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Test Anxiety and the GRE General Test GREB GRE

Powers, Donald E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RR-86-45, GREB-83-17P (1986)
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Graduate Record Examinations Board, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), Surveys, Test Administration, Test Anxiety, Test Taking Behavior, Testing Problems


A survey was designed and administered to a large, stratified random sample of GRE test takers in order to: (a) provide baseline data regarding the prevalence and severity of test anxiety among GRE test takers; (b) determine the relationship of self-reported test anxiety to GRE test performance and to examinees' knowledge/perceptions of selected aspects of GRE test taking and graduate admissions; and (c) obtain GRE test takers' assessments of the contribution of various factors to test anxiety, as well as suggestions for minimizing test anxiety. A significant proportion of GRE test takers report that they experience at least a moderate degree of test anxiety, and some report relatively severe anxiety. On average, however, GRE examinees do not appear to be substantially more anxious about GRE test taking than about a number of other evaluative situations. Two aspects of test anxiety?worry, i.e., cognitive concern over test performance; and emotionality, i.e., reports of physiological reactions?were found to be very strongly related, but distinguishable by virtue of their different patterns of correlations with other variables, including GRE General Test scores. Examinee self-reports of both worry and emotionality were moderately related to test performance on each section of the GRE General Test, with higher anxiety associated with lower test performance. (These relationships were essentially identical for each ethnic or racial group considered.) Worry was more strongly related than emotionality to test performance, and, when they were considered together, only worry remained highly related to test performance. The results do not establish a direction of causality. Nor do they establish the levels at which test anxiety may facilitate rather than debilitate test taking.

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