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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 20-25

Effectiveness of cognitive learning strategies on test anxiety and school performance of students

1 Department of Counselling, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran
2 Department of Counselling, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Kharazmi University, Tehran, Iran
3 Department of Counselling, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

Date of Web Publication3-Apr-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Roya Rasouli
Department of Counselling, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Alzahra University, Tehran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jepr.jepr_84_16

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AIM: This study aimed to effectiveness of cognitive learning strategies on test anxiety and school performance in female high school students.
METHODS: The study was quasi-experimental with pretest–posttest and random assignment and control group. The sample consisted of 60 individuals selected randomly who were divided into two groups, i.e., one experimental group and one control group. Data were collected through scale of anxiety test Sarason test anxiety scale(SAT) and students' marks in the middle-term examination and the final examination were collected from the history book. At first, both experimental and control groups were pretested through test anxiety scale. Their marks in the middle-term examination in history were considered. Then, cognitive learning strategies, including repeating and reviewing, expanding, summarizing, comparing and organizing, were reached to experimental group in four sections. Both groups were posttested again by SAT after the intervention. Descriptive statistics (mean and standard deviation) and inferential statistics (t-independent) were used to analyze data with SPSS-21 software.
RESULTS: The results of dependent and independent groups t-tests showed a significant difference between pretest and posttest scores of the experimental and control group (P < 0.05).
CONCLUSION: Hence, it was concluded that training on cognitive learning strategies has a positive effect, leading to a reduction of test anxiety and enhancement of the guidance school girls' educational performance.

Keywords: Cognitive learning strategies, school performance, students, test anxiety

How to cite this article:
Rasouli R, Alipour ZM, Ebrahim TP. Effectiveness of cognitive learning strategies on test anxiety and school performance of students. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2018;4:20-5

How to cite this URL:
Rasouli R, Alipour ZM, Ebrahim TP. Effectiveness of cognitive learning strategies on test anxiety and school performance of students. Int J Educ Psychol Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2023 Jan 27];4:20-5. Available from: https://www.ijeprjournal.org/text.asp?2018/4/1/20/229139

  Introduction Top

Various types of anxiety disorders have high rates of morbidity all over the world. Tests are one of the sources of anxiety creating high levels of stress in students. This kind of anxiety prevents students' academic achievements and imposes enormous expenses on societies. Although an appropriate level of test anxiety is essential for students and motivates them to be more diligent, eminence role of test in education system has increased students' test anxiety significantly, in comparison to the previous decades; in America, 10 million of school students and 0.15–0.20 of college students reported to have test anxiety. Near to 17.2 of students in Iran suffer from test anxiety. In fact, test anxiety is common kind of anxiety disorder and an important issue in education system with close relationship with students' academic achievement and is momentous predictor of their academic performance.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

Test anxiety is specifically related to taking tests. Sarason defined test anxiety as persistent concern with self, peered with low self-confidence and associated with negative cognitive evaluation, lack of concentration, unpleasant physical reactions, and low efficiency in tests. Therefore, test anxiety can be considered as multidimensional response to test situations including a set of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and physical elements. Sieber defined test anxiety as a special form of general anxiety consisted of phenomenological, behavioral, and physiologic responses related to fear of failure that students experience it in evaluation situations. Akca also considered test anxiety as a severe emotional reaction that students experience it before and during tests. Test anxiety has at least two separate components: worrisome and irritability.[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13]

Spilberger believed that worrisome is associated with cognitive anxiety and negative perception of function, capacity and efficiency, while irritability is associated with emotional and physical arouse in test period. Since anxious students tend to consider the test situation as a threat, they respond to it by anxiety. Chen emphasized on the pressure imposed on students by their parents as a source of test anxiety.[14],[15]

Some studies have shown that students with test anxiety, besides education problems, constantly suffer from cognitive problems and rarely challenge with physical difficulties. For example, Smith and Caputi declared that main reason of students' function failure is that they cannot attend to those parts related to homework and have unrelated thoughts that hinder their academic success. From the cognitive point of view, test anxiety was defined as situation that student attention is distracted by sudden thoughts and does not let concentrate on homework. Ergene studied test anxiety and compared it with emotional components. Simple effect in test anxiety results in a significant difference in lower test grades, but it is not the case about the emotional aspect peered by a kind of irritability.[16],[17],[18],[19]

Many different methods have been proposed to decrease anxiety. Including the use of anti-anxiety drugs are not without side effects or the use of nonpharmacological methods of noninvasive and cost-effective sometimes known as complementary therapies. One of these treatments extensive uses is cognitive learning strategies.

