TU study examines use of cortisol in evaluating test anxiety

High stakes testing is a reality for nursing students, and test anxiety can inhibit exam performance. To examine the presence of stress in a sample of junior and senior nursing students, Assistant Professor Lynn Clutter co-authored a research study with William Potter, TU professor of chemistry, TU doctoral student Ahlam Alarbi and University of Louisville Professor John Caruso.

cortisol and test anxietyCortisol has been established as a useful measure of stress. In the TU study, samples were collected from students prior to different classroom and test scenarios. The researchers noted that cortisol levels varied depending on the scenario and that seniors experienced lower levels of cortisol than did juniors, particularly during the final exam.

“We as nurse educators have a big responsibility in working with our students in addressing stress and high stakes examinations in progression through the nursing program,” said Clutter. “[This] shows great potential as a measure for evaluating test anxiety and that outcomes have implications for nurse educators in terms of curriculum load, in terms of progression, and specifically in terms of working with nursing students who have known test anxiety.”

The study is featured in the January/February issue of Nurse Educator, as well as a video overview featuring Clutter.