Assessment And Stress in Students Majoring in Agriculture-Related Fields
This paper is based on the responses from the undergraduate students at Faculty of Agriculture (Banat University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Romania). This research investigated the level of stress associated with assessment during winter examination session. Relationships between I-E Locus of Control and level of stress, were explored. Four demographic variable were used Age, Environment, Gender, Year of Study. A total of 83 students participated voluntary in this research, asking them to accept to be part of an interventional program ”Stress Management”, if the level of stress is high. Database were obtained through two questionnaire: Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale (29 items) and Cohen-Williamson’s Perceived Stress Scale (14 items). The results, sustain that there is a statistically significant correlation between level of stress and I-E Locus of Control, but contrary to study in the field, the level of stress during assessment, was low to medium. This results was an obstacle in implementing a training program for stress management. The research present correlation between each of four demographic variable, and level of stress, and I-E Locus of Control.
Keywords: Undergraduatesassessmentstressexamination sessionFaculty of Agriculture
Approaching psychological issues of examining and assessing school results, started in Romania
in 1975 with D. Vrabie’s book “Students’ attitude towards school evaluation”. Since then, the issues have
diversified and have become more complex, which generated a different, more specialized approach. The
issues regard not only the contents, but also the system level; thus, if initially they studied the consequences of evaluating at secondary level, the last years have seen an increasing interest in tertiary
education as well.
Because of the changes in the academic environment, students’ stress can affect health and
academic performance (Hamaideh, 2011). The last years have seen an increasing number of students
(Lane, 2010), and students’ stress extends at larger scale: it has become a phenomenon that needs to be
managed by universities through specialised departments. Stress responses cover a wide range such as
affective, behavioural, psychological and cognitive responses (Lakaev, 2009), physical and emotional
reactions, and cognitive evaluations (Gadzella, 1994).
Locus of control represents both a belief and a personality trait that influences the way in which
individuals plan activities and approach situations (Rotter, 1966, in Erdogan, 2003). In an educational
context, locus of control marks students’ learning difficulties and attitude change (Sardogan et al., 2006).
Students with inner locus of control believe power and control lie in their hands since they control and
influence the course of events in their lives. They have a positive self-concept and they believe they can
direct their life’s route as they wish (Findley and Cooper, 1983). Students with outer locus of control
believe outer forces control everything in a positive or negative way. They believe that events and
situations cannot be controlled or predicted (Findley and Cooper, 1983).
Evaluating students is an important step in the educational process since it plays a role in both
identifying the level of knowledge acquisition and in adapting curricula to the demands of the labour
market. As for students’ behaviour during examination sessions, there are students who believe they can
face evaluation and control evaluation-engendered stress and students that hope to be lucky enough to
come across an easy subject or to meet an indulgent teacher.
Evaluation-related stress in students is still an issue since it affects the way in which they approach
evaluation, performances and, finally yet importantly, health. Participating in stress management
programmes can be a real support in the development of abilities that help them face examination periods
and other stressful situations successfully.
Locus of control is extremely important as far as the students’ belief that they can influence school
results is concerned. Locus of control is a system of stable beliefs that divide individuals in two groups:
inner locus of control (who believe that their actions and behaviour are decisive in the management of
situations they have to face) and outer locus of control (who believe that chance, luck or relationships can
help them solve their problems) (Rotter
a major influence not only on the behaviour of individuals, but also on their performances, acting like a
reason (Phares, 1976, in Henderson, 1982). To note that both locus of control and stress influence the
performances of the individuals, evaluation providing the opportunity to develop a more complex image
on evaluation, academic performance and different factors. Though Dumas’ study (2014) focuses on
aggressors, there are significant positive correlations between the inner locus of control, self-esteem,
Agreeableness, Consciousness and Openness – traits evaluated through the Big Five questionnaire.
The issue of students’ stress is a current one because of the diversity of the different aggressors, of
the different coping strategies and, last but not least, of the stage in the educational process. Since the prevalence of stress is rather high among the students, research in the field recommend particular
attention to the subject. They recommend longitudinal studies for the evaluation of the most effective
techniques of intervention (Benton et al., 2003; Robotham and Julian, 2006; Hystad et al., 2009).