The history of attending to cognitive factors in human learning and behavior comes back to 50 years ago. Nowadays, developed countries follow cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies in their educational systems and have eliminated traditions approaches such as lecture and roundtable. In fact, they have realized the importance of acquisitive factors such as learning strategies besides natural precedents of learning such as intelligence and aptitude. These learning strategies are divided into two groups of “cognitive” and “meta-cognitive” strategies. Learning strategies help students to link newly learned information with previous ones and storing them in long-term memory. Learning strategies can be put into three general categories: review (repeat), meaning expansion, and organization. Review or repetition strategy is defined as the active repetition of a subject to memorize it including choosing keywords and marking and highlighting important parts. Meaning expansion means to adding meaning to newly learned information to link them to previously learned information. Making notes, summarizing, making comparison, mental imagery are some of its techniques. Organization as the best and most complete learning strategy implies to giving kind of organizational structure to read materials. This strategy has several technics such as information classification, perceptual map, and perceptual pattern. Lacks of these strategic skills are as reason of students' hopelessness and failure in learning. Using proper learning strategies, balanced self-confidence, and release from anxiety are necessary for academic achievement, however, they declare that having high levels of test anxiety is not only reason of academic failures and other factors such as deficit in studding approach, kind and reduction of progress motivation, weak organization, and improper process of information are engaged in it.[20],[21],[22],[23],[24]

Studies have shown that anxiety has an important relationship with learning. Anxiety and stress and frustration tended root of many physical problem within gees is one that will not destroy it. Test anxiety is the main factor contributing to a variety of negative consequences, including psychological distress, failure to complete academic education, and insecurity. In recent years many studies have been done on test anxiety. For instance, Shokrpour et al. showed that using cognitive and meta-cognitive learning strategies leads to improvement of students' academic achievement and reduces their test anxiety. Zarei et al. also compared effectiveness of cognitive, behavior, and cognitive-behavior approaches on decline of students' test anxiety. They concluded that three approaches were useful, while cognitive-behaviour strategies were more effective. In the study, van de Weijer-Bergsma et al. revealed that group sessions of teaching mindfulness techniques could reduce test anxiety significantly. Ostadyan et al. reported usefulness of group counseling by Ellis's rational-emotional-behavior approach on reduction of test anxiety and improvement of self-steam of female students. The research of Ataei Nakhaee et al. showed that group therapy based on pervasive consciousness in comparison to teaching study skills were more effective in reducing students' test and trait anxiety. In another study, Sobh et al. compared efficacy of cognitive therapy and teaching study skills and found that both strategies could reduce test anxiety significantly. Izadi Far and Sepasi Ashtiani also reported that a combination of cognitive-behavior techniques with problem-solving skills was efficacious in reducing test anxiety and improving academic function of high school students.[14],[16],[25],[26],[27],[28],[29]

Although various approaches (e.g., cognitive and meta-cognitive, behavioral, relaxation, and regular desensitization) have been designed for reducing test anxiety and many studies have been done in this field, great number of students suffer from this phenomenon and encounter academic failure. Therefore, this study was done with the aim of investigating the effectiveness of simple and applied strategy to reduce this problem and as well as determining the role of teaching cognitive learning skills in decline of test anxiety and improvement of academic improvement of female high school students. This study aimed to effectiveness of cognitive learning strategies on test anxiety and school performance in girl high school students.

  Methods Top

The study was quasi-experimental with pre-test–post-test and random assignment and control group.

The population of the study consisted of high school female students in Yazd city. Subjects were 60 individuals who were selected as sample from population and were assigned randomly to experimental groups and control group (30 individuals in the experimental group and 30 individuals in the control group).

