Dispositional coping strategies, optimism, and test anxiety as predictors of specific responses and performance in an exam situation
Baker, Jason J.
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Since testing situations may be very stressful and aversive for students (Edelmann & Hardwick, 1986), researchers have Investigated the roles that coping strategies, test anxiety, and optimism play In determining outcomes in testing situations. Research has found exam performance to be positively associated with problem-focused coping (Zeidner, 1995) and optimism (Lee, Ashford, & Jamieson, 1993), and negatively associated with test anxiety (Seipp, 1991). However, research has generally failed to Investigate the coping strategies used the day before an exam, or anxiety levels experienced by students during this time period. The present study examined some of the factors that contribute to students' reactions and performance in an exam situation. Students enrolled In Introductory psychology courses completed measures of dispositional coping, test anxiety, optimism, and negative affectlvity at the beginning of the semester. Students also completed measures of situational (exam-specific) coping and pretest state anxiety the day before an Introductory psychology exam. As hypothesized, dispositional measures of coping and test anxiety were associated with exam-specific measures of coping and pretest state anxiety. Consistent with prior research, for women, exam scores were positively associated with optimism and negatively associated with test anxiety. Contrary to prior research, no relationship was found between coping strategies and exam scores. Consistent with previous research (Hart & Hinter, 1995), for women, optimism was positively associated with reflective coping (i.e., planning and reflecting upon the problem) and negatively associated with test anxiety and reactive coping (i.e., behaviors that distort coping efforts). For men, optimism was negatively associated with suppressive coping (i.e., behavioral avoidance). For women and men, test anxiety was positively associated with reactive coping, while pretest state anxiety was positively associated with suppressive coping. Consistent with previous research (Hong & Karstensson, 2002), women reported higher levels of test anxiety than men. Women also reported significantly higher levels of dispositional reactive coping than men. Contrary to prior research, the results did not support the hypothesized relationship between reflective coping and test anxiety. The Implications for psychological Interventions, as well as possible areas for future research, are discussed.