Relationship between the students test anxiety levels and academic achievement in secondary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti state.



Background of the Study

Test anxiety has been defined as a type of performance anxiety-a feeling someone might have towards an impending testing situation in which performance is crucial to the person (Aderson, 2002). A person can also experience performance anxiety in a situation when he or she is to try out for the school play, sing a solo on stage, present a research proposal before a panel or attend a job interview. Each of these situations engenders condition of tension and panic.

          Test anxiety is defined by Morris and Davis (1981), as the evaluative apprehension aroused in the testee as a result of his concerns about the outcome of an impending test. The impending test increases the level of apprehension as the outcome of the evaluative increases is importance. For example, in Nigerian setting, academic achievement is looked upon as a basic condition for the improvement of one’s socio-economic status. To secure a good job, to be recognized and respected depends on ones academic achievement, level. Due to this high regard given to students with high academic achievements, fear of failure constantly put anxiety on students during examinations and testing.

          The negative thoughts about the outcome of the examination (pass or fail) and what the parents and friends will comment if they fail such tests and examinations are atimes results to fear, trembling during the examinations, illegible writing, heat on the parts of the body and all sorts of somatic experiences are noticed during testing and examination periods. Hancock, (2001) considered test anxiety as a trait characterized by debilitating psychological, physical and behavioural responses exhibited by someone prior to sitting for an examination or in anticipation of an examination. Such debilitating responses include -panic, worries and sweating all which constitute threatening situations that are not in the good health interest of the test anxious individuals.

Mathematics is one of the compulsory subjects that students must offer in senior secondary school, not minding whether such students are in science, commercial, arts or social science class according to National Policy on Education (2004).

           Mathematics is one of the most important school subjects in the curriculum worldwide. It is a subject that has direct relationship with other subjects, particularly technical and sciences. Mathematics is also a subject that cuts across primary and secondary school as a compulsory subject. Umameh, (2011) and Nkube, (2013) was of the view that mathematics is bedrock and an indispensable tool for scientific technological and economic advancement of any nation. In addition, Umameh, (2011) added that mathematics is intimately connected to daily life and everybody’s life-long planning.

Mathematics as a subject affects all aspects of human life at different degrees. The social, economic, political, geographical, scientific and technological aspects of man are centered on numbers. Disciplines where numbers are predominant and form integral part of mathematics include: statistics, accounts, arithmetic, engineering, etc. For example the earliest civilization of mankind came through mathematical manipulations.

The inter-relationship between mathematics, development and advancement of humans shows the importance of mathematics in life due to its numeral and symbolic nature, it is more related to the scientific and technological facets of man’s world than to any other aspect as it occurs and re-occurs in the physical and natural sciences. The basic skills underlying all scientific and technological skills are the control of the tools of mathematics.

         Equally, in Nigeria, mathematics is given all the necessary importance in the curriculum and all policies related to education, right from primary to higher levels. In relation to that Federal Republic of Nigeria (FGN), (2004) categorically stated that mathematics is one of the core or basic subject for all primary and secondary school children. In addition to that, mathematics is one of the compulsory subjects that must be passed at credit level by students before getting admission into any tertiary institution in Nigeria. This makes mathematics one of the essential subjects for students’ advancement. Also, the amount of time devoted to it in schools makes it unique.

          In everyday life, we have goals and objectives of a particular undertaking. At the end of the activity, the goal which one set will be assessed in terms of success or failure and in terms of satisfactory performance or under achievement. If it is possible to describe people psychologically in terms of a special kind, a particular type or as an ordinary number, it would simplify the problem of choosing or selecting. People cannot be categorized or measured as factually and accurately as products or machines. Many men and women may be of the same colour, but they all differ remarkably in height, weight and other less obvious physical characteristics.

          They will differ too in not easily observed psychological characteristics as measured intelligence, arithmetic skills, clerical skills, and mechanical aptitude or ability and personality traits. This means that human beings differ in constitutional make up, abilities and potentials are assessed using tests and other measurement instrument. All school children and many adults are tested at various times in their lives. School teacher identify student with the characteristics needed for promotion or placement in various classes.

