The Relationship Between Goal Setting and Students' Experience of Academic Test Anxiety

Michael Flannagan, Dave Putwain, Marie Caltabiona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have established that higher test anxiety (TA) is related to achievement goals with an avoidance valence. However, comprehensive empirical examination of relations between the recently proposed 3 £ 2 model of achievement goals (self, task, and other referenced goals along an approach-avoidance dimension) and test anxiety has yet to be undertaken. To address this gap, self-reported data were collected from 286 undergraduate students from England, Australia, and Singapore. Variable-centered regression analyses revealed the novel finding that over and above the influence of a range of covariates, including academic self-efficacy, a greater task-approach goal was associated with lower test-irrelevant thinking and bodily symptoms of TA. Further, a higher other-avoidance goal was related to higher worry and tension. Cluster analyses demonstrated that students tended to endorse multiple goals and, notably, strongly endorsed self and task goals above other-related achievement goals. Educational and clinical implications of these findings are: firstly, one may simultaneously endorse multiple achievement goals in profiles that can be associated with elevated or reduced TA, and secondly, the previously reported effects of mastery approach goals on TA may have been largely related to the influence of subsumed task-related goals. Results have implications for the management of students with debilitating TA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-201
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of School and Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Aug 2015


  • Test anxiety
  • achievement goals
  • multiple achievement goals
  • person-centered analysis
  • variable-centered analysis


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