In this TILE Webinar on “Exam Anxiety: Is It Something to Worry About?”, Prof David Putwain shared insight into the role of exam anxiety for performance and for mental health in students. He presented eye-opening data that show that students reporting high levels of test anxiety is associated with lower grades and lower mental health. He further elaborates that the focus on tackling exam anxiety is a rather recent research field as the issue was not recognised before. For that reason, the research around this topic is still in the beginning, but developing at a faster rate now.


Here are the main points from his talk:


  1. Prof Putwain presents a new questionnaire he and his colleagues developed that assesses exam anxiety and demonstrates its validity to capture exam anxiety in students.
  2. He further shows that test anxiety reduces information processing capacity and wellbeing in students.
  3. Females report higher levels of test anxiety compared to males, but the reasons for this is not clear. It could be that females indeed experience more test anxiety than males, but it could also be that females are more willing to report that they experience test anxiety compared to males. A complete understanding of this finding is still pending.
  4. A test anxiety intervention (STEPS; Strategies to Tackle Exam Pressure and Stress) is presented which shows promising short-term effects – in the discussion in the end we talked a bit about sustainable long-term effects.
  5. Finally, Prof Putwain offers some ideas on how test anxiety may be exacerbated in novel online learning and teaching situations. However, these ideas are speculative at this point, but interesting to start thinking about in our current pivoted instructional settings.

 The talk is concluded by a wide range of resources and practical tips.

All materials can be found in this post.


Anecdotal evidence would indicate that in the past five years or so, a greater number of adolescent secondary school students are seeking support to deal with the anxiety and pressure associated with preparing for, and taking, high-stakes exams. This has prompted questions such as why more students are requesting help, how many are experiencing high levels of anxiety and whether this figure is increasing, what the effects of exam anxiety might be, and what can schools do about it. In this webinar, Professor Putwain will be sharing findings from research largely conducted from 2016 to 2020 into the prevalence of exam anxiety, relations with achievement and mental health, and interventions designed to reduce exam anxiety.


About the speaker:

Professor David Putwain is based in the Centre of Educational Research in the School of Education at Liverpool John Moores University. He taught Psychology and Sociology in schools and 6th form colleges from 1994 to 2006. After completing a PhD in 2006, David joined Edge Hill University working initially in the Department of Social and Psychological Sciences and subsequently in the Faculty of Education, before joining Liverpool John Moores University in 2016. His research focuses on how psychological factors including motivation, emotion, and engagement, influence, and in turn are influenced by, learning and achievement.