Adaptive Coping With Test Situations: A Review of the Literature

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This article reviews research on students' coping with test situations and the relation between coping efforts and adaptational outcomes. Further, conceptual and methodological issues related to research on coping and adaptive outcome variables are discussed. Overall, this article lends support to a number of tentative generalizations about the coping process in exam situations. First, adaptive coping in exam situations involves a flexible repertoire and combined use of alternative coping strategies, including task-oriented and emotion-oriented forms of coping. Coping strategies in exam situations are found to work with modest effects and make a difference, mainly with respect to affective outcomes. With respect to cognitive outcomes, coping has little meaningful influence on exam performance. Furthermore, coping with a stressful exam situation is a process; it is a transaction between a person and an event that plays across time and changing circumstances, with the relevance of a coping reaction varying with the phase of the stressful examination considered. Furthermore, research suggests that coping patterns should fit both the context and the individual, with coping invariably interacting with situational parameters in impacting upon both adaptive and maladaptive outcomes. At present, there is no consensus about which coping strategies are most effective and adaptive in promoting positive outcomes in exam situations. It is not clear whether coping influences adjustment, whether coping tactics covary with adjustment, or whether coping and distress are mutually intertwined reflections of yet some other human condition or characteristic. Future research on the effectiveness of coping strategies in examination contexts should include more precise theoretical statements, continuous and longitudinal data collection, and the inclusion of situational and personal variables. Further research is needed to clarify how a coping strategy resolves problems, relieves emotional distress, and prevents future difficulties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-133
Number of pages11
JournalEducational Psychologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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