Ray Crozier, a professor of psychology at Cardiff University, found that the way tests are administered affects the results of shyer class members.
When a shy child was removed from the classroom and given an oral vocabulary test face-to-face with an unknown assessor, he or she performed less well than more extrovert children.
But after conducting research on 240 children in 24 schools, Professor Crozier found that when shy children were given the same test to do on paper in a classroom with 30 other youngsters, their performance was not affected and equalled that of confident peers. He said anxiety in shy children is triggered by situations in which they are the centre of attention.
"Because of the growing emphasis the national curriculum places on testing children at every stage... it is increasingly important for policy makers to understand that testing methods can be crucial for a shy child," said Professor Crozier, who will reveal his research at the BERA conference.
"This research shows that testers need to take shyness into account or take steps to reassure shy children and help them to feel more at ease. Shy children do not tend to make demands or ask for attention, which is why it is vital for teachers and others to be aware of their needs," he said.
'The influence of shyness on children's test performance,' by Ray Crozier.
More conference reports in next week's TES