Listening strategy use, test anxiety and test performance of intermediate and advanced Iranian EFL learners

Authors

Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran

Abstract

Learning  a  foreign  language  has  been  related  with  some  kind  of  knowledge  of  language
learning strategies on the one hand, and some level of (test-taking) apprehension or tension
on the other although a small amount of anxiety is normally expected as a natural warning
symptom.  The  current  study  aimed  at  investigating  the  relationship  between  listening
strategy  use,  test  anxiety,  and  listening  test  performance  of  Iranian  intermediate  and
advanced EFL learners. To this end, eighty (40 intermediate and 40 advanced) Iranian EFL
learners  took  part  in  the  study  by  completing  Lee’s  (1997)  Listening  Comprehension
Strategy Questionnaire, Sarason’s (1975) Test Anxiety Scale (TAS), and two monologues
of  Listening  test  performance  selected  from  Listening  part  of  TOEFL.  The  results  of
Pearson  product  moment  correlation  analyses  revealed  a  significant  negative  correlation
between  test  anxiety  and  listening  test  performance,  but  a  significant  positive  association
between  listening  strategy  use  and  listening  test  performance.  Furthermore,  the  results  of
multiple  regression  analyses  indicated  listening  strategy  use  was  a  stronger  predictor  of
listening test performance. Additionally, the results of independent samples t-test showed a
significant  difference  between  Iranian  intermediate  and  advanced  EFL  learners  regarding
both their listening strategy use and level of test anxiety.

Keywords

Main Subjects


Introduction  
Social  cognitive  theories  (e.g.,  Bandura,
1986,  1997)  are  human  functioning
theories which contribute to the notion that
humans can control and manage their own
behavior.  According  to  social  cognitive
theories “what people think, believe, and
feel  affect  how  they  behave”  (Bandura,
1986,  p.  25).  Learning  a  foreign  language
has  thus  always  been  related  with  some
level of "affect" including apprehension or
tension  especially  when  taking  a  test
although  a  small  amount  of  anxiety  is
normally  expected  as  a  natural  warning
symptom and as a facilitative factor. With
the shift of research focus from teachers to
learners  in  second  language  acquisition,
affective  factors  such  as  attitude,
motivation  and  anxiety  are  believed  to
account  for  successful  language  learning
outcomes.
 
According  to  Bandura  (1997),  anxiety  is
“a state of anticipatory apprehension over
possible deleterious happenings” (p. 137).
People  experiencing  anxiety  exemplify
apprehension  as  well  as  evident  behavior
which  often  interfere  with  their  everyday
life  performance  as  well  as  in  academic
situations.  Anxiety  is  often  considered  to
be  of  various  types  and  degrees.  Cubukcu
(2007)  maintains  there  are  three  main

types  of  foreign  language  anxiety:  a)
communication  apprehension,  b)  test
anxiety and c) fear of negative evaluation.
He argues that people with communication
apprehension  are  shy  about
communicating  with  others  and
havedifficulty  speaking  in  public  and
listening to spoken messages.
 
Furthermore,communication  apprehension
in  foreign  language  learning  originates
from the personal knowledge that one will
almost  certainly  have  difficulty
understanding  others  and  making  oneself
understood;  that  is  why  many  talkative
people  remain  silent  in  the  class.  He
further  states  that  test  anxiety  refers  to  a
type  of  performance  anxiety  stemming
from  a  fear  of  failure  and  thus  associates
test anxiety with language anxiety because
learners  hold  unrealistic  expectations  on
language  achievement.  Since  tests  and
quizzes  are  frequently  used  in  language
classes, students with test anxiety may also
develop language anxiety (Wu, 2001).  
 
The  third  type  of  anxiety  is  fear  of
negative  evaluation  that  deals  with
apprehension  about  others’  evaluations,
avoidance  of  evaluative  situations  and  the
expectation  that  others  will  evaluate  one
negatively.  It  may  occur  in  any  situation;
learners  may  be  sensitive  to  the
evaluations-real  or  imagined-  of  their
peers (Cubukcu, 2007).
 
As  Worde  (1998)  puts  it,  nearly  half  of
EFL  learners  experience  some  degree  of
anxiety.  According  to  Kondo  and  Ling
(2004),  anxiety  might  cause  language
learners  to  deal  with  certain  potential
problems. Those learners who are anxious
may  not  enjoy  their  study
(Gregersen&Horwitz,  2002),  something
which  will  have  a  negative  effect  on  their
performance.  While  in  foreign  language
contexts  the  anxiety  research  mostly
focuses  on  oral  production  (Kimura,
2008),  the  attention  has  newly  shifted  to
receptive  skills  such  as  listening  which  is
regarded as one of the most effective skills
for  foreign  language  learners  (Vogely,
1998).  
 
Listening as the most frequently used skill
plays  a  crucial  role  in  learning  a  foreign
language (Vogely, 1998) simply because it
is  usually  through  this  skill,  accompanied
by  reading,  that  students  become  capable
of  receiving  the  information  (Serraj  &
Noordin,  2013).  The  significance  of
listening  in  learning  a  second/foreign
language has been highlighted by scholars
in  the  field  (Rivers,  1981;  Ferris  &Tagg,
1996;  Ferris,  1998;  Field,  2003).
Furthermore,  listening  comprehension,  as
some  scholars  state,  is  at  the  crux  of  L2
learning and hence the development of this
skill  can  play  a  crucial  role  in  developing
other  language  skills  (Dunkel,  1991,  as
cited in Vandergrift, 2007).
 