          Likewise, employer’s personnel departments constantly confront the problem of identifying individuals with the characteristics needed for specific jobs within their organization. All these can only be achieved through tests. The term “test” therefore is used loosely to include everything from brief school examination to complex inventories of personality traits (Durost, 2000). Some of these tests yield numerical grades whereas others result in a report of the examinee’s impressions (Barbara, 1999).Walter (2002), defined test as a deliberate tendency to find out the level of interest, knowledge, skill and achievement on a given task.

          A test is a systematic procedure for comparing the behaviour of two or more persons (Cronbach, 1980). According to him, intelligence cannot be visualized or measured as one can see and measure a sheet of paper. He stated that tests are constructed in such a manner that the evidence of an individual’s behaviour or performance as evoked by the test is compared to the behaviour or performance of other individuals to whom the test has been administered. The test performance is evaluated and an interpretation derived is given.

          Many psychologists use the term measurement or evaluation rather than test as a way to suggest the scope of the field.The evaluators therefore classify people according to their performance. These evaluations and classifications tend to influence people’s chances of promotion to the next class, job opportunities, scholarships and other desirable outcomes. Testees are always aware of the – benefits of good performance and the consequences of bad performance in test and most often struggle to perform well. This situation can lead to the development of anxiety reactions during test taking. Anxiety has been defined as feelings of apprehension and nervousness accompanied by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system which gives rise to physiological changes to the body such as heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, perspiration increases, sweating and trembling crooks and Stein (1988).

          The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, 1994, defined anxiety as a discrete period in which there is sudden outset of intense apprehension, fearfulness or terror, palpitation, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling of choking, chest pain, nausea,decrealization or depressionalisation. Borkoveak, Weert and Berstein (1980) describe anxiety as a complex construct characterized by diffuse feelings of apprehension, tension and increased automatic activity in response to internal or external stimuli which are subjectively perceived to be threatening. Anxiety describes the subjective experience of unpleasant tension, uneasiness and distress that accompanies psychic trait or conflict (Spielbeger, 1995).

          According to him, anxiety is a construct commonly associated with deterioration in the performance of most human activities but it is such a defies and general emotion that most people either have a problem in recognizing in themselves or others or they mistake it for other ailment like fear or general body weakness. A lot of physical, social and psychological problems in school aggravate anxiety among students. For instance, financial hardship at school, inability to buy basic needs, heavy academic loads, and fear of embarrassment from parents, teachers and friends in examination further aggravate anxiety.

          Lewis,(1980) stated that anxiety can be normal or pathological, mild or severe, advantageous or disadvantageous to thinking, action, episodic or persistent due to physical disease, or psychogenic accompanying other features of mental disorder and may for the duration of the attack affect perception and memory. All anxiety is a reaction to anticipating something stressful (Aderson, 2002). Operationally, Anxiety is one of those emotional components of human life.

          The gender of the students either male or female determines their academic performance in mathematics. It is common knowledge that majority of female students dislike mathematics which later affect their achievement in the subject whereas male students tend to have natural inclination and interests in mathematics (Anderson, 1004).

          Abe (2004) reported in his studies on the comparability of external examination in different subjects that mathematics related courses are more difficult for females than males.  In fact, at the early stages, girls value mathematics more than boys because of their interest and attitude towards the mathematics. Even though female have made giant strides in the law, medical and social science profession, very few can be found in graduated programmes or profession in mathematics and other science related subjects.

          Students’ poor performance in mathematics over the years has been attributed to the fact that the subject makes the students to anxious about various test in the subject. In the same view, student’s performance in mathematics tests has been observed to vary from person to person and from school to school. Hence, this study intends to find out the relationship between the students’ test anxiety levels and academic achievement in secondary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti state.

