Motivation theory has emphasized the importance of self-efficacy in mediating students’ stress response during exams (e.g. Barrows, Dunn, & Lloyd, 2013). However, research into exam stress has primarily been conducted using self-reports of psychological stress. We examined the impact of a practice mid-term exam in a gateway engineering course on initial level and change in physiological arousal of the HPA axis using salivary cortisol. Additionally, we examined the relation between physiological arousal and students’ reported self-efficacy during the exam. We found that change in self-efficacy was inversely related to change in cortisol, suggesting students who experienced greater declination in self-efficacy did not experience as much recovery in HPA arousal over the course of the exam.
University of Oregon
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Sponsor: Kaitlin Smith, University of California, Irvine