Metacognition and maladaptive coping as components of test anxiety

Gerald Matthews, Emma J. Hillyard, Sian E. Campbell

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    Text anxiety refers both, to states of distress and worry during examinations, and to traits which, predispose the person to state anxiety. Wells and Matthews (1994) have proposed a general model of emotional disorder which describes a variety of cognitive processes which may contribute to trait and state test anxiety. These processes include excessive metacognition, maladaptive coping and worry. A study was run to investigate relationships between cognitive processes and test anxiety. Eighty-four undergraduate students completed questionnaires relating to cognition and trait text anxiety prior to an examination. Their stress states and coping during the examination itself were also assessed. Results showed that trait test anxiety relates to two distinct cognitive factors, relating to (i) metacognition and worry, and (ii) maladaptive coping. Cognitive measures also predicted some aspects of state response to the examination setting. Relationships between cognition and test anxiety were generally consistent with the model of Wells and Matthews (1994). Results also suggested that treatment for pathological test anxiety should reflect its cognitive basis. For example, test anxiety based on metacognitive dysfunction may require use of cognitive- behavioural techniques used to treat more general anxiety conditions. Conversely, test anxiety derived from maladaptive coping may respond best to training in coping skills. Attention training techniques may contribute to therapy for both metacognition and coping-based disorder. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-125
    Number of pages15
    JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 19 May 1999


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