Gender gaps in the performance of Norwegian biology students: the roles of test anxiety and science confidence

Sehoya Cotner, Lucas M. Jeno, J. D. Walker, Christian Jørgensen, Vigdis Vandvik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Understanding student motivational factors such as test anxiety and science confidence is important for increasing retention in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), especially for underrepresented students, such as women. We investigated motivational metrics in over 400 introductory biology students in Norway, a country lauded for its gender equality. Specifically, we measured test anxiety and science confidence and combined students’ survey responses with their performance in the class. Results: We found that female students expressed more test anxiety than did their male counterparts, and the anxiety they experienced negatively predicted their performance in class. By contrast, the anxiety male students experienced did not predict their performance. Conversely, men had higher confidence than women, and confidence interacted with gender, so that the difference between its impact on men’s and women’s performance was marginally significant. Conclusions: Our findings have implications for STEM instructors, in Norway and beyond: specifically, to counter gender-based performance gaps in STEM courses, minimize the effects of test anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number55
JournalInternational Journal of STEM Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by a grant by NOKUT/DIKU under the Centres for Excellence in Higher Education Initiative to bioCEED – Centre of Excellence in Biology Education [2014–2024]. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Gender equity
  • Higher education
  • STEM
  • Science confidence
  • Test anxiety


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