Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2013. Vol.3, No.1, 73-78
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojml) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojml.2013.31009
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 73
The Relationship between Locus of Control, Test Anxiety, and
Religious Orientation among Iranian EFL Students
Mina Rastegar, Nahid Heidari
Foreign Language Department, Shahid Bahonar University, Kerman, Iran
Received October 31st, 2011; revised December 26th, 2011; accepted January 4th, 2012
The present study was designed to investigate the relationship between locus of control (LOC), religious
orientation (RO) and test anxiety (TA) among Iranian EFL learners. Furthermore, it scrutinized the role of
gender on these variables. To achieve such goals, 100 Iranian EFL students (57 females, 43 males) study-
ing English at Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman participated in the study. These students were ran-
domly selected from among junior and senior students majoring in English Translation and English Lit-
erature. In order to obtain the required data, three questionnaires were utilized: Rotters’s (1966) locus of
control scale (LOCS) to measure participants’ level of LOC, Sarason’s (1975) test anxiety scale (TAS) to
measure participants’ TA, and Allport and Ross’s (1967) Religious Orientation Scale (ROS) to determine
participants’ intrinsic or extrinsic religious orientation. For analysis of data, the Pearson Product Moment
Correlation and T-test were used. The results revealed that there was a significant negative relationship
between ILOC and TA and a significant positive relationship between ELOC and TA. Furthermore, there
was a significant positive relationship between ILOC and IRO and a significant positive relationship be-
tween ELOC and ERO. Also, there was a significant negative relationship between ILOC and TA, and a
significant positive relationship between ELOC and TA. Finally, there were not any significant differ-
ences among males and females regarding ILOC, ELOC, TA, IRO, and ERO.
Keywords: Locus of Control (LOC); Test Anxiety (TA); Religious Orientation (RO); Gender
It is undoubtedly true that learners bring many individual
characteristics to the learning process which will affect both the
way in which they learn and the outcomes of that process. Lo-
cus of control (LOC), test anxiety (TA), and religious orienta-
tion (RO) are among these characteristics, and their relationship
will be investigated in this study.
The question of whether or not we control our own fate has
been the topic of debate for centuries. Religion and literature
have both had a long history of trying to discern what forces
shape our future. As early as the Ancient Greek times, philoso-
phers and writers focused on the idea of fate and free will.
While some find the idea of having a greater power drive our
lives comforting, others find it frightening. Further, there are
those who rely on the idea of not being in control of their lives
to justify their actions or explain their misfortunes. Because of
the mixed emotions surrounding fate, destiny, and free choice,
numerous works from the ancient times until now focus on
locus of control (LOC).
The concept of locus of control was first introduced by Rot-
ter (1966). LOC (Rotter, 1966) is conceptualized on a dynamic
bipolar continuum spanning from internal to external. Internal
locus of control (ILOC) is characterized by the belief that con-
sequences are a result of one’s own behavior. In other words,
individuals who believe that their successes or failures result
from their own behaviors possess an internal locus of control.
On the other hand, external locus of control (ELOC) is charac-
terized by the belief that consequences are a result of fate, luck,
or powerful others. In other words, individuals who attribute
their successes or failures to something incongruent with their
own behaviors possess an external locus of control.
The second variable of this study is test anxiety. Test anxiety
refers to worry, apprehension, palpitation, increase in pulse rate
and other physiologic symptoms during the exam. (Abolghasemi,
Asadi, Moghadam, Najarian, & Shokrkon, 1996; Vitasari, Nubli,
Othman, Herrawan, & Sinnadurai, 2010). TA negatively affects
academic performance. According to Sarason and Sarason
(1990), High-test-anxious students express concern about the
consequences of not performing at a satisfactory level on major
exams and embarrassment at probable failure. Also, test-anx-
ious college students, relative to their low-test-anxious coun-
terparts, report suffering from poor mental health and psycho-
somatic symptoms (Depreeuw & DeNeve, 1992). Spielberger
(1972) reported that students who are high in test anxiety tend
to have poor study habits and test taking skills.
