In our quest to conquer public speaking anxiety, self-reflection and assessment play a crucial role. Understanding the depth of our fears allows us to navigate the journey of personal growth with clarity and purpose.I’m a firm believer that no one test, or assessment can truly capture the unique struggles every person reckons with as they navigate their own journeys of managing public speaking anxiety. However, diagnostic assessments have usefulness in capturing a snapshot of where we begin, and measure how far we have come. Many clinical trials and exploratory studies use psychometric assessments in this way, acknowledging that while they have limitations in capturing everything a person is feeling in their life, these tests are critical benchmarks for examining change.In this blog post, we’ll explore four popular assessments— AnxietyHub’s public speaking anxiety test, the Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety (PRPSA) test, the Personal Report of Communication Apprehension, Public Speaking Subscale (PRCA-PS) and the Social Performance Scale Self-Reported Version (SPS-SR). These scales are similar, but their use cases differ. And just for clarity’s sake, psychometric assessments are not enough to constitute a diagnosis of any particular disorder — please speak with a licensed mental health professional if you suspect you suffer from social anxiety disorder and are interested in receiving a diagnosis of clinically significant anxiety.By shedding light on these assessment tools, we’ll uncover the transformative potential they hold in helping us break free from the chains of public speaking anxiety.Before we begin, I encourage you to read my previous blog posts on managing public speaking anxiety, which discuss topics including mindfulness, cognitive restructuring, tuning preparation methods, and developing concrete skills when speaking to an audience. From there, I advise you to try measuring your progress every few months to truly appreciate how far you’ve come from where you began. For example, if at the start you tend to experience considerable anxiety, employ the methods I’ve talked about and measure yourself again — the results may surprise you!Without further delay, let’s get started!
Public Speaking Anxiety Test – AnxietyHub
A good first start would be to check out free, online tools for getting a quick measure of your general fear of speaking in public, and one of my favorite tools for this isAnxiety Hub’s Public Speaking Anxiety Test (ASAT).The test is a series of 8 questions designed to measure your general fear of social situations where you must speak to a group of people. The test is split into two parts, where the first part measures whether you have a phobia of speaking in public, and the second measures how severe this phobia is.
Like many assessments of its kind, it asks for you to talk about thoughts and feelings surrounding social situations, as well as write a short statement after certain questions to determine in what way public speaking anxiety impacts your life, especially if it is considerable anxiety.
This test is fairly short, as it takes only a little time to complete, and the metrics for determining whether someone suffers from public speaking anxiety at all are fairly permissive. For example, some people only have severe anxiety when talking to an authority figure, but this doesn’t necessarily mean speech anxiety interferes with their life in a significant way.The test’s scale for high, medium, and low fear when in social situations is also somewhat limited, as someone can have high fear in a rare situation that never really comes up in their everyday life. For instance, just because you have high fear during a job interview doesn’t warrant a full blown diagnosis of social anxiety.
Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety (PRPSA)
The PRPSA test is designed to measure the levels of anxiety individuals experience specifically when speaking in public. It is a series of 34 statements, and it asks participants to rate how much they agree with if a statement applies to them on a 1-5 scale, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.For example, statement 1 of the PRPSA states: “While preparing for giving a speech, I feel tense and nervous.”Participants are then asked to rate the statement as a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 meaning:
After completing each statement, participants are asked to add scores from certain parts, subtract 72 from the first part, and add the total of the second part. The scores range from 34-170 using this formula.A score above 131 is considered considerable anxiety, below 98 is low, and anywhere between is considered moderate anxiety.
The test’s scale allows for a range of scores, which is better suited to capturing the nuances people have in public settings such as dread giving a speech, and more general fears of what might happen during a speech. Since it is focused on public speaking anxiety, it doesn’t ask about general situations that provoke fear responses, making it a useful tool for measuring our progress on managing giving a public speech, specifically.Also, it’s available to the public at no charge!
While reliable, the test’s reported mean and standard deviation are moderately high, meaning there is some room for error that could put someone from the moderate to the low category and vice versa if they are cusp cases. This is inherent in most psychometric assessments, but still important to point out!The test also lacks an opportunity to rank situations specific to them, which is expected from a free test that can be completed without a rater present.
Personal Report of Communication Apprehension, Public Speaking Subscale (PRCA-PS)
The Personal Report of Communication Apprehension, Public Speaking Subscale (PRCA-PS) is a widely used assessment tool designed to measure an individual’s level of anxiety or apprehension specifically related to public speaking. Its terminology is more clinical, as it uses the term “communication apprehension” to broadly describe thoughts, feelings, and sensations that social situations where we communicate with others provokes. It is a 24 question subscale of the larger PRCA questionnaire, which assesses communication apprehension across various contexts.The PRCA-PS consists of a series of statements or items that individuals rate based on their personal experiences and feelings about public speaking. Respondents indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree with each statement on a scale, typically ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.The PRCA-PS items assess different aspects of public speaking anxiety, including fear of evaluation, nervousness, and discomfort associated with speaking in front of an audience. By completing the PRCA-PS, individuals gain insight into their own level of anxiety and apprehension specific to public speaking.
The assessment breaks down different kinds of situations, contexts, and feelings that provoke anxiety, such as how hard it is to feel relaxed in a work meeting setting, how hard it is to feel calm while giving a presentation, how speaking in public makes your body physically feel, and even social phobia in interpersonal relationships.It’s for this reason that this scale is one of my favorites, as it hits on a very naturalistic truth: no one experiences public speaking anxiety to the same severity in every situation. You could be perfectly comfortable talking one-on-one to a stranger versus an audience of peers.Scores are calculated from the total of the subscores, and range from 24-120. Scores below 51 indicate low communication apprehension, and scores above 80 are high.
Very few! I genuinely love this assessment for how detailed it is, and how it acknowledges various contexts that may have differing levels of anxiety. Of note, the test was validated in a sample of college undergraduate students, though it was further validated by an additional non-student sample.
Social Performance Scale Self-Reported Version (SPS-SR)
The Social Performance Scale Self-Reported Version (SPS-SR) is an assessment tool used to measure an individual’s level of social anxiety or performance anxiety in various social situations, including public speaking. It is derived from the broader Social Phobia Scale (SPS) and is designed to capture the specific anxiety experienced when performing in front of others.The items in the SPS-SR focus on different aspects of social performance anxiety, including fear of being observed, self-consciousness, and concern about negative evaluation by others. By completing the SPS-SR, individuals can gain insight into their own level of anxiety specific to social and performance situations, such as public speaking.
Similar to the PRCA-PS, the SPS-SR provides different contexts and specific fears that are stoked during social situations, such as how severely a person can become confused and jumbled while speaking to an audience, or if they feel comfortable and relaxed talking to a person they know very well. It also hits on whether this anxiety is a constant fear across one’s daily life.
Out of all the scales we’ve talked about today, this one has the least amount of public information available, and is generally not available for personal use outside of a clinical study context.