How first year occupational therapy students rate the degree to which anxiety negatively impacts on their performance in skills assessments: A pilot study at the University of South Australia.


  • Prue Welsh University of South Australia


‘Skills assessments’ are a form of assessment in the University of South Australia occupational therapy program. Both teaching staff and students have reported concerns around the use of skills assessments with regard to the level of anxiety evoked as a result of the live performance and confrontational aspects of the assessment format. This pilot study involved a cohort of 76 occupational therapy students. Feedback was sought around a specific skills assessment piece, with reference to student perceptions of their related anxiety; the impact of this anxiety on their learning; and subsequently, the ‘fairness’ of this assessment format. In addition, the study explored student perceptions of their anxiety resulting from the skills assessments as compared with that of written assessments. Results suggested that whilst skills assessments evoked heightened levels of anxiety prior to the commencement of the assessment, these symptoms abated during the assessment and did not have a significant negative impact on student ability to meet learning objectives. The results also suggested that the evoked anxiety did not result in an unfair assessment of their abilities. In addition, the majority of students indicated the anxiety resulting from skills assessments was not dissimilar from the anxiety experienced during written assessments.


Arndt, C, Guly, U & McManus, I 2009, ‘Preclinical anxiety: the stress associated with a viva voce examination’, Medical Education, vol. 20, no. 4, pp 274–280.

Biggs, J & Collis, K 1982, Evaluating the Quality of Learning: the SOLO Taxonomy, Academic Press, New York.

Biggs, J & Tang, C 2007, Teaching for quality learning at university,

rd edn, Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education, Berkshire.

Bloom, B & Krathwohl, D 1956, Taxonomy of educational objectives:

The classification of educational goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain, Longmans, New York.

Brand, H & Schoonheim-Klein, M 2009, ‘Is the OSCE more stressful? Examination anxiety and its consequences in different assessment methods in dental education’, European Journal of Dental Education, vol. 13, pp. 147- 153.

Brown, S 2008, “Fit for Purpose Assessment”, Refereed proceedings of the 2008 ATN Assessment Conference: Engaging Students in Assessment, University of South Australia, viewed Dec 18 2008, <> .

Carter, B & Whittaker, K 2009, ‘Examining the British PhD viva: Opening new doors or scarring for life?, Contemporary Nurse, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 169 – 178.

Christiansen, C & Baum, C 2005, Occupational Therapy: Performance, Participation and Wellbeing, 3rd edn, SLACK Incorporated, New Jersey.

Depoy, E & Gitlin, L 2005, Introduction to Research: Understanding and Applying Multiple Strategies, 3rd edn, Elsevier Mosby, Missouri, USA.

Huberty, T 2010, ‘Test Performance and Anxiety’, Principal leadership, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 12-16.

CAOT 2002, Enabling Occupation: An Occupational Therapy Perspective, 2nd edn, CAOT Publications ACE, Ottowa.

Marshall, G & Jones, N 2003, ‘A pilot study into anxiety induced by various assessment methods’, Radiography, vol. 9, pp. 185–191.

University of South Australia 2012, Guidelines for evaluation activities

involving UniSA students and staff, University South Australia, viewed 6 July 2013, <>

Pearce, G & Lee, G 2010, ‘Viva Voce (Oral Examination) as an Assessment Method: Insights from Marketing Students’, Journal of Marketing Education, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 120-130.

Phillips, A 1998, ‘Reducing nursing students’ anxiety level and increasing retention of materials’, Journal of Nursing Education, vol. 27, pp. 35–41.

Prosser, M & Trigwell, K 1999. Understanding Learning and Teaching: the experience in higher education. SRHE, Buckingham/ Philadelphia.

Ramsden, R 2003, Learning to Teach in Higher Education: 2 edn, RoutledgeFalmer, London/ New York.

Shallaly, G & Ali, E 2004, ‘Use of a Video-Projected Structured Clinical Examination (ViPSCE) Instead of the Traditional Oral (Viva) Examination in the Assessment of Final Year Medical Students’, Education for Health, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 17-26.

Spielberger. C, et al. 1983, ‘Assessment of anxiety: the State-Trait Anxiety Scale’, Advances in Personality Assessment, vol. 2, pp. 159-187.

Wellington, J 2010, ‘Supporting students’ preparation for the viva: their pre-conceptions and implications for practice’, Teaching in Higher Education, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 71-84.

Sarid, O, Anson, A & Bentov, A 2005, ‘Students’ Reactions to Three Typical Examinations in Health Sciences’, Advances in Health Sciences Education, vol. 10, pp. 291–302.