Test anxiety

Background

Laura, aged 11 years 7 months, was assessed on LASS 11-15 as part of the school’s routine screening programme. Her results are shown in Figure 15. She was not on the SEN register and her educational performance had never given cause for concern in the past: indeed, her primary school records suggested that she was a bright and conscientious student. 

Interpretation of LASS 11-15 results

The school’s policy was to screen all students on entry using the Sentence Reading, Spelling and Reasoning modules only, and then to administer further tests if these revealed any problems. In Laura’s case, although her literacy skills were clearly very good, the Reasoning module produced an unexpected low score (centile 23). It was therefore decided as a precaution to administer the diagnostic tests in the LASS suite. However, none of these showed any difficulties. The poor Reasoning test result, however, remained a puzzle.

Figure 15. Laura – a case of test anxiety and panic.

The teacher supervising the screening decided to interview Laura to try to get to the bottom of the problem. It turned out that Reasoning had been the first of the tests that Laura had attempted, and she had panicked. She explained that she had desperately wanted to do well but was nervous. She had never done a test on a computer before, and thought that unless she answered very quickly, she would be marked down. As a result she had guessed much of the time, rather than working out the answers, and so had done badly. After reassuring Laura, the teacher asked her to attempt the LASS Reasoning test once again, and this time she obtained a centile score of 78. To make absolutely sure, the teacher also administered a test of verbal intelligence (the British Picture Vocabulary Scale) on which she obtained a standard score of 120 (centile 83).