Test anxiety, caused by excessive stress, is on the rise and continues to affect adolescent academic performance and mental health before, during and after exams.Effective methods are needed to alleviate test anxiety, fear of negative evaluation, and enhance self-efficacy. Virtual reality (VR) can provide immersive exam scenarios, which can help evoke and intervene in test anxiety, but its effectiveness needs further research. Therefore, this study explored the effects of VR-based exposure therapy on test anxiety and negative emotions and cognitions among high school students. A randomized control group pre and post-test experimental design was adopted,46 high school students with high test anxiety(the score of Test Anxiety Scale＞20) were randomly assigned to the VR-based exposure group(n=15), imaginary exposure group(n=15), and the control group(n=16) to receive the intervention once a week for four sessions. Data were collected through self-report questionnaires, including test anxiety, test context anxiety, subjective units of distress,fear of negative evaluation,and general self efficacy. The results showed that VR-based exposure and imaginary exposure were effective in evoking negative emotions and cognitions associated with test anxiety, significantly reducing test anxiety,test context anxiety and subjective distress units. Compared to the imaginary exposure group,VR-based exposure had greater potential to reduce test anxiety and test context anxiety but less improvement in subjective units of distress and self-efficacy. Fear of negative evaluation decreased in all groups, but neither group showed a significant difference. In conclusion,VR-based exposure therapy is an effective method to intervene in test anxiety among high school students,especially showing unique advantages in activating and alleviating negative emotions, but its effects on adolescents' self-perceptions still need to be further explored.
Future research can investigate the mechanisms of VR interventions for adolescent test anxiety more systematically in terms of emotion and cognition.