One  of  the  ways  in  which  learners'
listening  comprehension  abilities  can  be
enhanced  is  through  adoption  of  listening
strategies,  the  identification  and
classification of which have been the main
focus  of  second  language  listening
research  (Thompson  &  Robin,  1996;
Vandergrift,  1999).  Additionally,  interest
in  listening  strategy  use  has  increased  as
the  research  in  the  field  indicates
(O’Malley, Chamot& Walker, 1987).  
 
Listening  comprehension  “takes  place
within  the  mind  of  the  listener,  and  the
context  of  interpretation  is  the  cognitive
environment of the listener” (Buck, 2001,
p.  29).  Listening  comprehension  is
regarded  as  an  essential  means  of
communication  and  an  indispensable  part
of oral language competence. Thus, on the
one  hand,  development  of  listening
competence  is  deemed  necessary  for
successful  communication.    On  the  other
hand,  since  listening  is  generally  a
challenging  skill  for  second/foreign
language  learners  and  generates  difficulty
(Mohammadi  Golchi,  2012),  it  seems
necessary  to  develop  effective  listening

strategies  to  cope  with  this  problem.
Moreover,  (carefully  designed)  listening
strategies  can  help  second/foreign
language  learners  overcome  problems
associated  with  their  listening  test
performance  and  also  enhance  their
listening  comprehension  (Mendelsohn,
1994).
 
Therefore,  proceeding  from  what  was
mentioned above regarding the importance
of listening strategy use and test anxiety in
relation  to  listening  test  performance  and
bearing  in  mind  that  the  variables,  taken
together  and  especially  in  terms  of
language proficiency level of the learners,
have  been,  to  our  knowledge,  little
researched in the EFL context of  Iran, the
present  study  set  out  to  investigate  the
issue.  That  is,  a  major  goal  was  to
determine  whether  (and  how)  listening
strategy use and test anxiety are related to
listening  test  performance.  The  secondary
aim  of  this  study  was  to  examine  the
difference  between  intermediate  and
advanced EFL learners with regard to their
test anxiety and listening strategy use.
 
Review of the related literature
Test anxiety and test performance
Test  anxiety  has  appeared  as  one  of  the
most  significant  constructs  in  modern-day
psychology  and  considerably  the  most
widely  studied  specific  form  of  anxiety  in
the literature (Zeidner, 1998). Test anxiety
construct  has  matured  within  a  large
cocoon  of  consideration  ever  since  its
beginning  in  the  early  1950s,  with
researchers making important steps toward
understanding  its  nature,  origins,
components,  determinants,  and  treatments
(Tavakoli  and  Rezazadeh,  2009).  It  has
been  defined  as  cognitive,  physiological,
and  emotional  responses  created  by  stress
experienced  during  the  assessment  and  it
is  a  sense  that  has  a  negative  contribution
on the students’ attitudes towards courses
(Hall Brown, Turner, &Beidel, 2005).  
 
According to Bachman and Palmer (1996),
test  performance  is  ascribed  to  test-takers
and  test  task  features.  Test-taker
characteristics  comprise  (a)  language
knowledge,  (b)  topical  knowledge,  (c)
personal  characteristics,  (d)  strategic
competence, and (e) affective schemata of
these  characteristics.  The  test-taker
characteristics  and  test  task  characteristics
impact  on  each  other,  and  as  a  result,  the
results of test performance are affected by
these  interactions.  They  mention  various
types  of  personal  characteristics  related  to
test  performance  (e.g.,  age,  sex,
nationality,  etc),  but  one  characteristic  of
great  significance  is  test  anxiety,  which
has been defined as “unpleasant feeling or
emotional  state  that  has  physiological  and
behavioral  concomitants  and  that  is
experienced  in  formal  testing  or  other
evaluative  situations”  (Dusek,  1980  as
cited in Cubukcu, 2007, p.135).
 
Individual  differences,  such  as  one’s
attitude,  belief,  motivation,  and  affective
state,  are  believed  to  affect  the  foreign
language  learning  process  (Aydin,  2009).
As  an  affective  factor,  test-taking  anxiety
has  recently  been  studied  in  various
contexts.  Regarding  test  anxiety,  Tavakoli
and  Amiryousefi  (2011),  experimenting
with  Iranian  EFL  learners,  found  that  test
takers usually experienced test anxiety and
that  some  factors  like  lack  of  self-confidence  and  time  limitation  provoked
test anxiety.  
 
Research on the role of test anxiety in the
performance  of  students  has  repeatedly
signified  that  high  levels  of  cognitive  test
anxiety  enhance the probability of notable
declines  in  exam  performance.  Cassady
(2004)  explored  the  effects  of  cognitive
test  anxiety  on  learners’  memory,
understanding,  and  comprehension  of
expository  text  passages  in  situations
without  externally-imposed  evaluative
pressure.  The  results  collected  through
structural equations embodied a significant
impact  of  cognitive  test  anxiety  on
 
 
learner’s  performance  in  conditions  with
and  without  external  evaluative  pressure.
It  was  also  discovered  that  cognitive  test
anxiety  was  stronger  in  those  conditions
with external evaluative pressure.
 
