Emotional and cognitive effects of examination proximity in female and male students
In recent years there has been a tendency for female students at Oxford and Cambridge to be awarded lower degree classifications than male students. One possibility is that the tendency is linked to differences in the extent to which females and males conform to a confident rather than a cautious style of presentation in academic work. The present study focused on levels of anxiety (and other emotions) and imagery among female and male students who were either close to or relatively distant from their next examinations. It was found that both gender and examination proximity were associated with significant effects upon both anxiety and imagery. Significantly higher levels of anxiety were recorded for female than for male students, and analysis of covariance pointed to the importance of anxieties specifically concerning examination and grading. Levels of examination anxiety and general short-term anxiety were significantly higher when close to an examination for both females and males. Levels of imagery were found to be determined by a significant interaction between gender and examination proximity. For female students, but not male students, significantly more imagery for examination items relative to neutral ones was reported when close to examinations than when distant from examinations. The implications of these results with regard to gender differences in degree classification are discussed.