Test anxiety and achievement testing: Cognitive interference of skills deficit

James P Browne, Pace University


This paper examines the effects of test anxiety and prior academic achievement on performance on two different standardized achievement tests. The goal is to investigate competing predictions of the "interference" and "deficit" explanations of test anxiety. The long standing "interference" hypothesis assumes that anxiety interferes with cognitive processing during testing. The competing "deficit" hypothesis suggests that the poor performance of test anxious examinees is attributable to skill deficits and not test anxiety. This study examined the performance of 402 participants (164 males and 268 females) on both a reading comprehension test and a mathematics test when the effects of both test anxiety and prior achievement were controlled. Results suggest that the cognitive interference associated with test anxiety (i.e., worrying), prior academic achievement, and gender contribute independently to performance. Findings are discussed both in terms of their implications for test anxiety theory and the practice of school psychology.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Educational evaluation

Recommended Citation

Browne, James P, "Test anxiety and achievement testing: Cognitive interference of skills deficit" (1991). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9112974.



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