These  findings  can  be  interpreted  in
support  of  processing  models  of  test
anxiety  which  hold  test  anxiety  interferes
with  learning  through  deficiencies  in
encoding,  organizing,  and  storing  in
addition  to  the  classic  interpretation  of
retrieval  failures.  Correspondingly,
Cassady  and  Johnson  (2001)  found  that
there  was  a  strong  negative  correlation
between  performance  and  the  scores  on
the cognitive test anxiety scale, with weak
or  inconsistent  correlations  between
performance and the other measures of test
anxiety like procrastination.
 
The  significance  of  language  anxiety  has
drawn  considerable  attention  in  research
on  the  affective  domain  of  second
language  learning.  Some  researchers  have
surveyed  significant  variables  that  affect
test anxiety. Aydin and Zengin (2008), for
instance,  stated  that  learner’  beliefs,
attitudes,  expectations  and  affective  states
were  significant  variables  that  impacted
upon  the  foreign  language  learning
process.  It  was  revealed  that,  as  an
affective  state,  test  anxiety  had  also
substantial effects on the process.  
 
The  importance  of  test  anxiety  in
understanding  sources  of  student  anxiety
in  evaluative  situations  and  poor  test
performance  is  now  readily  ostensible
(Bonaccio& Reeve, 2010; Hembree, 1988;
Vitasari,  Wahab,  Othman,  &Awang,
2010).  For  one,  Birjandi  and  Alemi
(2010),  investigating  the  impact  of  test
anxiety on the test performance of  Iranian
EFL  learners,  found  L2  learners’  test
anxiety  was  rather  low,  with  most  of  its
components having no significant negative
correlation  with  test  performance.  
However,  they  found  that  general  test
anxiety,  because  of  its  functioning  at  the
higher-order  affective  level,  had  a
significant  negative  correlation  with  test
performance.  They  also  discovered  that,
test  preparation  anxiety,  in  view  of
facilitating  test  performance,  manifested  a
positive,  although  non-significant,
association  with  test  performance.  They
also  presented  various  reasons  for  test
anxiety.  The  first  reason  was  lack  of
preparation  as  indicated  by  (a)  cramming
the night before the examination, (b) poor
time  management,  (c)  failing  to  organize
text information, and (d) poor study habits.
They  concluded  the  second  source  of  test
anxiety was worrying about (a) past exams
performance,  (b)  how  other  students  are
doing,  and  (c)  the  negative  consequences
of failure. It is worth mentioning here that
Birjandi  and  Alemi  (2011)  explored  the
relationship  between  test  anxiety  and  test
performance  in  general.  However,  the
present  study  investigated  the  possible
relationship  between  test  anxiety  and  a
subcategory  of  test  performance,  namely
listening test performance.
 
Listening  strategy  use  and  listening
comprehension  
The  association  of  listening
comprehension  with  the  use  of  listening
strategies  has  been  widely  studied  in  the
past few decades. According to Ho (2006)
“Listening  strategies  refer  to  skills  or
methods  for  listeners  to  directly  or
indirectly  achieve  the  purpose  of  listening
comprehension  of  the  spoken  input”.  (p.
25)      Listening  strategies  are  divided  into
three  major  subcategories  of  cognitive,
metacognitive  and  socio-affective
strategies (O’Malley &Chamot, 1990).  
 
Metacognitve  strategies  involve  planning,
monitoring,  evaluating  comprehension.
Cognitive strategies are used to manipulate
information.  Examples  of  cognitive
strategies  are  rehearsal,  organization,
summarization,  and  elaboration.    Socio-affective strategies come to play when the
listening  is  two-way  and  meaning  is
negotiated between speaker and listener as
 
in  conversation.  Examples  of  socio-affective  strategies  are  cooperative
learning,  clarification  questioning,  and
managing  one’s emotions  in  the learning
situation.
 
According  to  Vandergrift  (1997),  learners
employ  these  strategies  in  order  to  make
comprehension  easier  and  also  to  have
more effective learning.
 
Several  studies  have  been  conducted  on
listening  strategy  use  (Fujita,  1984;  Goh,
2002; Vandergrift, 2003). For one, Hsueh-Jui  (2008)  conducted  a  study  to  identify
the  interrelationship  between  learners’
listening  strategy  use  across  listening
ability,  and  learning  style.  101  Taiwanese
EFL  students  took  part  in  the  study.  They
used  two  structured  questionnaires  for
collecting  the  required  data.  Applying
ANOVA,  the  results  revealed  a
statistically  significant  difference  between
the  listening  strategy  use  and  the
participants’ attainment levels. The results
also showed that listening strategy use was
significantly  correlated  with  learning
styles.
 
Furthermore,  Baleghizadeh  and  Rahimi
(2011)  conducted  a  study  to  explore  the
possible  relationship  between  motivation,
metacognitive  strategy  use  and  listening
test  performance  of  Iranian  EFL  learners.
Their  findings  indicated  that  there  was  a
statistically  significant  association
between  listening  test  performance  of
Iranian  EFL  learners  and  their
metacognitive  strategy  use.    According  to
Baleghizadeh  and  Rahimi,  metacognitive
listening  strategies  enhance  the  EFL
learners’  listening  test  performance,
leading  us  to  assume  that  EFL  learners’
listening  ability  is  related  to  their
(metacognitive)  strategic  knowledge  (i.e.
knowledge  of  listening  strategies)  in  one
way or another.
 
