Intrusions in test anxiety

  • Kristina KlugEmail author
  • Theano Tolgou
  • Miriam Schilbach
  • Sonja Rohrmann


Test anxiety constitutes a widespread phenomenon among students and is associated with a reduced academic performance and a stressful life. Intrusive experiences represent a significant symptom and lead to additional psychological strain (Pekrun and Götz 2006). A deeper understanding of intrusions has contributed to the development of effective therapeutic approaches within the context of anxiety disorders. The current study investigates the prevalence and content of intrusions as well as subsequent coping strategies in the context of test anxiety in 202 German-speaking students. An online survey, which covered the manifestation of test anxiety and aspects of the intrusive experiencing, was completed by the participants. Based on their statements, category systems were constructed using qualitative content analysis according to Mayring (2015) and a frequency analysis was carried out. Results indicate that approximately a third of all students suffer from intrusions, of which up to nine different intrusions are reported. Preeminently, physiological as well as visual intrusions occur. Content-related, negative cognitions are particularly reported. The engaged coping strategies are largely to be assessed as functional and encompass aspects such as social interactions or physical activation. The content of intrusions, cognitions, emotions, and coping strategies can be identified and used in treatment.


Test anxiety Intrusive imagery Cognitions Emotions Coping strategies Qualitative content analysis 



We are very grateful to all participants in this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Differential Psychology and Psychological AssessmentGoethe-University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Department of Work and Organizational PsychologyJohannes Gutenberg-University MainzMainzGermany

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