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 with 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 answers 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).
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.”
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.