A Qualitative Study on Iranian Test-takers’ Anxiety in FCE Speaking Test: Investigating the Perceptions, Causes, and Strategies Applied

Document Type: Original Article

Authors

1 English Department, Khatam University, Iran.

2 English Department, AllamehTabataba’i University, Iran.

Abstract

This study aimed to explore the causes, consequences, strategies, and perceptions of Iranian learners in the FCE speaking test. The instruments employed in this study included an IELTS proficiency test, FCE speaking test, observation scheme, and learner interview in order to measure the male and females’ perceptions of the quality of FCE tests, the causes of test anxiety in such tests and how they could be reduced or controlled. To this end, 42 female and 41 male Iranian English learners, studying FCE at a language institute in Tehran, were randomly chosen. Being homogenized via an IELTS test, 33 female and 32 male students, aged 15-17, were selected. While the 65 participants were taking part in the FCE speaking test, an observation was held on their performance. Finally, 10 female and 10 male participants were picked through convenience sampling and engaged in a semi-structured interview. The data gathered from the observations and interviews was content analyzed. The data analysis findings, using descriptive statistics, revealed that the females had a better perception toward four out of the six qualities of the test. The most disturbing criteria for their test anxiety were stress, being nervous, and becoming scared of not being able to pass. Some participants suggested having more practice tests before the exam to reduce test anxiety. Additionally, some symptoms of anxiety were selected to be observed to realize the reactions the participants showed when they became anxious. All of the selected signs except twisting hair were mostly spotted in the males. Moreover, the male participants showed more symptoms of test anxiety in all parts of the FCE speaking test. The findings of this study have generated a number of important implications for future practices which are significant for teachers, test developers, learners, and other stakeholders.