Reducing Test Anxiety and Improving Student Well-Being at General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) Level.

  • Kerry-Ann Brown

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Background: General Certificates in Secondary Education (GCSEs) may be a distinct source of stress and anxiety in the lives of many young people (Denscombe, 2000). Methods/ participants: An evaluative systematic literature review (SLR) sought to represent young people’s views and experiences of GCSE study, assessment and reform within the existing literature. 22 papers published between 1992-2018 were identified using a PRISMA framework and were included in a broadly configurative synthesis. An empirical study evaluates a school-based, multi-modal test anxiety intervention framework, ‘Every Little Helps’, developed by educational psychologists and delivered to small groups of GCSE students (15 students in total) in two secondary schools in the North West of England. A quasi-experimental, mixed methods approach was adopted, which utilised self-report test anxiety measures and individual semi-structured interviews. Analysis/ findings: SLR findings suggest that although GCSE study and assessment have positive aspects for many young people, for some young people GCSE study, assessment, and particularly recent reforms, appear to be relatively negative experiences; characterised by low levels of enjoyment and well-being and high levels of stress and test anxiety. Findings also suggest that agency, equality and fairness, and relatedness are important factors in mediating young people’s experiences of GCSE. Empirical findings suggest that ‘Every Little Helps’ is helpful in reducing test anxiety amongst GCSE students. Participants report a range of helpful outcomes including an increased sense of control and competence through increased academic attainment, enhanced control of emotions and more helpful ways of thinking. Participants also report beneficial wider impacts as a result of being able to generalise learnt skills and techniques to other aspects of their lives. Conclusion/ implications: Links to theory and practice, and implications for future research are considered. A dissemination strategy for sharing findings with those who may have a role in putting research findings into practice is also proposed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor) & Catharine Atkinson (Supervisor)


  • Student Well-being
  • GCSE
  • Test Anxiety

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