In  the  same  vein,  Amin,  Amin,  and  Aly
(2011)  investigated  the  relationship
between  strategic  listening  (i.e.  listening
strategy  use)  and  listening  test
performance  of  eighty  secondary  school
EFL  students.  The  required  data  were
collected  through  1)  Strategic  Listening
Interview  (SLI),  2)  Strategic  Listening
Questionnaire  (SLQ)  and  3)  Strategic
Listening  Checklist  (SLC)  with  think-aloud  protocol.  An  EFL  listening
comprehension  test  was  used  in  order  to
measure  their  listening  comprehension
abilities. The results revealed a significant
positive  relationship  between  strategic
listening and listening test performance.  
 
Several  studies  have  also  been  conducted
in the context of Iran on listening strategy
use.  For  instance,  MohammadiGolchi
(2012)  investigated  listening  anxiety  and
its  relationship  with  listening  strategy  use
and  listening  comprehension  among  sixty
three Iranian IELTS learners. It was found
that  listening  anxiety  had  reverse
association with listening strategy use and
listening comprehension.  
 
Several  other  studies  have  explored  test
anxiety  and  listening  strategy  use  among
ESL/EFL  learners  (Goh,  2002;  Gu&
Johnson, 1996; In’nami, 2006; Kim, 2000;
Legac,  2007;  Oxford,  1990;  Vandergrift,
1999;  Zhang  &  Liu,  2008).  Vandergrift
(2003),  for  instance,  investigated  the
relationship between listening strategy use
and listening proficiency of 36 junior high
school students in Canada. The findings of
his study revealed that the more proficient
listeners  made  use  of  metacognitive
strategies  more  often  than  did  the  less
proficient  listeners,  and  the  variations  in
this  type  of  strategy  use  had  a  significant
relation across the listening ability.
 
Anxiety, proficiency level and listening test
performance
Recently,  a  number  of  researchers  have
studied  the  effects  of  anxiety  on  the
listening  skill.  For  example,
Elkhafaifi(2005)  investigated  the
relationship  between  listening
 
 
comprehension  and  anxiety  in  the  Arabic
language  classroom.  He  found  that
learners'  anxiety  varied  according  to  their
level  of  ability  in  foreign  language
listening. The results of his study indicated
that  the  learners  with  higher  levels  of
foreign  language  learning  anxiety  also
tended  to  have  higher  levels  of  anxiety.
Regarding  two  types  of  anxiety  among
students  of  first-,  second-,  and  third-year
Arabic, he found that students in third-year
Arabic  reported  significantly  lower  levels
of  both  types  of  anxiety  than  did  students
in first-year.  
 
Likewise,  Mills,  Pajares,  and  Herron
(2006)  also  found  that  learners'  anxiety
varied according to their level of ability in
foreign  language  listening.  They  also
concluded  that  listening  self-efficacy  was
positively  associated  with  listening
proficiency  only  for  the  female  learners,
and  listening  anxiety  was  positively
associated with the listening proficiency of
both males and females.
 
In another study, In’nami (2006) explored
to  what  extent  test  anxiety  influenced
listening  test  performance.  His  findings
revealed that among the three components
of  test  anxiety  (i.e.,  general  test  worry,
test-irrelevant  thinking,  and  emotion),
none  affected  listening  test  performance.
He  discovered  that  the  non-relationship
between  test  anxiety  and  listening  test
performance  might  be  due  to  test-takers’
personal  characteristics  (especially,  test-takers’  English  proficiency  levels,
experience  of  successful  test  performance
in  the  past,  and  self-esteem),  strategic
competence  that  controls  anxiety,  and  the
low-stake nature of test results.  
 
Similarly, Shomoossi and Kassaian (2009)
investigated  the  effect  of  test  anxiety  in
relation to two major skills—listening and
speaking—associated  with  test  anxiety,  as
well  as  the  extent  of  anxiety  before  and
after the listening test. The results of their
study  indicated  that  there  was  no
significant difference between test anxiety
before  and  after  the  listening
comprehension  test.  However,  they
reported  that  anxiety  was  a  more  serious
factor  in  taking  speaking  tests  than  in
listening comprehension tests.  
 
As mentioned earlier, on the one hand, the
contribution  of  listening  strategy  use  to
successful  listening  comprehension  and
test  performance  has  been  documented  by
the  experts  in  the  field  (e.g.,  Fujita,  1984;
Vandergrift 2003). On the other hand, test
anxiety has been found to negatively affect
listening  comprehension  and  test
performance  (e.g.,  Elkhafaifi,  2005;
In’nami, 2006; Mills, Pajares, and Herron,
2006).  However,  to  the  best  of  our
knowledge, little research, if any, has been
conducted  on  the  relationship  among
Iranian  EFL  learners’  test  anxiety,
listening  strategy  use  and  listening  test
performance  moderated  by  their  language
proficiency  level.  The  present  study  thus
set out to delve more deeply into the issue
and  investigate  whether  (and  how)  these
variables  are  associated  and  whether
listening  strategy  use  and  test  anxiety  can
predict Iranian Intermediate and Advanced
EFL learners’ listening test performance.  
 
