Reducing novice baccalaureate nursing student test anxiety and improving test performance through a test-taking intervention: A pilot study



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The purpose of this experimental posttest only study was to examine the effectiveness of a three hour test-taking program, when compared to a presentation on professional nursing roles program, on test anxiety levels and test performance of junior undergraduate nursing students enrolled in a baccalaureate college of nursing. The Transactional Model of Test Anxiety by Zeidner (1998) guided the literature review and development a cognitive intervention to modify an individual’s personal variable of study skills in hopes of reducing test anxiety and improving test accuracy. The presentation was followed by 14-weeks of online activities to reinforce concepts and application of a systematic approach to answer test questions. The pilot study included a diverse sample of 57 subjects, from 20 to 47 years of age, who were randomized into either the intervention or control groups. The test anxiety scores, measured by the Test Anxiety Inventory by Spielberger et al. (1980), included total test anxiety (TAI-T), worry (TAI-W), and emotionality (TAI-E), were gathered immediately prior to the final exam. The final exam, accounted for 15% of the course grade was the HESI® fundamental specialty exam, served as the academic performance measurement. The results revealed first semester junior nursing students have a moderate (64.9%) to high (15.8%) propensity of test anxiety. A one tailed independent t-test was used to reject all four directional hypotheses. This educational intervention followed with 14 weeks of application activities did not decrease total test anxiety scores compared to the attention control group (p = 0.44). Nor did the test anxiety subscales of worry (p = 0.48) and emotionality (p = 0.37) differ significantly between groups. The slight improvement in the HESI® fundamental specialty exam mean score of 32.9 points in the intervention group was not statistically significant (p = 0.21). The effect size for this particular educational intervention was very small. A power analysis revealed larger sample sizes are needed for future research. Test anxiety is a complex construct which will require a much more robust holistic intervention to modify more than a few personal variables in order to improve academic performance.



Nursing student, Test anxiety, Test performance