The impact of test typography on student achievement, anxiety, and typographic preferences

Students take tests throughout their academic careers -- classroom tests, standardized tests, college placement exams, and college finals. The fact that tests are as common as desks in a classroom is why it is so odd that test typography has gone relatively unstudied until now. The purpose of this study was to determine if adjusting the typography of a science test affects students' achievement, anxiety and typographic preferences. For the experiment, the typography of three consecutive science tests was adjusted. The manipulated variables were typeface, type size, line space, and white space. The tests served as instruments to measure both student achievement and anxiety. An anonymous survey determined student typographic preferences. Results indicate that student achievement and anxiety are not affected by test typography. There was a significant reduction in anxiety between pretest and midtest, however there was no difference when those results were compared based on test version. The results were very significant in regards to student typographic preferences. Students clearly indicate they prefer Version B. Version B was created using Comic Sans MS typeface, 12-point type size and a generous use ofboth line and white space. The question then becomes whether strong typographic preferences are important enough to become a guide for teachers when formatting tests. Due to the infancy of this research topic, there are many possibilities for future research. Some possibilities include using a larger, more varied sample, recording the amount of time students use to take different versions of the test, and linking student preferences to achievement and anxiety instead of making the survey anonymous. This researcher is convinced that there is something more to test typography than shown in this study. It seems logical that if students strongly prefer certain typographic features, that the preference would impact some other aspect of test-taking. Educators must delve deeper into this area of research to continue looking at whether there are typographic variables that will maximize students' chances for success and provide a more accurate measure of their ability. Keywords: test typography, student achievement, test anxiety, typographic preferences, test appearance, student performance