Students’ stress is related to very many events, not just to exams. On the background of their
problems with their families, colleagues or teachers, problems related to absenteeism, health, money or
life in general, students could become more vulnerable because the way they perceive examinations is
much changed. By developing programmes to help the students understand the role of locus control in
their lives, they learn to better manage behaviours and beliefs. Academic evaluation can be “turned” from
event into a situation in which everybody can demonstrate the amount of knowledge acquired and how
well he or she can apply them.
1. Do examination periods generate a higher stress level in students?
2. Is there a correlation between locus of control (evaluated with Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale) and
stress level (evaluated with the Cohen and Williamson’s Scale)?
3. Are there gender differences in the students’ stress levels?
4. Are there significant gender differences in the locus of control?
1.3.Purpose of the Study
The goal of this paper is to establish the stress level of the students of the Faculty of Agriculture
(Banat’s University of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine “King Michael I of Romania” from
Timisoara, Romania) who agreed to participate in the study during their examination sessions, to identify
locus of control and to intervene, in the students with an outer locus of control and with a high stress
level, with a stress management and locus of control change programme to prevent negative effects.
Stress is often the same in all students; what differs is interpretation.
The first objective of the research was to identify possible relationship between stress level and
locus of control in students. The second objective was to see if there are gender differences in stress level
and locus of control in the student respondents.
2.1. Description of the Research Sample
The research sample consisted in 83 students of four different years from the Faculty of
Agriculture of the Banat’s University of Agricultural Science and Veterinary Medicine “King Michael I
of Romania” from Timisoara, Romania; standard deviation was 1.028. The students major in “Land
Measurements and Cadastre” and “Agriculture”. There were 48.20% female students (40 subjects) and
51.80% male students (43 subjects); standard deviation was .503. Respondents’ age ranged between 21
and 34 years, with a mean age of 22.99 years and a standard deviation of 4.982. Depending on the
environment, 66.20% of the subjects (55 students) came from the urban area and 33.80% of the subjects
(28 students) came from the rural area, with a standard error of .475. All respondents were Caucasian. Research was carried out during the fall examination period of the academic year 2015-2016. The
sampling method was pseudo-random depending on the availability of the teachers examining the
2.2. Description of the Research Instruments
The research instruments used in the study were the Locus of Control Scale (designed by Rotter in
1966) and the Perceived Stress Scale (designed by Cohen and Williamson in 1988). The participants
received a set of questionnaires that they filled in by hand.
2.2.1. Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale (1966)
Rotter (1966) defined locus of control in the Theory of Social Learning as enforcements, as basic
markers of long-term attitude in individuals. Locus of control is a vital concept in literature from the
perspective of helping and supporting students with learning and attitude difficulties. The concept of
“locus of control” also refers to and manages the situation according to which individuals analyse events
in their lives as a consequence of their actions or attitudes or as a result of chance, fate or exterior forces
Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale was used to operationalise the concept of control. It contains 29 items
with two response variants (a and b). Of the 29 items, six regard distraction of attention (a “filling” item
that gets no score). The 23 items taken into account for the evaluation of the locus of control force the
respondents (through the two response variants) choose between statements with inner or outer control
direction. From the point of view of fidelity coefficient, item correlation varies between .004 and .521,
depending on the item and on the gender of the respondents. Test-retest fidelity varies between .49 and
.83, and inner consistency varies between .65 and .79, depending on the subjects’ gender and on the
sample (Rotter, 1966, in Goyzman, 2010). High scores point to outer locus of control and low scores to
inner locus of control.
2.2.2. Cohen and Williamson’s Perceived Stress Scale (1988)
The Perceived Stress Scale translated and is a self-administered psychological instrument designed
to measure stress perception in individuals’ lives. It contains 14 items and it uses the five-stage (from A =
Never to E = Often) Likert Scale to analyse responses. The inner consistency of the scale is .82 (Lourel,
Gana and Wawrizyniak, 2005, in Preda, 2010). The scale is used to evaluate the stress level of individuals
aged 20+. According to the questionnaire suggestions, scores below 25 point to a low stress level and
scores above 50 point to a high stress level.
2.3. Description of Research Methods
In this research, we used descriptive statistics such as Pearson coefficient and correlation
coefficient to identify the power and direction of the two variables, and simple regression to find out the
effect of predictors on the two scales applied to the sample. We also used the t Test for pair samples to
evaluate the statistic relevance of the differences between the means of the score sets.
