professor of Psychology at Commerce and Management College, studied male and female college students to find out their degree of test anxiety. The study consisted of 100 college students split 50/50 between boys and girls. His conclusion found that a higher number of females are affected by test anxiety than that of males (Maniling Appa).

So, students are not just genetically bad test takers. In fact, their inability to do well on tests has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with test anxiety. Based on research, 40-60% of students admit to having test anxiety as some point or another and around 38% record having it all the time (Morton). Having test anxiety greatly affects the student’s ability to access the information they studied and need for the test because all of their brainpower is going towards their anxiety. I believe that this is a very probable outcome to my question and think that although more research should be done on the topic, it greatly explains the idea of the “bad test taker.”

Works Cited

Maniling Appa, Hosamani. “A STUDY ON TEST ANXIETY OF STUDENTS.” Indian Streams Research Journal 5.4 (2015): 3-9. May 2015. Web. Sept. 2015.

Morton, Jerome, Ph.D. “American Test Anxieties Association.” American Test Anxieties Association. The Board of Directors, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

Paul, Annie Murphy. “How to Be a Better Test-Taker.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2012. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

Sarason, Seymour Bernard. “Initial Validity Studies.” Anxiety in Elementary School Children: A Report of Research. New York: Wiley, 1960. 125-60. Print.

7 thoughts on “Can people be “bad test takers”?

  1. Sydney Starr Moskowitz

    This is a very interesting and relatable topic. I have always felt that I was a bad test taker. I studied and knew the material by heart but when it came time to actually sit down and take the test, I couldn’t remember anything! I know for a fact In have test anxiety. I get so nervous before a test that my mind goes blank. This website I found explains tips for people who have test anxiety.

  2. Caroline Schablin Mcfadden

    This is a really interesting topic. I have always considered myself a bad test taker, I know the information cold the night before and even the morning of a big test and then the second I walk in the room my mind goes blank. Test anxiety is probably my problem! I never put it together that the fear of being graded and failing would in turn make me more likely to fail. Maybe if I can control the fear of failure I can increase my testing capabilities!

  3. Ryan Metz

    I never understood the whole “I’m a bad test taker” excuse. That may be because I am a good test taker though. In my opinion, it is all about knowing the information. Obviously, if you do not understand the information, you are going to be a bad test taker because you will not know the answers. I feel as though if you know the answers, how good of a test taker you are is irrelevant. Being nervous for a test is understandable and we have all been there, but if you know the information, you will get over the nerves and do fine on the test.

  4. Jensen T Sneeringer

    This post was extremely interesting to read! I have always thought that there was no such thing as a bad test taker and have always assumed that it was simply because the person was not prepared. I thought that since I worked my butt off to study for the test, those who didn’t should not just have an out by saying they are a “bad test taker”. I can see people having test anxiety, but I don’t think that should affect how one knows the material as much as how long it may take them to go through the test. There are obviously always some factors that can play a part, like one other commenter said with room temperature, but I think that overall your grade should show how prepared and knowledgeable you are.

  5. Madisen Lee Zaykowski

    I enjoyed reading your post because I can personally relate! Even my mom knew I was such a bad test taker that she made me take SAT practice tests starting in 6th grade. I also had a physics teacher who recommended me go to a therapist and take a “hypnotizing” type test. Over the years, have gotten better, but still had to take the SATs four times. Its nice to read that there are tests that show that I am not just “stupid” because I am not the best test taker. I have bad anxiety, especially with important tests like the SATs, so I am hoping that my test taking skills improve and that they change the requirements for future college students and have the SATs be a smaller factor!

  6. Kevin Taylor

    I thought this post was a very interesting because I have wondered the same thing. I sometimes find myself having test anxiety for particular exams that I know are crucial to my grade, like midterms and finals. I will probably get it again when I take my first college test. I have a friend who always blames her poor grade point average on the fact that she’s a bad test taker, so its good to know that that isn’t actually a real thing. This article gives tips on how to overcome test taking anxiety

  7. Bailee Nicole Koncar

    Hi Megan,
    After reading your post, I completely agree that there is no such thing as a bad test taker. People often do not do well on exams because they are not prepared. They do not dedicate enough time to their studies and therefore do no dot well when it is time for the exam. However, I do believe that there are some factors such as anxiety that can alter how well a person does. I believe that ill preparation may be a root for anxiety because if a person does not study enough they know that they will not do well. As a result, they become nervous while testing. I found it interesting that you reported that some students feel threatened by authority while reading through the exam. I never thought that there could be triggers such as that that prompt anxiety. Room temperature can also play a part in how well a person tests. If students are uncomfortable in the environment in which they test they will not preform as well as they could.

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