Jerrell Cassady, Kathryn Fletcher, & Athena Dacanay
Ball State University, USA
Paper Presented at the 31st World Conference on Stress
and Anxiety Research. Galway, Ireland; August 4-6, 2010
Classic Test Anxiety Typologies
State vs. Trait Anxiety Orientations
Transactional Process Model (Spielberger & Vagg)
Additive Model (Zohar)
Generalized trait-like responses to evaluations in general as
well as specific task component influence these orientations
and interpretations.
Emotionality vs. Worry Orientations
e.g., Liebert & Morris; Sarason; Flett & Blankstein
“Worry” conceived more broadly by some to be “cognitive test
anxiety” which can include self-deprecating ruminations, taskirrelevant thoughts, worry, cognitive interference, cognitive load
“Emotionality” generally involves aspects such as tension and
bodily symptoms encountered when faced with the evaluation.
Cognitive Interference Model
Information is available, but the anxiety leads
to interference with retrieval efforts.
Cue overload due to inappropriate “restriction
of range” for the memorial attempt
Inappropriate attention focus during search
or spreading activation
Strategically-flawed LTM search strategies
Cognitive Load Theory
Information Processing Model
Learner experiences failure in processing
information (largely defined).
 Encoding, rehearsal, storage, cognitive
organization, retrieval failures all potential
sources for performance failure.
 Provides greater allowance for all phases
in the learning-testing cycle (Test
Preparation, Test Performance, Test
Learning - Testing Cycle
Test Preparation Phase
 Study skills & strategies
 Study time and efficiency (repetition)
 Procrastination -- impedes primarly at “finals”
 Cognitive processing/encoding
 Surface-level processing
 Low self-regulation (monitor effort and progress)
 Perceived threat of tests
 Misappraisal of need to study/prepare
Learning - Testing Cycle
Test Performance Phase
 Anxiety blockage phenomenon (high
anxiety, good study skills, easy items)
 Interference during test session
 Distraction from test
 Decision-making impaired under stressful
situations when “confidence” levels fall for
 Initial response to items on test -- panic
and fear response
Learning - Testing Cycle
Test Reflection Phase
 Interpretation of failure/success (attributions)
 Self-efficacy judgments
 Goal establishment for future tests
 Development of “fear” for tests -- (ie, tests are
seen as threatening events -- sparking avoidance,
 Helplessness orientations
 Influence coping strategies in future test situations
Zeidner’s Typology for Evaluation Anxiety
This orientation pays greater attention to the
underlying causes of the test anxiety.
Study/Test Deficiency
 Anxiety Blockage and Retrieval Failure
 Failure Acceptance
 Failure Avoidance
 Self-handicapping
 Perfectionism
474 university students in volunteer
study participation pools
 73% Female; 93% Caucasian
(consistent with the population pool)
 Class status demonstrated primarily
upper class undergraduates participated
Data Collected
Cognitive Test Anxiety Scale
 Perceived Test Threat
 Reactions to Tests: Bodily Symptoms
 Emotional Intelligence Scale
 Study Skills and Habits
 Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale
Guiding Questions
Is there evidence of differential patterns
of test anxiety in the sample?
 Do differential patterns align with
established conceptualizations for test
 Do differential patterns of coping and
related variables arise?
 Do coping indicators identify types noted
by Zeidner?
University Status Comparison
CTA: F (4,462) = 6.55, p < .001; PTT: F(4,449)=3.7, p<.005
Additional Analyses
No meaningful differences on other
variables based on university status
 Females reported using social
supportive and positive reinterpretation
coping strategies more.
 No significant differences based on
reported race.
 Disparity in sample sizes significant
limitation in these analyses
Learning-Testing Specific CTA
Forced analysis of CTA items based on
“where” in the Learning-Testing cycle they
referenced were conducted.
 No meaningful findings demonstrating
differential forms of coping for students with
varied degrees of CTA at Test Preparation,
Test Performance, or Test Reflection
 Minimal variations among three phases on
current CTA measure detected.
Students with High Levels of
Cognitive Test Anxiety…
Higher reported use of following coping
strategies than those with moderate to
low levels CTA: [F (2,458) reported]
 Mental disengagement [14.5]
 Denial [26.63]
 Behavioral disengagement [34.9]
 Focus on emotions and venting [14.3]
 Substance use [10.4]
Students with High Levels of
Cognitive Test Anxiety…
Higher reported rates on: [F’s (2, 248)]
 Concern over mistakes (MPS, 33.7)
 Doubts over action (MPS, 52.99)
 Parental Control (MPS, 22.6)
 Bodily symptoms (RTT, 102.1)
Lower reported skills in effective study
strategies and cognitive elaboration,
F(2, 458) = 13.7.
Similar Analyses for Perceived
Test Threat (“worry”)
Same pattern of findings demonstrated for
the students with high levels of
perceived test threat with exceptions:
All effect sizes were smaller than for the
CTA effects
 No substance use coping differences
based on worry
 Low levels of worry associated with higher
use of planning coping strategies
Additional Analysis
In an exploratory analysis of the
differential relationships among CTA,
PTT, and the outcome variables, we
examined the study variables based on
groups established based on levels of
(High CTA, High PTT, High CTA + PTT)
Students with high PTT – but not CTA
had higher levels of emotional
intelligence (in touch with own emotions
about testing situation)
 Bodily Symptoms related primarily to
CTA, not PTT (measures Test
Performance Phase exclusively)
Study skills deficits reported equitably
for students with high CTA and PTT.
 Perfectionism tendencies noted for
students with high levels of CTA (not
present for students with high PTT):
 Concern over mistakes
 Doubts about actions
 Parental control
Coping strategies observed to be
prevalent for students with
simultaneously high levels of CTA and
PTT were mental disengagement and
focus on emotion/venting.
 Students with just high CTA (not PTT)
displayed denial, substance use, and
behavioral disengagement coping
Broader measure CTA more directly
connected to reported maladaptive
perfectionism and avoidance-focused
coping variables.
 Students with BOTH high perceived test
threat and CTA demonstrates more
emotion-focused coping strategies (not
positive strategies), consistent with
tendency for PTT to be related to
emotional intelligence.
Typology for Cognitive Test
No simple solution to typology for
cognitive test anxiety
 Addition of achievement motivation and
self-regulation indicators supportive in
identifying primary impairments in
student performance for students with
 Intervention attempts have been best
guided by item-level analyses for “critical
Cluster analysis to simultaneously
examine perfectionism and test anxiety
 Path analyses examining potential for
emotional intelligence, study skills
(including self-regulation), and coping
strategies to moderate documented
effects of test anxiety on performance
Jerrell Cassady
Professor, Dept. of Educational Psychology
Director, Academic Anxiety Research Consortium
Ball State University
[email protected]