An analysis of test anxiety in English L2 oral tests for university level students: A study on test anxiety in two instances of oral evaluations in Licenciatura en Lingüística y Literatura Inglesas at Universidad de Chile
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When learning a second language, oral evaluations are one of the most reliable evaluative methods. One commonly overlooked aspect of this is the anxiety associated with these instances. The influence of test anxiety during oral evaluations is an area of linguistics poorly studied to say the least. The study reported in this paper aims at identifying if and how anxiety can influence learners’ performance in oral evaluations and in their learning process. This investigation was carried out on a group of students and graduates from the programme Licenciatura en Lingüística y Literatura Inglesas at Universidad de Chile, regarding two instances of high-stake oral exams: the second year Lengua Inglesa Nivel Intermedio oral exam and the Fonología Inglesa Suprasegmental y Dialectología I oral exam taken to third year students. The data collection procedures consisted of a qualitative survey that asked students to indicate which factors they considered contributed to their test anxiety. We also applied the STAI questionnaire to students, which distinguishes anxiety as a personality trait from anxiety as a response to a situation. The results show that students experience anxiety in the previously mentioned exams due to various factors, which go from the overall design of the evaluative instance to its evaluators and the consistency of the exams with the programme. Additionally, we found that students’ anxiety levels were not reflected on their exam scores, yet they did present anxiety levels higher than normal. This may be a reflection of the normalisation of anxiety in evaluative instances in the programme, especially in oral exams.
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