Author Information

Shannon McCormack


During a time that involves a struggle with self-esteem and identity, the college environment and academic stress only make emerging adulthood more challenging for college students. Previous research has shown that low self-esteem is consistently linked with low academic performance in students. Previous research also suggests that the presence of test anxiety negatively affects academic performance. I sought to target the role of self-esteem in emerging adults’ test anxiety, hypothesizing that students who struggled with low self-esteem would report psychological and physiological symptoms of anxiety during exams. American college students were recruited via email and social media and 111 participants completed an online survey regarding their lives as emerging adults. The results demonstrated that participants who suffered from frequent anxious thoughts and physical distress during exams also suffered from low academic self-esteem and low test-taking confidence. Additionally, participants who experienced anxious thoughts during exams also experienced physiological symptoms like sweating and rapid heartbeat. Female participants were found to have experienced anxious thoughts during exams more frequently than male participants suggesting a gender difference in test anxiety. The results of this research indicate that self-esteem in academia does play a large role in whether a student suffers from test anxiety. These results can be used to identify and alleviate symptoms of test anxiety in the traditional college classroom environment to improve test scores and the overall mental health of emerging adults.

Note on the Author

Shannon McCormack is a junior Honors student double majoring in Elementary Education and Psychology. Her research was completed in Spring 2021 in BSU’s Research Methods II course under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Schwab (Psychology). In addition to her work in the field of psychology, she has also completed research on the topics of racial justice and equity in education. Shannon has showcased her research at three of BSU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium events. For her Honors thesis work she will continue conducting her own research on the topic of antiracist education.

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