Sarason test anxiety scale

This questionnaire has 25 words for yes and no is the answer for it, one which brings a maximum score of 25, which indicates severe anxiety and the minimum score is zero, which indicates a lack of anxiety. Lower scores of 8 indicate moderate level and intense levels are higher than 12. Internal consistency of this scale through a split-half reliability coefficient was 91% and retest coefficient of 82% was reported after 6 weeks. Sarason anxiety test's reliability using Cronbach's alpha was reported 88%.[30]

To measure academic achievement as well as mid-term and final test scores of students was used.

  Procedure Top

The sampling was conducted randomly among schools in Yazd (4 schools) and a total of 342 students were selected and Sarason test anxiety scale was conducted on students. To study the effectiveness of therapeutic intervention, test anxiety were 60 individuals who were gained higher score of test anxiety was selected and randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. Experimental groups received four sessions of cognitive learning strategies and the control group received no intervention.

Before starting interventions, to investigate the extent and prevalence of test anxiety, test anxiety questionnaire pretest was conducted on two groups. Then, each for four sessions of 1 h cognitive learning skills was taught. Meetings are held once a week for 4 consecutive weeks, respectively. Outline the content of sessions were as follows:

First session

Objectives are (1) general introduction (2) understanding and learning strategies, and (3) referrals familiar with the cognitive learning strategies.

The plan includes (1) (a) introducing coach to group and (b) introducing members of group to each other, (2) (a) cognitive strategies (repetition and review, developed and developing, organizing) and (b) metacognitive strategies, and (3) training cognitive learning first strategy, strategy of repetition, and review.

Second session

Objectives are (1) introduction and (2) ambiguities with bug fixes before the second session cognitive learning strategies.

The Procedure includes (1) ask questions of the students respond to them by the instructor and (2) train second strategy cognitive learning, expansion, and development strategy.

Third session

Objectives are (1) introduction and (2) continue ambiguities with bug fixes before the second session cognitive learning strategies.

The Procedure includes (1) ask questions of the students and answer questions from instructor's teaching and (2) learning second cognitive strategies (summary of analogy).

Fourth session

Objectives are (1) introduction and (2) ambiguities with bug fixes before the third session cognitive learning strategies.

The Procedure includes (1) ask questions of the students and answer questions from the instructor and (2) the third training cognitive learning strategy, organization strategy.

Ethical considerations participate in the study were as follows: (1) Participants in participation or leaving their cooperation in the study were free at any time without penalty. (2) The training was conducted by this paper's authors and questionnaire was completed by the participants under the supervision of researchers. (3) Sufficient argument about the necessity of this study was presented to the participants. (4) To reassure participants for each of the confidentiality and secrecy in this study was described. (5) The participants were assured that the reported results as a guarantee for their material and immaterial rights and related research, (6) At any stage of research, it did not impose a cost to the participant.

Note: A workshop was held for the control group to comply with the ethical principle of justice in research after research. One week after the end of training, posttest (used questionnaire in pretest) was conducted for the experimental group and control group.

Descriptive statistics (mean and standard deviation) and inferential statistics (t-independent) were used to analyze data with (IBM® SPSS® Statistics V21.0, United state) software.

  Results Top

To evaluate the impact of cognitive learning strategies on reducing anxiety and increasing academic achievement was associated with t. Descriptive findings of this study are shown in [Table 1] and [Table 2].
Table 1: Descriptive parameters of pretest and posttest anxiety in the experimental and control group

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Table 2: Descriptive parameters of pretest and posttest average in the experimental and control group

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As shown in [Table 1], mean of test anxiety has been reduced in posttest in the experimental group while it is higher in posttest in the control group.

[Table 2] reveals the increase of mean average of posttest in the experimental group, while it is reduced in the control group. t-independent test was used to compare the difference between anxiety scores in pretest and posttest as well as the average scores in the experimental and control groups. Results are presented in [Table 3] and [Table 4].
Table 3: t-independent test to compare the difference in scores of test anxiety in pretest and posttest in the experimental and control group

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Table 4: t-independent test to compare the difference in scores of average scores in pretest and posttest in the experimental and control group

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According to [Table 3], test significance level is almost zero (<α = 0.05). Therefore, there is a significant difference in test anxiety scores between the experimental and control group. Hence, the first hypothesis (teaching-learning strategies reduce test anxiety) is confirmed.

