Online MCQ Assessment Anxiety Amongst 1st Year Psychology Students


  • Gareth Davies University of the Highlands and Islands



Higher Education, Academic Practice, Education


First year undergraduate students studying psychology online with the University of the Highlands and Islands experienced anxiety while taking the first of two online multiple choice question (MCQ) assessments. The literature reveals that test anxiety, computer anxiety and technostress have been recognised as issues for some time. As a distributed University that relies heavily on online technology, these issues are potentially significant for UHI and other higher education institutions utilising online learning platforms. Feedback from students after the first MCQ assessment revealed that test anxiety, computer anxiety and technostress were all experienced in some form during the deployment of the assessment. Consequentially, steps were taken to mitigate against these reported issues. Detailed technical advice and guidance was issued ahead of the second online MCQ assessment. End of module feedback from students indicated that anxiety-related issues were reduced by the advice issued to them. For subsequent cohorts of students, formative assessments and detailed technical advice and guidance were issued. MCQ tests were reduced from two to one. An examination of assessment pass rates and feedback for this second cohort of students indicated that the use of a formative assessment and detailed technical advice and guidance deployed prior to the summative assessment were effective at ameliorating against online test anxiety. There are a number of factors that might interact in a complex way to affect student performance in an online MCQ test setting. It is important that wherever possible, we deploy assessments that are a valid test of students’ knowledge and understanding of subject material rather than their ability to deal with situations that engender anxiety and stress.

Author Biography

Gareth Davies, University of the Highlands and Islands

Programme Leader: Master of Education

Programme Leader: Postgraduate Certificate Research Methods

Lecturer; various postgraduate and undergraduate degree modules, primarily psychology and research methods.


Alpert, R., & Haber, R. (1960). Anxiety in academic achievement situations. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 61, 207–215.


Biggs, J. (1979). Individual differences in study processes and the quality of learning outcomes. Higher Education, 8(4), 381–394.


Birjandi, P., & Alemi, M. (2010). The Impact of test anxiety on test performance among Iranian EFL learners. BRAIN. Broad Research in Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience, 1(4), 44–58.

Bozionelos, N. (2001). Computer experience: Relationship with computer experience and prevalence. Computers in Human Behavior, 17, 213–224.


Hembree, R. (1988). Correlates, causes, effects, and treatment of test anxiety. Review of Educational Research, 58(1), 47–77.


Korobili S., Togia A., & Malliari A. (2009). Computer anxiety and attitudes among undergraduate students in Greece. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 399–405.


McKeachie, W. J., Pollie D., & Speisman, J. (1955). Relieving anxiety in classroom examinations. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 50, 93–98.


Monideepa, T., Qiang, T., & Ragu-Nathan, T. (2011). Crossing to the dark side: Examining creators, outcomes, and inhibitors of technostress. ACM, 54(09), 113–120.


Parasuraman, S., & Igbaria , M. (1990). An examination of gender differences in the determinants of computer anxiety and attitudes toward microcomputers among managers. International Journal of Man Machine Studies, 32(3), 327–340.


Reber, A. S., & Reber E. S. (2001). Penguine Dictionary of Psychology (3rd ed.). London: Penguine.

Wang, K., Shu, Q., & Tu., K. (2008). Technostress under different organizational environments: Anempirical investigation. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 3002–3013.


Zeidner, M. (1998). Test anxiety: The state of the art. New York, NY: Plenum Press.






Studies on Student Perceptions