Monday, June 13, 2016

Test Anxiety in Medical Students: Relationship to Test Performance, Personality

Matthew Miles
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Test anxiety describes a heightened emotion or worry that occurs at the time of testing. Medical students represent a unique population of students who have excelled in testing performance, yet some students still experience test anxiety during standardized exams. This test anxiety may negatively affect their success, and it is not known whether test anxiety in medical students changes over time. Although certain personality characteristics are associated with success in medical school, the relationship between these characteristics and test anxiety is unknown. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the presence and stability of test anxiety among second-year medical students at one United States medical school over a one year period. Using the Test Anxiety Inventory and the Big Five Personality Inventory, this study also examined correlations between test anxiety scores, personality characteristics and student performance on medium- and high-stakes standardized exams. The personality factor Neuroticism was found to correlate strongly with measures of test anxiety (Pearson’s r = 0.704 [p < 0.01] for Total Test Anxiety), but no correlation was found between anxiety levels and exam performance. Test anxiety scores did not change significantly over 90 days’ time, suggesting that test anxiety may be intrinsic to the individual and not affected by experience. Further study with a larger sample over a longer period is required to replicate or refute these findings.