Publication Date



Anxiety, International comparisons, Secondary school students, Fear, Emotional response, Academic achievement, Test anxiety, Mathematics anxiety, Scientific literacy


The pressure to get good grades is one of the most frequently cited sources of stress for school age children and adolescents (OECD, 2017). Both schoolwork-related anxiety and test anxiety have been shown to have a negative impact on student academic performance and general well-being. As students move into the later years of schooling, the academic demand on them increases and they are expected to manage this along with their emotional responses to it. Alongside the assessments of students’ performance in reading, mathematics and scientific literacy, PISA also collects information about their experiences of schooling – their worries, their interests and goals. In some cycles, the focus of these questions relates to the major domain of assessment, while in others, the focus is more general. For example, in 2003 and 2012, the major domain of assessment was mathematics, and items in the student questionnaire collected information about students’ attitudes towards mathematics, including how anxious they felt about mathematics. In 2015, when the major domain of assessment was science, the anxiety items were about schoolwork in general. This report begins with an examination of general schoolwork-related anxiety (as measured in 2015), before moving on to discussing mathematics anxiety (as measured in 2003 and 2012) and monitoring changes in Australian students’ anxiety about mathematics between the two PISA cycles. In addition, eleven countries, including both high-performing and culturally similar English-speaking countries, were selected for comparison with Australia.

Place of Publication

Melbourne, Australia


Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

Geographic Subject

Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States