Test anxiety in primary school children: A 20-year systematic review and meta-analysis

Publication Name

Journal of School Psychology


This study sought to systematically review the full body of research on test anxiety in primary (elementary) school children aged 5–12 years. A comprehensive electronic and manual literature search identified 76 studies (85 independent samples; N = 53,617 children) that satisfied inclusion criteria. Inverse-variance weighted random effects meta-analysis showed that test anxiety related negatively to academic achievement in Mathematics (r = 0.21) and Literacy (r = −0.20), academic self-concept (r = −0.41), and self-efficacy (r = −0.39), and related positively to general anxiety (r = 0.62), social anxiety (r = 0.57), and depression (r = 0.45). Test anxiety was higher among girls than boys (d = 0.21) and in Asian samples compared to European and North American samples. There was some evidence of publication bias and heterogeneity across meta-analyses. Random effects meta-regression models further showed that the association between test anxiety and mathematics achievement was stronger among older children compared to younger children, and that gender differences in test anxiety scores were more prevalent in North American samples compared to Asian samples. Intervention studies targeting anxiety reduction have been successful in reducing test anxiety and improving test anxiety-related outcomes. Overall, findings from this systematic review and meta-analysis provide evidence that test anxiety varies in magnitude across populations and relates to multiple educational and psychosocial outcomes. We recommend further experimental studies that target the reduction of test anxiety among primary school children.

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