Statement of the Problem

          The declines in performance in mathematics have created anxiety in students and strengthen the perception that they are weak in math. This response will ultimately be a belief that hard to change. According to Hadfield and McNeil (1999), most students experience math anxiety since elementary school. This fear is transferred by school teachers through teaching methods. Traditional methods such as lecturing, teaching basic skills without an emphasis on the concept have been identified as a factor that contributes to mathematics anxiety. Research by Fulya (2008), Elenchoty (2007), Marzita (2002), Tn. Salwani (2001), Arem (1993) and Tobias (1980), has shown that mathematics anxiety had become one of the factors contributing to the decline of the mathematical achievements of the students.

          Research literature on test anxiety in Nigeria is scanty because most of the reports centre upon foreign students only. However, Denga (1982) indicated the existence of test anxiety in northern Nigeria. Abone (1986) and Arnajiriownu (1982) reported that test anxiety exist among secondary school students in Imo State. Therefore, there is a need for the present study to undertake an empirical investigation of test anxiety levels among secondary school students in Ikere local government of Ekiti state.

Purpose of the Study

          The main purpose of this study is to relationship between the students’ test anxiety levels and academic achievement in secondary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti state. Specifically, the study intends to;

1.     find out the mean ratings of observable test anxiety behaviour between Male and Female students.

2.     examine the mean ratings of observable test anxiety behaviour between JSSl1 and SSI 1 students.

3.     ascertain the mean ratings of observable test anxiety behaviour between private and public school students.

Significance of the Study

          In the context of such an environment therefore, it is important to build up information on the nature and scope of assessment induced anxiety so as to build up a body of knowledge on students’ anxiety towards assessment and the impact it has on their academic achievement. This therefore, is considered theoretically significant because its findings will add to existing already body of knowledge on the whole issue for the relationship between student test anxiety levels and academic achievement in secondary schools.

          This study is considered to be of practical significance in the sense that its findings will provide bases for solving problems of test anxiety among secondary school students. For instance, the findings of this study will yield useful data which can be used to draw the attention of the negative consequences of uncontrolled test anxiety among students.It is expected that by being aware of these test anxiety behaviours among their students, they should be in a position to help those students who exhibit such behaviours.

          For instance, teacher can adopt alternative method of assessing students on both subjects. Such method as the use of continuous assessment in evaluating the students learning out comes. Hence, the problem among students with high and low test anxiety will be eliminated by using this method. Also, it is expected that the data from this study will create awareness among the curriculum planners on different categories of test anxiety among students and the negative consequence of low and high test anxiety. The curriculum planners will therefore entrench in the curriculum the different categories of test anxiety among the students (high and low).

          Equally, this study will become first-hand information to subsequent researchers who may wish to find out how to control the high and low anxiety levels among the students.


          This study covers all the secondary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State. The study centered upon such variables as gender. Using the above variables, it investigated the nature of the relationship between test anxiety and academic achievement of students who have varying levels of test anxiety as well as the nature of the relationship with regard to gender. The relationship which test anxiety has on students’ achievement will be on JSS11 and SSI1 students’ mathematics.


          The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:

1.     What are the mean ratings of observable test anxiety behaviour between Male and Female students?

2.     What are the mean ratings of observable test anxiety behaviour between JSSl1 and SSI 1 students?

3.     What are the mean ratings of observable test anxiety behaviour between private and public school students?


The following hypotheses were formulated from research questions for the study:

1.     There is no significant relationship in test anxiety levels between male and female students.

2.     There is no significant relationship in test anxiety levels between JSSI I students and those in SSI 1.

3.     There is no significant relationship in test anxiety levels between private and public school students.

Definition of Terms

          The following terms were operationally defined in this study:                  

Academic Achievement-: It’s the outcome of teaching and learning process after teaching and learning as taken place.

Achievement-: This is academic work done successfully especially using of one’s effort in skills.

Classroom: a room that you have lessons in at a school or college

 Gender -: This refer to sex of students. It is a condition of being either male or female.

Learning: This is the process of acquiring new ideas which involve change in behavior after acquiring new concept.

School: a place where children are taught

Students: someone who is studying at a university, school etc

Teacher: someone whose job is to teach, especially in a school

Teaching: This is the process of transferring ideas through methods by the teacher to the students’ in order to ensure learning.






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