247 Test Anxiety Treatment

Based on research by: Wise, Erica H., & Haynes, Stephen N. (1983). Written by: Mara Rowcliffe, MS

Does excessive anxiety when taking tests interfere with your success? Does anxiousness about grades prevent you from thinking straight? The good news is, you can do something about this interfering anxiety.

Psychologist Stephen Haynes guided Erica Wise’s doctoral thesis to evaluate the effect of two kinds of cognitive treatment on test anxiety. Both had four sessions. Rational restructuring treatment taught participants to identify and change anxiety producing thoughts, while attentional training treatment taught participants to focus on the task of the test itself rather than their own fears of failure. Both treatments were presented in the same way, after they asked participants to imagine anxiety producing testing situations. Participants were compared on measures of anxiety with a group of individuals on a waiting list who received no treatment.

Results indicated that both treatment groups resulted in significantly lower levels of anxiety compared to the wait-list group. Those followed up after 8 months maintained their anxiety reduction skills and showed improvement in performance on evaluated tasks

If you have difficulty with anxiety prior to test taking, an assignment, or completing a performance evaluation, consider student counseling services to learn these coping skills.


Wise, E. H., & Haynes, S. N. (1983). Cognitive treatment of test anxiety: Rational restructuring versus attentional training. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7(1), 69-77.

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