Research questions
The  following  questions  were  thus
formulated for the present study:
 
1.  Is  there  any  statistically
significant  relationship  between
Iranian EFL learners’ test anxiety
and listening test performance?
2.  Is  there  any  statistically
significant  relationship  between
Iranian  EFL  learners’  listening
strategy  use  and  listening  test
performance?
3.  Concerning  test  anxiety  and
listening  strategy  use,  which  one
is  a  significantly  stronger
predictor  of  listening  test
performance?
 
 
4.  Do  intermediate  and  advanced
EFL  learners  differ  with  regard
to their listening strategy use?
5.  Do  intermediate  and  advanced
EFL  learners  differ  with  regard
to their level of test anxiety?
 
Methodology
Participants
Eighty  (40  intermediate,  40  advanced)
EFL  learners  took  part  in  this  study  from
an  English  language  institute  in
Kermanshah.  The  participants  were  all
native  Persian  speakers  and  English  was
their  second  language.  Their  age  ranged
from 15 to 26. They were mainly selected
based on convenience sampling.
 
Instruments
Listening performance test
Two different listening texts (Texts A and
B),  each  containing  six  items,  were
adopted  from  TOEFL’s  listening  part
(Educational  Testing  Service,  1989,  pp.68
and  76).  TOEFL  was  adopted  for  the
present  study  because  first,  TOEFL  is  a
highly-accredited  advanced-level
proficiency  test.  Second,  since  TOEFL
mainly  adopts  a  multiple-choice  format
which  is  usually  the  most  familiar  test
format to Iranian test-takers in comparison
to  fill-in-the-blank,  matching-type,  etc.
item-formats of other proficiency tests like
IELTS,  Cambridge  CAE,  CPE,  etc.,  it  is
typically  preferred  by,  and  best  suits
Iranian EFL test-takers and thus the risk of
test-takers'  language  ability  being
undermined  by  such  construct  irrelevance
variance  (Messick,  1989)  as  task
unfamiliarity  is  reduced.  However,  since
test  methods  may  impact  upon  test
performance,  it  is  important  not  to  use  a
single  task  type  if  we  are  to  lessen  such
effects  (e.g.,  Bachman,  1990).  Thus,  two
different  task  types,  namely  multiple
choice  and  open-ended  tasks,  which  are
both  familiar  to  Iranian  test-takers,  were
used for each level in the present study.
 
 
Test anxiety questionnaire
Participants  were  asked  to  complete  the
Test Anxiety Scale (TAS; Sarason, 1975).
The  TAS  has  37  Likert-scale  items.  The
TAS  is  based  on  the  theory  and  evidence
that  test  anxiety  is  composed  of  test-relevant  and  test-  irrelevant  thinking  and
has  been  used  widely  as  a  leading
instrument in the research of the ilk. Using
Cronbach’s  Alpha  coefficient,  the
reliability  of  the  TAS  was  recalculated  in
the present study which came to be 0.82.
 
Listening strategy use questionnaire
The  listening  strategy  use  questionnaire
was  originally  developed  by  Lee  (1997)
and modified by Ho (2006). Moreover, the
questionnaire  has  been  modified  by
MohammadiGolchi  (2012)  for  Iranian
context  and  some  more  strategies  have
been  added.  The  questionnaire  consists  of
39likert-scale  items  divided  into  3
categories of metacognitive, cognitive and
social/affective.  MohammadiGolchi
(2012) reported the internal consistency of
the  questionnaire  to  be  0.92.  Using
Cronbach’s  Alpha  coefficient,  the
reliability  of  the  questionnaire  in  the
present study was calculated to be 0.79.
 
It is worth mentioning here that since both
Test  Anxiety  Questionnaire  and  Listening
Strategy  Use  Questionnaire  have  already
been  validated  and  used  extensively  in
various  studies  of  the  ilk,  revalidating
them  (e.g.,  through  factor  analysis,  pilot
testing,  etc.)  was  not  deemed  necessary
although  they  were  both  additionally
judged by two experts in the field, both of
whom  considered  them  “quite
appropriate” for the purposes of the study.
 
Procedure
The study spanned a two-week period.  In
week  one,  the  participants  completed  the
listening  strategy  use  questionnaire  and
took  the  two  sections  of  the  listening
performance  test.  In  week  two,  they  took
the  other  two  sections  of  the  listening
performance  test  and  the  test  anxiety

 
questionnaire.  In  order  to  prevent  the
practice  effect  on  test  performance,  two
parallel  multiple  choice  and  open-ended
tasks  were  used.  All  the  participants  in
each  level  were  randomly  assigned  to  one
of  the  two  groups,  and  the  order  of  each
section  of  the  listening  performance  test
was  counterbalanced  across  the  groups  in
order to control the order effect of task on
listening performance test. It is noteworthy
that  the  listening  texts  were  played  twice,
and  they  were  allowed  to  take  notes.
Listening  performance  test  administration
took  about  30  minutes.  Answers  to  the
open  ended  tasks  in  the  listening
performance  test  were  scored  as  either
correct  or  incorrect  by  their  teachers  and
the  researchers.  High  inter-rater  reliability
of 0.901 was obtained.
 
