Effects of test anxiety on first-year engineering students' stem success

Justin Charles Major, Matthew Scheidt, Allison Godwin, Edward J. Berger, John Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In this research paper, we explore the impact of test anxiety on first-year engineering students' STEM success. Exams are a prevalent mechanism for evaluating student learning in engineering. However, when confronted with an exam, some students suffer from test anxiety, resulting in detrimental impacts to their performance in engineering. Outside of engineering education, test anxiety has been negatively correlated to GPA. However, there have been few test anxiety-GPA studies in engineering. Studies from other fields, like biology, indicate that there are persistent gender-based "grade anomalies" between women's performance in science courses compared to their overall GPA. Many studies indicate that these results are not due to group differences in ability, but rather structural challenges that differentially affect members of underrepresented groups. Based on this prior work, we investigate the previously studied role of gender and race/ethnicity on levels of test anxiety and performance in STEM; we also explore the role of neighborhood socioeconomic status and first-generation status. Test anxiety was measured using self-reported responses to the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). We first used pairwise tests to examine between-group average differences. Then, we examined the relationship between test anxiety and first-year engineering students' grade point average (GPA) in science, mathematics, engineering, and in STEM courses overall as mediated by their group membership. Results suggest test anxiety positively (directionally), but problematically (experiencing anxiety), impacts performance for women in science, mathematics, and STEM overall. We discuss these findings in relation to the STEM gender filter further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number555
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Externally publishedYes
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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