Effect of Two-Stage Collaborative Testing on Student Exam Anxiety and Performance

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipients: Rebecca Cobb and Lara Aknin, Department of Psychology, and Tara Holland, Department of Geography

7Project team: Armaghan Aliabadi, Edna Ng and Tiffany Woods, research assistants

Timeframe: October 2017 to March 2019

Funding: $6000

Courses addressed:

  • PSYC 260 – Introduction to Social Psychology
  • PSYC 362 – Human Sexuality
  • GEOG 104 – Climate Change, Water, and Society

Students participating in two-stage exam

Final report: View the final report (PDF)

Description: The two-stage exam process involves students completing an exam individually as they would typically in their undergraduate course, and then completing the same multiple-choice and short answer sections of the exam collaboratively in groups of 4-5. The collaborative process of converging on a single answer for each question for the group response promotes learning of concepts (e.g., Gilley & Clarkston, 2014) and students’ responses to the process are generally favourable (e.g., Weiman, Rieger, & Heiner, 2014).

We will examine whether students change their study habits or experience lower anxiety in anticipation of a two-stage exam. We will also learn whether students create groups ahead of time or end up in groups by chance and how that is related to their perceptions of the two-stage exam experience. We have included a brief measure of personality traits to learn whether personality is linked to perceptions of the two-stage exam or to performance on a two-stage exam. We will also examine how student perceptions and reactions to a two-stage exam relate to their performance on the exam, and whether changing study habits or reduced anxiety predicts class performance.

Questions addressed:

  • Do students change their study habits or experience lower anxiety in anticipation of a two-stage exam?
  • Is personality linked to perceptions of and performance on the two-stage exam?
  • How do student perceptions of and reactions to the two-stage exam relate to their performance on the exam?
  • Do changing study habits or reduced anxiety predict class performance?
  • How do students describe their two-stage exam experience, and what advice do they offer to future students?


Gilley, B., & Clarkston, B. (2014). Collaborative Testing: Evidence of Learning in a Controlled In-Class Study of Undergraduate Students. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43(3), 83-91. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43632038

Rieger, G., & Heiner, C. (2014). Examinations That Support Collaborative Learning: The Students' Perspective. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43(4), 41-47. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43632011

Knowledge sharing: We are planning to submit this work for presentation at the Western Conference on Science Education in London, ON in July 2019 and as a workshop to the SFU Symposium on Teaching and Learning this Spring 2019.

Cobb, R., Holland, T., & Aknin, L. (2019, May). Make sure your voice is heard: Student and faculty recommendations for two-stage collaborative exams. Workshop conducted at the 17th Symposium on Teaching and Learning, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC.

Keywords: Two-stage exams; collaborative exams; student assessment; student well-being; study habits; anxiety