Research question 1: “Do examination periods generate a higher stress level in students?”
In this respect, we carried out a descriptive analysis to calculate scores on the Perceived Stress
Scale (Cohen and Williamson). The maximum score that can be obtained is 70 and the minimum is 14.
No student responded between the interval 50-70 corresponding to a high stress level. The score range
varied between 18 (a low stress level) and 49 (a medium stress level). Most respondents (89.15%) ranged
within the medium stress level, with a maximum concentration within the interval 31-40 (53.01% of the
respondents); 10.84% of the subjects ranged within the low stress level range.
These results contradict the results of other authors who claim a high stress level during
examinations, in general (Wilkinson, 1975; Robu, 2011; Mihăilescu et al., 2011) and during examinations
in technical universities, in particular (Balgiu, 2014).
Research question 2: “Is there a correlation between locus of control (evaluated with Rotter’s
Locus of Control Scale) and stress level (evaluated with the Cohen and Williamson’s Perceived Stress
As for dividing the students depending on the type of control (inner – I or outer – O) as a result of
the Locus of control Scale, 19.27% (16 subjects) got a score as outer, 54.21% (45 subjects) got a score as
inner, and 26.5% (22 subjects) got neutral (medium) scores. These results support, on the one hand, the
low scores on the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen and Williamson); however, a percentage of about
20.00% subjects that have outer locus of control contradict literature (Coşa, 2015) or can be explained by
the self-protection generated by defensive externality (Băban, 2005).
Students with inner locus of control and that choose to become teachers have a rational way of
making decisions (Wilson, 1982), which can explain the low scores in stress level during examinations; at
the same time, it can reflect a good management of the examination period, part of the respondents
enrolling for the Level I of the psychological and pedagogical training programme.
We then used descriptive statistics obtaining a statistically significant positive correlation of .258
(p < 0.05) between total score on Perceived Stress Scale and total score on Locus of control Scale. Thus, Data indicate that these predictors have significant on CW. Gender has more effect than other
independent variables. Gender effect is 0.48. Environment effect is -0.013. Years of study effect is -0,197.
Environment and years of study effect are negative on LOC even if it is not significant.
Being a student is a stage in an individual’s life when he/she acquires theoretical knowledge and
practical skills related to his/her future profession and a lot of experience in stress management, social
relationships (with colleagues, teachers) and career. Depending on one’s personality, students adapt, plan
and learn differently. Evaluating students supposes, first, making students aware about how much they
know, how well they have understood and how far or close they are to their goals. Evaluation affects not
only students but also teachers who have the opportunity to realise how effective teaching was.
Though literature claims that, during examinations, students are more vulnerable emotionally (they
have a higher stress level), the results of our study show that, in the case of our respondents, stress level is
medium, normal for individuals undergoing activities that need attention, memory, etc. Analysing data
pointed out that there is a positive correlation between locus of control and stress level. This needs to be
taken into account by teachers and counsellors of universities if they wish to help students have inner
control and manage stress better, with fewer negative consequences on both health and performance.
There are no significant gender differences in stress level and locus of control. The t-test analysis
identified that female students felt more irritated and less in control than male students a month after they
filled in the scales, with differences only in two items of the Perceived Stress Scale.
I thank all the students who agreed to participate in the research and spent part of their time filling
in the questionnaires necessary for this study. I also thank all teachers who allowed their students to fill in
the scales evaluating stress level and locus of control before the academic evaluation.
- Agolla, J.E. & Ongori, H. (2009). An assessment of academic stress among undergraduate students: The
- case of University of Botswana. Educational Research and Review, 4 (2), 063-070.
- Ahmed, U., Riaz, A. & Ramzan, M. (2013). Assessment of stress and stressors: a study on management
- students. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4(9), 687-699.
- Băban, A. (2005). Psihologia sănătății, Suport de curs. Universitatea ”Babeș-Bolyai” Cluj-Napoca. Balgiu, A.B. (2014). Stres și personalitate la studenții domeniului tehnic. Revista de Psihologie, 60(1), 29-37.