Data analysis
The statistical analyses were conducted by
using  the  Statistical  Package  for  Social
Sciences (SPSS) version 20. The data were
analyzed through Pearson product moment
correlation,  Multiple-regression,  and
Independent Sample t-test.
 
Results
The data were  collected  through using the
three  research  instruments;  namely,
Listening  Performance  Test,  Test  Anxiety
Questionnaire, and  Listening Strategy Use
Questionnaire  as  mentioned  earlier  and
they  were  analyzed  using  such  parametric
statistical  analyses  as  Pearson  product
moment  correlation,  Multiple-regression,
and Independent Samples t-test.
 
To  investigate  the  first  research  question
of  whether  there  was  any  statistically
significant  relationship  between  test
anxiety  and  listening  test  performance  of
Iranian  EFL  learners,  Pearson  correlation
coefficient  was  run  whose  results  are
summarized in Table 1 below.

As  is  evident  from  Table1,  there  was  a
statistically  significant  reverse  correlation
between  test  anxiety  and  listening  test
performance.  
 
The  second  question  sought  to  investigate
whether  there  was  any  statistically
significant  relationship  between  listening
strategy use and listening test performance
of  Iranian  EFL  learners.  A  Pearson
correlation  coefficient  was  conducted
whose  results  are  summarized  in  Table  2
as follows:

As Table 2 indicates, there is a significant
positive  relationship  between  listening
strategy use and listening test performance
of Iranian EFL learners.
 
Multiple  regression  analysis  was  run  to
determine  the  best  linear  combination  of
test  anxiety  and  listening  strategy  use  for
predicting  listening  test  performance.  The
descriptive  statistics  (i.e.  the  means  and
standard  deviations)  can  be  found  in
Table3,  summary  of  one-way  ANOVA  in
Table 4 and coefficients in Table 5.

As  Tables  4  and  5  indicate,  listening
strategy  use  significantly  predicted
listening  test  performance,  F  (2,  77)  =
43.40, P< .05.
 
The  fourth  research  question  set  out  to
investigate  whether  there  was  any
significant  difference  between
intermediate  and  advanced  EFL  learners
with regard to their listening strategy use.
An  Independent  Samples  t-test  was  run  to
compare  the  two  groups  on  listening
strategy use whose results are summarized
in  Table  7.  However,  the  descriptive
statistics  are  first  summarized  in  Table  6
below.

As  Table  7  displays,  t  78=3.03  (p  <  .05),
the  two  groups  (intermediate  and
advanced)  significantly  differed  with
regard  to  their  listening  strategy  use;  that
is,  advanced  EFL  learners  (M=28.37,  SD
=4.92)  used  more  listening  strategies  than
their  intermediate  level  counterparts
(M=25.25  SD  =4.  25).  In  other  words,
proficiency  level  of  studying  English  had
significant positive effect on EFL learners’
listening strategy use.
 
The  last  research  question  sought  to
investigate  whether  intermediate  and
advanced  EFL  learners  significantly
differed  with  regard  to  listening  test
anxiety.  To  this  end,  the  descriptive
statistics  were  computed  and  an
Independent Samples t-test was run whose
results  are  summarized  in  Tables  8  and  9
respectively.

As indicated in Table 9 above, t78=4.27 (p
<  .05),  the  two  groups  (intermediate  and
advanced)  significantly  differed  with
regard  to  their  test  anxiety;  that  is,
advanced  EFL  learners  (M=123.27,  SD
=9.86)  had  less  test  anxiety  than
intermediate EFL learners (M=132.72, SD
=9.99).  In  other  words,  proficiency  level
of  studying  English  had  significant
positive  effects  on  reduction  of  EFL
learners’ level of test anxiety.  
 
Discussion  
The  primary  purpose  of  this  study  was  to
examine the possible relationship between
EFL  learners'  test  anxiety,  listening
strategy  use  and  listening  test
performance.  Since  the  relationship
between  test  anxiety  and  listening  test
performance  is  deemed  to  be  intuitive,
only  few  empirical  studies  have
investigated their dynamic relationships to
date.  
 
As  the  results  indicated,  a  significant
reverse relationship was observed between
test anxiety and listening test performance.
That  is,  as  the  results  showed,  the  higher
the level of test anxiety was, the lower the
listening  test  performance  scores  were.
The findings here align with the results of
Mills,  Pajares  and  Herron  (2006),  and
Elkhafaifi  (2005),  which  revealed  when
learners’  anxiety  decreased,  their
comprehension  of  listening  tasks
increased.  However,  the  findings  of  the
study  stand  in  contrast  with  those  of
In’nami  (2006).  He  explored  the  extent
test  anxiety  influenced  listening  test
performance  of  79  Japanese  first-year
university  students.  His  findings  revealed
that  among  the  three  components  of  test
anxiety  (i.e.  general  test  worry,  emotion,
and test-irrelevant thinking), none affected
listening  test  performance  of  Japanese
university students. The results of In’nami
(2006),  which  are  not  in  line  with  our
findings  in  the  present  study,  might
indicate  that  the  relationship  between  test
anxiety  and  listening  test  performance  is
seemingly  culture-  and  context-specific
and thus still needs further investigation.  
 
