Test Scores on Timed Exams Decline Over Time Without a Significant Increase in Physiological Stress
Dan Tran, Thuy
Journal of Advanced Student Sciences (JASS)
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In today’s world, there is a lot of pressure to perform well on exams. Schools and workplaces rely on tests to evaluate individuals. While these institutions intend to test for cognitive function, there are a number of variables affecting these evaluations, such as stress, test anticipation, and other physiological factors. Our study examined the relationship between physiological stress and timed cognitive performance, specifically if the stress of test performance positively feedbacks on an individual’s respiratory rate, blood pressure, and heart rate. We predicted that these three physiological factors would increase as testing progressed, and that concurrently test performance would decline. Our results indicate that there was no significant change in heart rate or mean arterial blood pressure (MABP), although we did see a significant increase in respiratory rate following the first test section. Our data may therefore lead us to believe that students’ responses to testing situations are highly variable and do not collectively follow a general trend. A trend we did find to be statistically significant is declining performance in latter sections of the test. For test takers, it may be helpful to take note of their own stress patterns when taking exams and to adjust their strategies for maintaining calmness in order to potentially maintain high test performance throughout the evaluation.