- Benton, S. A., Robertson, J. M., Wen-Chih, T., Newton, F. B., & Benton, S. L. (2003). Changes in counseling center client problems across 13 years. Professional Psychology-Research and Practice, 34, 66-72.
- Coşa L.E. (2015). Implications of Locus of control in distres and emotional exhaustion of undergraduates teachers, Discourse as a form of multiculturalism in literature and communication, Section: Psychology and Education Sciences, Editura Arhipelag XXI Press, Târgu Mureș, 322-331.
- Donatelle, J.R. (2013). My Health: An Outcomes Approach, Pearson, cap. 3 Stress, downloaded at https://www.pearsonhighered.com/donatelle1einfo/myhealth/assets/images/other/Donatelle_Ch03.pdf (accessed in 26.05.2016).
- Dumas, L.L. (2014). Do offenders’ life goals reflect locus of control and personality traits? Electronic
- Theses and Dissertations, Paper 88.
- Erdogan, B. (2003). Effects of Background Information and Locus of Control on Student’s Control Preferences ın Web-Based Instruction. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Ankara University, Education Sciences Institute, Ankara.
- Farooqi, Y.N., Ghani, R. & Spielberger, C.D. (2012). Gender differences in test anxiety and academic performance of medical students. International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 38-43.
- Findley, M.J. & Cooper H.M., (1983). Locus of control and academic achievement: A literature review. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44(2), 419 – 427.
- Gadzella, B.M. (1994). Student-Life stress inventory: Identification of and reactions to Stressors. Psychological Reports, 74, 395-402.
- Goyzman, J. (2010). The influence of Locus of Control and Stress on Performance. The Huron University College Journal of Learning and Motivation, 48(1), 128-144.
- Hamaideh, S.H. (2011). Stressors and reactions to stressors among university students. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 57(1), 69-80.
- Henderson, C.B. (1982). An analysis of assertive discipline training and implementation on in-service elementary teachers’ self-concept, locus of control, pupil control ideology, and assertive personality characteristics. Indiana University, Doctoral Thesis.
- Hystad, S. W., Eid, J., Laberg, J. C., Johnsen, B. H. & Batone, P. T., (2009). Academic stress and health: exploring the moderating role of personality hardiness. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 53(5), 421–429.
- Kobasa, S. (1979). Stressful Life Events, Personality, and Health: An Inquiry into Hardiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37, 1–11.
- Lakaev, N. (2009). Validation of an Australian academic stress questionnaire. Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 19(1), 56-70.
- Lane, B. (2010). Enrolment grows ahead of 2025 target. The Australian, 16/6/2010.
- Mihăilescu, A., Matei, V., Cioca, I. & Iamandescu, I. B. (2011). Stresul perceput – predictor al anxietăţii şi depresiei la un grup de studenţi în primul an la medicină. Practica Medicală, VOL. VI, Nr. 2(22), 150-154.
- Preda, V.R. (2010). Efecte ale stresului și strategii de coping la cadre didactice și la elevi, Teză de doctorat, document accesat în 31.03.2016.
- Robotham, D. & Julian, C. (2006). Stress and the higher education student: a critical review of the literature. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 30(2), 107–117.
- Robu, V. (2011). Psihologia anxietății față de testări și examene. Repere teoretice și aplicații, Performantica, Iași.
- Sardogan, E. M., Kaygusuz, C. & Karahan, T. F. (2006). A Human Relations Skills Training Program, University Students’ Locus of Control Levels, Mersin University. Journal of the Faculty of Education, 2 (2), 184-194.
- Schwabe, L., Wolf, T. & Oitzi, M. (2009). Memory Formation under Stress: Quantity and Quality. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 34(4), 584–91.
- Soh, K. C. (1986). Locus of control as a moderator of teacher stress in Singapore. The Journal of Social Psychology, 126(2), 257-258.
- Vrabie, D. (1975). Atitudinea elevilor față de aprecierea școlară, Editura Didactică și Pedagogică, București.
- Wilkinson, R.T. (1975). Performance under stress. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 68, 425-427.
- Wilson, L.A.R. (1982). The effects of instructional approach, locus of control, and cognitive style on the decision to teach. Retrospective Theses and Dissertations, Paper 7554.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
About this article
Cite this paper as:
Click here to view the available options for cite this article.