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1.1 Background to the Study

Education transforms individuals into problem solvers who evince knowledge and are capable of utilizing the acquired knowledge to provide solutions to a wide range of problems. A good level of education confers on a student a corresponding high level of meta cognitive skills which in turn helps the student to have a good knowledge of himself as a cognitive processor, and knowledge of task and strategy variables necessary for effective learning (Hoe, Cheong and Yee, 2013).

However, sometimes, some students even at high educational level and with high level of meta cognitive skills inexplicably fail to demonstrate the knowledge they have acquired during teaching and learning sessions. Such students attend classes, do their assignments but fail to perform in the day of reckoning (examinations) especially when the stakes are high. The students who have done all that are necessary but develop cold feet rather than confidence during examinations may be manifesting test anxiety.

Examination anxiety which is also called test anxiety in research literature is an uneasiness or apprehension experienced before, during and after examination because of concern, worry or fear of uncertainty. It was defined by Zeidner (2008) as a set of phenomenological, physiological and behavioural responses that accompany concern about possible negative consequences or failure on an examination or similar evaluative situation. It is feeling that someone might have in a situation where performance really counts or where the pressure to do well is intense.

Test anxiety is not entirely bad. In fact a low level of test anxiety is normal and necessary among the students in order to maintain focus and to galvanize them into action preparing, plotting and perfecting strategies that will guarantee optimum success in the examinations. It is needed to motivate and help the students to stay mentally and physically alert (Birjandi and Alemi, 2010).

However, when the anxiety or level of arousal exceeds that optimal level, the result is decline in performance. Hence the individual fails to fulfill the required obligation (15). Anxiety is an intrinsic part of human nature and if we learn why something happen it usually becomes less frightening (19). Psychologist made a distinction between two basic types of copying strategies which includes problem fixed strategies and emotion focused strategy (32). Problem focused strategy attempts to deal with those aspects of environment that are responsible for stern and anxiety expression, that is dealing directly with the stress situation while emotion focused strategy tends to change the way a person thinks about a stressful situation.

It is when anxiety is in its severe form that some students experience genuine problem in academics. Their minds go blank, they experience the shakes, their hands go numb and they suffer from number of sudden disabilities associated with anxiety during examination. Academic performance is the outcome of education. It refers to the extent to which a known to be influenced by anxiety. Test anxiety or performance anxiety is common in nearly every aspect of human endeavor. Excellent players have deprived their countries or clubs of the opportunities to lift trophies during club or international sporting competitions by missing penalty shots as a result of performance anxiety.

A study conducted by DeCaro, Thomas, Albert and Beilock (2011) found that baseball players put into a high pressure condition had increased errors and decreased ability to recall details like directions in which their bats were moving. Some candidates seeking for jobs find it difficult to remember even their own names during interviews for highly paid jobs in such a situation where good performance counts and pressure to do well is palpable (Putwain, Woods and Symes, 2010). It is performance anxiety that makes a professor seat profusely and sounds incoherent almost at the point of collapsing while presenting inaugural lecture with intimidating audience in attendance.

In contrast to fear, anxiety involves a more general or diffused emotional reaction beyond simple fear – that is not of proportion to threats from the environment. Therefore in terms of the internal struggles, man uses expressions such as anxiety or worry. Anxiety is the most important factor of mental disorders based on the theory of psychological analysis. Freud called anxiety “emotional pain”. This means the same as if the body suffered from injury, inflammation and disease. Students’ stress is an unavoidable phenomenon which is often seen in the undergraduates identified such factors as physical, mental, family, job and social relationship as contributing to stress in these students which they noted can affect their academic performances negatively.

Anxiety surrounding examination and other specific situations affects approximately 25% to 40% of individuals with more females than males being affected. Anxiety interferes with school functioning only when an abnormal level is affected. Anxiety interferes with school functioning only when an abnormal level is reached, where as within normal range, being anxious does not automatically imply worst school functioning and indeed may to a certain extent be motivating and enhancing to academic performance (25). (10), ranked anxiety into four levels: mild, moderate, severe and panic anxiety.