As shown in [Table 4], test significance level is almost zero (<α = 0.05). Hence, the difference in average scores in pretest and posttest between the experimental and control group can be attributed to the applied intervention. Therefore, the second hypothesis (teaching-learning strategies improve school performance) is also confirmed.

  Discussion Top

The results revealed a significant difference between scores of test anxiety and academic success of experimental and control groups. In other words, teaching learning strategies succeeded in reducing test anxiety and improving academic achievement of experimental group participants.

In general, literature review in this field confirms that cognitive approaches are useful for reducing test anxiety and improving academic function. For instance, Cano, Shokrpour et al., Zarei, Ataei Nakhaee et al., Cano, and Gregor showed that academic achievement is higher in students who use higher levels of learning strategies in comparison to those who use lower levels. Furthermore, Zarei and Marandi studied relationships between learning strategies and academic achievement and reported significant relations among critical thinking, expansion, and organization strategies with academic success.[14],[16],[27],[31],[32],[33]

In explaining these findings, it can be said that teaching learning strategies enables students to manage their learning processes and motivates them to do their homework.[34] In fact, these strategies reinforce master feeling over education materials and finally reduce test anxiety and improve academic achievement. To bias believed that improper study habits and inadequate study are two main reasons of test anxiety. Teaching learning strategies causes semantic expansion and organization of education materials and therefore facilitates information retrieval. Students, who use low level of learning strategies, have problems in information processing and deep comprehension of materials. Hence, they have weak functions that in turn cause students to doubt their abilities, lose their self-confidence, and suffer from learned hopelessness. In such a case, students may think that they will be failed even if they try hard. In other words, they conclude that the test result does not depend on their functions. When students get the same permanent adverse results in contrast to their hard attempts, it is not a surprise to develop test anxiety. Such students may not know that their failures are due using wrong learning strategies. In fact, they probably use the same, drab strategies that do not help in effective retrieval of studied information. These strategies are boring and induce the students a sense of compulsion and cause them to feel that they do not have any role in studying and learning. However, cognitive learning strategies (review and repetition, semantic expansion, and organization) engage students in learning process. These strategies are varied and students decide to use which one for studding different courses. In addition, cognitive learning strategies combine newly learned information with the previous ones and therefore reduce students' anxiety and improve their academic achievement.[27],[35]

This research had several limitations. First, it was done on a relative small sample. Second, the academic achievement was measured only based on grades in “History” course. Third, the participants were only female students. Therefore, it is suggested that future studies be done on greater sample, use grades of other courses, and examine the effectiveness of these strategies on male students, too. Specifically, about the later limitation, findings are contradictory. For example, Sadock and Bayrami and Abdi reported that test anxiety was higher in female students while the study of Beh Pajoh revealed higher levels of test anxiety in male students. Therefore, it is suggested to pay more attention to difference of male and female students in test anxiety.[36],[37],[38]

The education system and society are concerned for fates and successful developments of students suffering from test anxiety. They expect that various cognitive, emotional, and personal aspects develop admissibly in these students, so they become able to obtain necessary skills and abilities for prosper.[39]

Since several studies have shown that students with test anxiety use low cognitive level of learning strategies, it is suggested that teachers investigate students learning strategies at the beginning of academic year and modify them if it is necessary.[40],[41],[42]

Due to the limited number of studies in this field, to investigate further this approach, future studies in this regard, using samples randomly chosen groups, using different tools in assessing critical thinking and metacognition, study with larger number of students in mainstream features different person, different courses, and different fields of study, are suggested.

Among the limitations of this study is limited generalizability of the results of the statistical sample was gender. The subjects in this study only include first-grade to third-grade girl's high school in Yazd city. So to generalize the results to other grade and gender should be used with caution.


We are deeply thankful for the cooperation all the participants who were taking apart in this study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]

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