Understanding Assessment Anxiety during the Student Transition to University
A two-year project, undertaken by the University of Canterbury, to understand the assessment-related anxieties which first-year students in Aotearoa New Zealand may experience.
The project aims are to:
- describe the first-year student experience in terms of assessment anxiety and examine this trajectory over a period of 6 months
- identify classroom practices that exacerbate/reduce assessment anxiety
- identify plausible strategies that could aid in limiting and managing assessment anxiety for individual learners and the learning environment itself (e.g. classroom practices and university policies).
The project will use a longitudinal, multi-sample, explanatory mixed-method design and will include the following components:
- initial post-assessment student questionnaire (semester 1)
- post-assessment interviews with students (semester 1)
- follow-up student questionnaire (semester 2)
- academic/support staff questionnaire (semesters 1 and 2).
Dr Valerie Sotardi
Project leaderUniversity of Canterbury
Associate Professor Erik BrogtUniversity of Canterbury
- Assessment-related anxiety is a common experience in first-year students
- Only a small fraction of assessment-related anxieties was attributable to personality-based factors, thus suggesting that although some students are more predisposed to experiencing anxiety, the learning environment also appears to have a significant impact on the student experience.
- The anxiety students bring to the university may influence how they perceive each assessment, prepare for specific a task, attempt to cope with the situation, and perform the task.
- External factors, such as unclear and unrealistic expectations from lecturers as well as pressure to achieve from family/whānau were frequently reported.
- Insufficient experience with university-level assessments appeared to result in low academic self-efficacy, thus corresponding with high anxiety about failure.
Key recommendations for teaching staff
- Be familiar with NCEA content and structure.
- Teach for transfer.
- Set clear expectations.
- Communicate the purpose of an assessment.
- Build student confidence.
- Identify a clear contact person for the course.
- Create a sense of belonging.
- The learning environment matters.
- Know the referral process.
Key recommendations for first-year university students
Identify assessment stress factors, ask yourself
- What am I being asked to do?
- Do I have the necessary skills? If not, where can I develop those skills?
- What am I trying to achieve in my coursework and degree programme?
- Have I set a realistic goal for the assessment?
- What aspects of this assessment do I have control over?
- How can I make a plan to prepare for this assessment?
Tips to help with assessments
- Familiarise yourself with the university’s grading scale and assessment policies.
- Find out information about your course assessments early.
- Don’t avoid taking a course because of a certain type of assessmen.t
- Planning buffers you from stress and anxiety.
- Build friendships in your course.
- Take time to relax and exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep.
Preparing for assessments
- Take your time but start early.
- Det daily achievable goals and stick to them.
- Aim high but realistic and focus on mastering the material.
- Multitasking does not help you to learn.
- Seek clarification.
- Use the student support on campus.
When you’re already in deep
- If you fall behind, talk to classmates, tutors, and the lecturer for advice.
- If you are worried about your performance, talking classmates.
- Use the student support on campus as mentioned above.
- If you have (mental) health issues, see a doctor or counsellor.
A report prepared by Valerie Sotardi and Erik Brogt.
(PDF, 540 KB, 27-pages).
- 30 November 2018
A resource guide prepared by Valerie Sotardi and Erik Brogt.
(PDF, 67 KB, 2-pages).
- 6 August 2019
A resource prepared by Dr Valerie Sotardi and Erik Brogt.
(PDF, 3.7 MB, 7-pages).
- 6 August 2019