The  findings  of  the  current  study  as
examined  by  the  first  research  question
provide  empirical  support  for  the
prediction  that  test  anxiety  and  listening
test  performance  are  negatively  related.
However,  since,  to  our  knowledge,  no
empirical studies, at least in the context of
Iran,  have  investigated  this  relationship,
the  results  in  this  regard  seem  to  bring  a
new correlate and construct of test anxiety
into  focus  in  the  field  of  EFL  learning
which  can  ignite  further  research  in  the
field.  
 
Since the results of the  present study (and
those  of  the  others  already  mentioned)
revealed  a  negative  association  between
test anxiety and listening test performance,
it  is  plausible  to  state  that  test  anxiety
might  be  considered  as  a  barrier  for
(listening)  test  performance  in  a
second/foreign  language.  The  findings  of
the  study  in  this  regard  are  strongly
supported  by  the  results  of  a  study  by  El-Banna  (1989)  which  indicated  that  high-
 
proficiency  level  ESL  learners  tended  to
have  poor  performance  in  their  language
tests,  whereas  ESL  learners  with  low
levels  of  anxiety  appeared  to  outperform
their  counterparts  on  the  language  tests
used.  
 
The  current  study  also  explored  the
relationship between Iranian EFL learners’
listening  strategy  use  and  listening  test
performance.  The  results  revealed  a
statistically significant positive correlation
between  listening  strategy  use  and
listening  test  performance  of  Iranian  EFL
learners.
 
The  findings  of  the  study  in  this  respect
are in line with those of  Hsueh-Jui (2008)
who,  as  mentioned  earlier,  attempted  to
identify  the  interrelationship  between
learners’  listening  strategy  use  across
listening  ability,  and  learning  style.  A
statistically  significant  difference  was
found  between  the  listening  strategy  use
and the participants’ attainment levels.
 
In  a  similar  vein,  Baleghizadeh  and
Rahimi  (2011),  exploring  the  relationship
between  listening  strategy  use  and
listening  test  performance  of  Iranian  EFL
learners,  showed  that  there  was  a
statistically  significant  relationship
between  Iranian  EFL  learners’  listening
test  performance  and  their  metacognitive
strategy use.
 
The  present  study  also  aimed  at
investigating  whether  intermediate  and
advanced  EFL  learners  differed  in  their
listening  strategy  use.  The  results
indicated that advanced EFL learners used
significantly more listening strategies than
their  intermediate  level  counterparts.  That
is,  proficiency  level  in  English  had
significant  positive  relationship  with  EFL
learners’ listening strategy use.
 
The  findings  of  the  current  study  support
those  of  Vandergrift  (2003).  Vandergrift
investigating  the  relationship  between
listening  strategy  use  and  listening
proficiency  of  36  junior  high  school
students  in  Canada,  found  that  the  more
proficient  listeners  made  use  of
metacognitive  strategies  more  often  than
did  the  less  proficient  listeners,  and  the
dissimilarities  in  this  type  of  strategy  use
had  a  significant  relation  across  the
listening ability.  
The  findings  are  also  in  accordance  with
those  of  Ghoneim  (2013),  who
investigating  the  listening  comprehension
strategies used by college students to cope
with  the  aural  problems  in  EFL  classes,
concluded the advanced EFL learners used
more  listening  strategies  than  their
intermediate level counterparts.  
 
Such findings indicate that the adoption of
a  combination  of  numerous  listening
strategies  is  vital  in  improving  EFL
listeners’ test performance (Carissa, 1997).
According  to  Carissa,  those  students  who
achieved  higher  scores  in  listening  test
performance  tended  to  make  use  of  a
combination of such listening strategies as
summarization,  self-evaluation,  inference,
feedback,  elaboration,  and  reprise.
Furthermore,  as  Vandergrift  (2004)
maintains,  in  order  to  accomplish  the
listening process more efficiently, listeners
regularly  use  such  strategies  as
compensation strategies, and other existing
pertinent  information  to  deduce  what  was
not understood.  
 
According  to  Brindley  (1997),  in  order  to
comprehend  a  listening  input  properly,
both  linguistic  and  non-linguistic
knowledge are required. This might be the
plausible  reason  why  the  participants  of
the present study in the intermediate group
could  not  perform  as  well  as  their
counterparts  in  the  advanced  group  did,
most  probably  due  to  the  fact  that  low-
proficiency  level  listeners  had  limited
language knowledge (including knowledge
of  vocabulary)  in  comparison  to  their
counterparts  in  advanced  group,  an  issue
 
which  might  have  consequently  led  to
problems in comprehending the message.
 
As  recommended  by  Carrier  (2003)  and
Coskun  (2010),  teaching  and  training
learners  to  use  listening  strategies  would
be of great help; however, merely strategy
training  might  not  have  potential  impact
on the real improvement  in one's listening
comprehension.  Teachers  also  have  to
enhance  students’  linguistic  knowledge
(e.g.  structures,  phonology,  vocabulary,
etc.) since as Brindley (1997) maintains, in
order  to  understand  a  listening  input
properly, both linguistic and non-linguistic
information are required.
 
