Understanding Learner Trait, Test and Computer Anxiety in the Context of Computer-Based Testing

Understanding Learner Trait, Test and Computer Anxiety in the Context of Computer-Based Testing

Elena C. Papanastasiou (University of Nicosia, Cyprus), Aimilia Tzanavari (University of Nicosia, Cyprus) and Patricia Lowe (University of Kansas-Lawrence, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-392-0.ch008
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Testing is an integral part of the learning process that aims to estimate the learner’s abilities as accurately and efficiently as possible. This estimation frequently is influenced by factors such as the learner’s emotional state and traits. This chapter looks into the area of Computer-based Testing (CBT), visiting the relevant literature on the subject, and then investigates the particular emotional states of learner trait, test and computer anxiety in that context. A study was carried out and revealed that although both trait and test anxiety as variables do not significantly affect learner performance, computer anxiety does. Finally, future research trends in this area are outlined.
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The goal of tests in general, as well as of computer-based tests is to be able to estimate the examinee’s abilities as accurately and efficiently as possible, by removing as many extraneous effects (such as the computer itself) as possible. However, in many cases the computer itself might become an obstacle to the learning and testing process. The medium of computer technology might even be a reason that can explain a portion of the differences in the performance of students on computer administered tests compared to paper-and-pencil tests. For example, many examinees might be unfamiliar with the use of computers for learning purposes, or for taking tests on the computer. More specifically, they might be unfamiliar with the computer-testing mode, or with the fact that they have to read the test items on a computer screen and enter their answers through the keyboard. Therefore, taking tests on the computer might create anxiety for such examinees, and even more so for test anxious examinees (Wise, Roos, Plake & Nebelsick-Gullett, 1994). However, the literature seems to be lacking in this area, since relatively few studies have examined examinee characteristics and their levels of trait, test and computer anxiety in relation to computer administered tests. This is even more so when considering examinees of lower socioeconomic status (SES) that do not have frequent access to computer technology. Such students might not be as familiar with the use of computers, and more specifically with taking tests on a computer, which in turn could interfere with their test performance.

Examinees with high levels of computer or test anxiety might end up responding to computer administered tests in ways that are different compared to the examinees that are familiar with the use of the computer and with taking tests on them. Individual differences like these can provide a framework for explaining significant divergences in test performance and be used to improve the way computer-based tests are designed. Therefore, it is essential for researchers to also understand the examinee characteristics, and on how they can be simulated appropriately in simulation studies, and how that can affect the creation of e-learning content and their corresponding tests (Harwell, Stone, Hsu & Kirisci, 1996; Stocking, Steffen & Eignor, 2001).

This chapter examines the level of test anxiety and computer anxiety that is held by students in Cyprus, in relation to their performance on a computer-based test. More specifically, this chapter attempts to provide answers to the following research questions:

  • Can the variables of overall anxiety, computer anxiety, and test anxiety predict a significant portion of an examinee’s score on a computer-based abstract reasoning test?

  • What are the variables that affect the levels of test and computer anxiety for undergraduate students in Cyprus?

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