Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Second Advisor

Dr. Spates

Third Advisor

Dr. Robertson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kaye


Test anxiety is a common problem among students in western culture due to the importance of academic achievement and the consequences for failure. Many consider test anxiety to be primarily an issue of poor study habits and test readiness. However, some students who appear to possess excellent study habits also appear to experience severe anxiety during tests. A recent meta-analysis of test anxiety research substantiated these claims, finding that test anxiety appeared to be an emotionally-based as opposed to a cognitively-based problem. Despite these findings, the etiologies for test anxiety remain unknown. Similar to nearly all DSM-IV diagnostic categories, test anxiety is a syndrome with no known pathognomonic sign(s) which singularly diagnose the condition. Hence, treatments for test anxiety, as for nearly all other DSMIV mental disorders are symptomatic as opposed to strategic. Unfortunately, there are few symptomatic treatments for test anxiety that are both efficient and effective.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which was developed for the symptomatic treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), was chosen to treat the symptoms of test anxiety for the following essential reasons: (a) the reported efficacy of EMDR with PTSD; (b) the similarities between test anxiety and PTSD that include intrusive thoughts, inability to concentrate, behavioral avoidance, and emotional symptomatology; and (c) the need for a brief, effective symptomatic treatment for test anxiety.

Using a waiting control group against which to compare the treatment group and subsequently replicate treatment effects, the results found that EMDR was highly effective for the symptomatic reduction of self-reported test anxiety as measured by all test anxiety scales. Moreover, these results also suggest that measures of study habits and attitudes are also sensitive to enhancement as a result of treatment with EMD/R. Although the current results did not suggest specific mechanism(s) by which EMDR was effective, the pattern of highly effective results across widely different types of test anxiety presentations suggests the actions of an active placebo treatment It is suggested that future research contrast EMD/R with known active placebo protocols.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access