Date of Award

Summer 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Desideria Hacker

Committee Member

Robin J. Lewis

Committee Member

Delanyard Robinson

Committee Member

Fredrick Frieden

Committee Member

Janis Sanchez-Hucles


Testing in American schools has increased dramatically in recent years (Cizek & Burg, 2006), increasing the need for research in test anxiety (TA). Writing apprehension, a subcategory of TA, may be of particular concern among students at all levels of education given the recent addition of writing assessments on the SAT and GRE tests.

Very few recent studies have examined demographic correlates of TA and the demographics of students in higher education have been changing for some time. These changes include an increase in all categories of nontraditional students. Nontraditional students, by definition, face a particular set of challenges in attending college. They tend to have significant family responsibilities, work and/or other obligations beyond those of traditional students (Ryan, 2003), leaving less time and energy to focus on academics. The research findings on age trends have been variable. However, some research shows a slight decline in the prevalence of TA in the college years (Hembree, 1988; Zeidner, 1998). Early studies have shown that African American students, in general, show higher levels of TA than Caucasian students (Payne, Smith, & Payne, 1983; Rhine & Spaner, 1983).

There is minimal research that examines TA specifically for writing exams, or writing apprehension. Earlier studies found that writing apprehension is highly negatively correlated with performance on writing competency assessments and general essays (Daly, 1978; Faigley, Daly, & White, 1981). Given this, it is important to consider the factors that impact writing competency. Graham and Harris (2000) noted much support in the literature for the impact of transcription, or handwriting abilities, on writing competency but also point to self-regulation as another key factor in writing competency. They observed that skilled writers tend to have better self-regulation skills than less skilled writers. In a related area, White and Bruning (2005) found that students' belief systems concerning writing are related to the quality of their writing.

The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between TA, writing apprehension, trait anxiety, and other factors on the outcome of a writing competency examination. The study also assessed the relationship between variables related to nontraditional college students, and TA and writing apprehension. One hundred thirty-seven students at an undergraduate Historically Black College or University (HBCU) participated in the study. Each participant was registered to take the Examination of Writing Competency (EWC) in the semester in which they participated. Participants completed a demographic survey and several measures assessing trait and test anxieties, writing self-regulation, and writing apprehension. The results indicated that only self-regulation during writing was significantly related to writing competency. The relationship was significant only for participants' total score on the EWC and did not predict whether they passed or failed the exam. A discussion of the results, including limitations of the study and directions for future research are presented.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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