The Interactive Effects of Social Support and Test Anxiety on Student Academic Performance

Article excerpt

It is well established that the examination performance of students is affected not just by academic ability and knowledge, but also by how well they think they are capable of doing in their examinations, their academic self confidence (Hembree, 1990). Such self confidence can be raised considerably by the receipt of support from friends and family and their peers, fellow students in the classroom (Sarason and Sarason, 1994). However, as made clear by House (1991), social support from such different sources is not equally helpful in improving academic performance through its effect on confidence. Because students typically do not have the same kind of relations with persons outside and inside the classroom, he argues that support from these two sources should have different effects on confidence and hence on academic performance. This argument provides the impetus for the present study, which examines the extent to which support from family or friends and from fellow students moderates the relationship between examination performance mid test anxiety, conceived as the opposite of academic self confidence; i.e., the extent to which peer support and outside support respectively interact with test anxiety to determine differences in academic performance.

The subjects of the study were 121 first year management students at a college of higher education, all of whom were living at home and thus potentially capable of receiving support from family and friends in their studies. Subjects indicated all peers and family and friends who provided them with "help and assistance in of any kind in dealing with the upcoming examination". For each person nominated, subjects indicated (a) how supportive they were - from very little (1) to very often (7) - and (b) how frequently they provided support - from very seldom (1) to very often (7). Following the suggestion of Cutrona and Russell (1990), these two ratings were multiplied for each supporter and then summed separately across nominated peers and nominated family and friends, to yield total scores indicating perceived peer support and perceived outside support respectively. Test anxiety was measured by a 10 item version of the Test Anxiety Scale of Sarason and Sarason (1978), whilst academic performance was given by the average percentage marks obtained in their final examination for the four courses taken by all the subjects.

The mean scores (and standard deviations) of the sample were for peer support 10.66 (2.45), outside support 39.42 (7.16), test anxiety 29.43 (6.33) and academic performance 58.99 (11.83). Hierarchical regression was used to test for possible moderator effects, with the interaction term entered after the main effects had been calculated (Cohen and Cohen, 1983). …