Mild level of anxiety is healthy, at this level, perceptual field is heighten, pupils dilate to accommodate much light, hearing and smelling intensified and sense of touch is highly sensitive. The individual is highly alert and attentive and learning and cognition is in its best state. This stage improves academic performance.

Moderate level of anxiety on the other hand is unhealthy, the perceptional field of a person at this level is narrowed; individuals experiencing this level of anxiety have selective inattention. They have decreased focus and automatism can be observed as repetitive purposeless movements such as shaking of hands and feet, twirling of hair and tapping of fingers. Academic performance at this level depends on the individual’s ability to control the anxiety and carry out the assignment task.

Severe level of anxiety is characterized by reduced perceptual field and a difficulty in communication. Gross motor movements, such as pacing are characteristic of people at this stage. Academic performance at this stage depends on the educator’s ability to recognize such individuals and provide a safe environment for them. Communication should be kept short and simple since communication is altered. Performance at this stage is reduced since most educators may not be able to provide such environment for the student.

Panic level of anxiety is the worst and most severe form of anxiety. Total disruption of perceptual field is present. It is also characterized by loss of ability to communicate, loss of rational thought and total loss of conscious thinking. Academic performance at this level is very poor since the student will be unable to remember exactly what he/she is supposed to do.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Today in Nigeria, as in other parts the world, performance at examination is the yardstick for measuring, judging and selecting manpower, and for assessing students for promotion and the award of certificates. It is little wonder then that many students of tertiary institutions have anxiety particularly during examination and this has adversely affected their performance, this is because of the much emphasis laid on examination in schools and by job-offering agents of the society that students become convince that sustenance of life depends on their performance in examinations. They therefore cultivate fear of failures. Because of this failure, they resort to cheating during examinations, some even become involved in certificate racketeering and this attitude towards examination is a major element of the indiscipline of the wider society.

In Tertiary Institutions, clinical symptoms of test anxiety are made manifest when students start having abnormal rapid heartbeats, sweating palms or body, shivering and spilling their ink during examination. There have been also cases of students going insane or collapsing in examination halls because of such anxiety, this posses a big problem to both schools and society as a whole.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

Having taken cognizance of the nature of the problem posed by examination anxiety, the purpose of this study is therefore to:

1.   Find out the effect of examination anxiety on the performance of student of tertiary institution.

2.   Determine if there is any effect of examination anxiety on the academic performance of students.

3.   To ascertain if anxiety has a relationship with the academic performance among students.

1.4 Research Hypothesis

Hypothesis One

Ho: There is no significant predictive effect of examination anxiety on the academic performance of students.

Hi: There is no significant predictive effect of examination anxiety on the academic performance of students.

Hypothesis Two

Ho: Anxiety has no relationship with the academic performance among students.

Hi: Anxiety has a relationship with the academic performance among students.


The work of assessing students’ learning is complex. In order to assess their work objectively, teachers and instructors use various methods and instruments, one of which is testing. We are aware that nowadays testing has become an inherent part of the society we live in. we are tested in order to drive a car, to practice a trade or profession, and to gain admission into schools. Consequently, many important discussions are based on test results. So, it is not surprising that anxiety during test has become a prominent problem in schools all over the world. The present study focuses primarily on test anxiety and its effects on academic performance of students in tertiary institutions, as well as its causes and impacts.

The findings of this empirical study have implications for helping professionals and academia in addressing the menace of test anxiety of the test students in higher education so that timely and effectively counseling and therapeutic interventions could be introduced in colleges and universities.


This present study covers the students of only one institution, namely the faculty of education and Arts and Social Science, in Taraba State University, Jalingo.

However, in the course of this research, the following constraints were encountered thus:

1.   Non-availability of enough resources (finance): A work of this nature is very tasking financially, money had to be spent at various stages of the research such resources which may aid proper carrying out of the study were not adequately available.

2.   Time factor: The time used in carrying out the research work is relatively not enough to bring the best information out of it. However, I hope that the little that is contained in this study will go a long way in solving many greater problems.


ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: In Educational institutions, success is measured by academic performance or how well a student meets standards set out by the local government and the institution itself.

ANXIETY: Is a kind of anxiety which is related to the impending danger from the environment of the academic institution including teacher in certain subjects like Mathematics, English etc


This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows;

Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.  Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.

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