How do high school and college students cope with test situations?

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This paper reports data on high school and college students' coping strategies and compares and contrasts their respective responses. Specifically, we examine the relationship between personal variables, coping, and affective outcomes in 100 high school and 241 college students preparing for an important exam. Test anxiety, coping resources and situational coping strategies served as predictor variables whereas resultant state anxiety during the exam period served as the criterion measure in the analyses. The data show that both high school and college students used combinations of most of the available forms of problem-focused and palliative coping, although problem-focused coping was observed to be more prominent than palliative coping. Compared to high school students, college students reported more frequent use of problem-focused coping whereas high school students reported more frequent avoidance coping than their collegiate counterparts. Overall, highly similar patterns of relations were observed between anxiety and predictor variables in high school and college students. Students with richer coping resources and low trait text anxiety evidenced lower state anxiety in an evaluative encounter. Whereas problem-focused coping was not predictive of anxiety in either group, palliative strategies (i.e., emotion-focused coping and avoidance) were significantly related to affective outcomes. At both high school and college levels dispositional test anxiety was significantly predictive of palliative coping strategies, which were, in turn, related to affective outcomes. Coping strategies were not meaningful moderators of the relationship between personal resources and state anxiety in either group. Overall, this study suggests that personality variables influence the coping strategies students select and these strategies, in turn, influence subsequent affective outcomes. The results are discussed in light of coping theory and prior research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-128
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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