Finally,  the  present  study  explored
whether  intermediate  and  advanced  EFL
learners  differed  with  regard  to  their  test
anxiety. The results showed that advanced
EFL  learners  had  lower  level  of  test
anxiety  than  their  intermediate  level
counterparts.  That  is,  proficiency  level  in
English  was  found  to  have  significant
reverse  relationship  with  EFL  learners’
level  of  test  anxiety.  The  findings  of  the
study  are  in  line  with  the  results  of  Mills,
Pajares  and  Herron  (2006),  and  Elkhafaifi
(2005)  which,  as  mentioned  earlier,
revealed when learners’ anxiety decreased,
their  comprehension  of  listening  tasks
increased.  These  studies  also  showed
learners’ level of anxiety varied based on
their  foreign  language  listening  ability
level.  For  instance,  Elkhafaifi  (2005),
investigating  the  relationship  between  test
anxiety and listening comprehension in an
Arabic  language  classroom,  revealed  that
learners'  anxiety  varied  according  to  their
level  of  ability  in  foreign  language
listening. Elkhafaifi's results also indicated
that  the  learners  with  higher  levels  of
anxiety  also  tended  to  have  higher  levels
of listening anxiety.
 
Conclusion and implications
The  present  study  set  out  to  investigate
whether  there  existed  a  statistically
significant  relationship  between  Iranian
EFL  learners’  test  anxiety,  listening
strategy  use  and  listening  test
performance.  The  study  also  aimed  at
identifying  whether  intermediate  and
advanced  EFL  learners  differed  with
regard  to  their  listening  strategy  use,  and
level of test anxiety. The findings revealed
there  was  a  significant  negative
relationship  between  test  anxiety  and
listening test performance, suggesting that
in order to improve students’ listening test
performance, the level of test anxiety must
be  reduced  to  certain  extent  of  course;
since  a  small  amount  of  anxiety  is
normally  expected  as  natural.  The  results
also  revealed  a  significant  positive
relationship between listening strategy use
and  listening  test  performance  of  Iranian
EFL  learners.  It  was  also  found  that
advanced  EFL  learners  employed  more
listening  strategies  and  had  lower  level  of
test  anxiety  than  their  intermediate
counterparts.
 
From  the  evidence  of  the  present  study,
some implications may  be drawn. Since it
has  been  found  that  amount  of  listening
strategy  use  has  significant  positive
relationship  with  listening  test
performance,  it  can  be  concluded  that  the
utilization  of  listening  strategies  would
help  learners  improve  their  listening  test
performance.  Therefore,  it  is  deemed
essential  for  ESL  /EFL  teachers  to
encourage  learners  to  use  listening
strategies  and  nourish  them  with
challenging  opportunities  to  use  them
whenever  the  need  arises  when  taking
listening  comprehension  tests  in  general
and  in  taking  high-stakes  exams  such  as
IELTS and TOEFL in particular.
 
They must also know and be taught how to
use listening strategies appropriately, since
several  studies  (e.g.  Brindley,  1997;
Vandergrift,  2003)  reveal  that  the
proficient  and  the  non-proficient  learners
use  listening  strategies  quite  differently.
That  is,  as  stated  by  Vandergrift  (2003),
training  less  proficient  listeners  to
 
efficiently  employ  such  (metacognitive)
strategies  as  investigating  the  listening
task  supplies,  triggering  suitable  listening
processes,  predicting  the  task,  and
observing  and  assessing  one’s
understanding  would  improve  their
listening  comprehension  and  plausibly
their listening test performance.  
The  prime  suggestion  would  be  directed
for  materials  developers  and  syllabus
designers.  It  seems  that  learners  are  very
much  in  need  of  course  books  and
materials  that  enrich  students’  listening
strategies  and  explicitly  highlight  their
use. Furthermore, the construct of listening
strategy  has  not  been  given  due  attention
in education including L2 education. Thus,
syllabus  designers,  and  materials
developers  need  to  do  their  best  to  design
lessons  that  promote  listening  strategies
and  encourage  learners  to  use  listening
strategies consciously.
 
Moreover,  since  the  results  revealed  test
anxiety  had  a  negative  relationship  with
the learners’ listening test performance, it
seems  reasonable  to  suggest  that  reducing
test  anxiety  may  positively  affect  their
listening test performance. In order to help
students  improve  their  listening  test
performance,  teachers  must  be  able  to
understand  the  nature  of  their  students’
test  anxieties  which  might  vary  from  one
individual  to  another.  It  is  thus  important
that  teachers  be  made  aware  of  what
language  anxieties  their  students  may  be
suffering  from.  Consequently,  EFL/ESL
teachers  should  try  to  provide  educational
practices  and  strategies  that  tackle  this
problem,  reduce  test  anxiety,  and  enable
learners  to  deal  with  new  stressful
situations.  Thus,  foreign  language
teachers,  instructors  and  examiners  ought
to  be  trained  during  their  pre-service  and
in-service  educational  programs  in  the
methods  and  techniques  of  reducing  the
level  of  test  anxiety.  Moreover,  EFL
learners  with  poor  listening  strategy  use
and  high  level  of  test  anxiety  must  be
identified  and  treated  in  order  to  enhance
their listening test performance.

 

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