The third variable of this study is religious orientation (RO).
Religious orientation has been defined as the “extent to which a
person lives out his/her religious beliefs” (Allport & Ross, 1967:
p. 433). Allport and Ross (1967) originally conceptualized reli-
gious orientation as a single construct varying along a contin-
uum between intrinsic and extrinsic belief systems. More ex-
trinsically oriented individuals “use religion to their own needs”
(Allport & Ross, 1967: p. 434), and “Persons with intrinsic
religious orientation find their master motive in religion” (All-
port & Ross, 1967: p. 434).
The relationship among I-E LOC, TA, and I-E RO, will be
investigated in this study. Furthermore, this study scrutinizes
the role of gender on these variables.
M. RASTEGAR, N. HEIDARI
Relationship between LOC and TA
In the literature, external LOC is typically positively corre-
lated with TA (Archer, 1979; Beekman et al., 2000; Berrenberg,
1987; Gabbard, Howard, & Tageson, 1986; Moore, 2006;
Watson, 1967). Similar findings occurred among college stu-
dents (Watson, 1967), older adults (Beekman et al., 2000), ado-
lescents, army recruits, alcoholics, and emotionally disturbed
children (see Archer, 1979 review).
Furthermore, Berrenberg’s (1987) study of undergraduates
relating a scale of exaggerated internal LOC to test anxiety
found a negative correlation between internal LOC and test
anxiety. However, in another investigation, the relationship be-
tween locus of control, procrastination and anxiety revealed
that internals experienced higher academic procrastination and
test anxiety than externals (Carden, Bryant, & Moss, 2004).
Relationship between LOC and RO
The first substantial investigation of the relationship between
religious orientation and locus of control was conducted by
Strickland and Shaffer (1971). Strickland and Shaffer (1971)
found that locus of control, measured as extent of externality,
and internal religious orientation were negatively correlated (r
= −.30). Moreover, research indicated intrinsic religiousness is
positively related to internal LOC (Kahoe, 1974; Strickland &
Shaffer, 1971, Sturgeon & Hamley, 1979).
However, in a study by McIntosh, Kojetin, and Spilka (1985),
involving students enrolled in an introductory psychology
course at the University of Denver, no significant correlation
was found between E-I LOC and religious orientation. It is
possible that this result may have been due to the use of an
instrument specifically designed for people with some form of
religious involvement, with a sample of subjects not representa-
tive of the latter.
Relationship b et we e n RO and TA
Typically, intrinsic religiousness is negatively related to test
anxiety (Baker & Gorsuch, 1982; Bergin, Masters, & Richards,
1987; Koenig, Moberg, & Kvale, 1988; Maltby, Lewis, & Day
1999; Sturgeon & Hamley, 1979). Furthermore, in most studies,
extrinsic religiousness is positively related to test anxiety (Baker
& Gorsuch, 1982; Bergin et al., 1987; Watson et al., 2002).
However, some non-significant results for the relation be-
tween intrinsic religiousness and test anxiety have also been
found in samples of American, English, and Iranian college
students (Maltby & Day, 2000; Watson et al., 2002).
LOC, TA, RO, and Gender
Results on gender differences in locus of control have varied.
Nowicki and Strickland (1973) found a negative relationship
between the locus of control and achievement of children in
grades 3 - 12. As achievement scores went up, external scores
went down, and this was mostly found in males. McLaughlin
and Saccuzzo (1997) found that gender effects were apparent
with females showing a slight but significantly greater internal
locus of control. Young and Shorr (1986) found that females
tend to attribute both success and failure outcomes to internal
causes significantly more often than males.
Regarding the relationship between test anxiety and gender,
(Hembree, 1988; Lashkaripour, Bakhshani, & Soleymani, 2007;
Mousavi, Haghshenas, & Alishahi, 2008; Putwain, 2007; Zeid-
ner, 1998) investigated the relationship between test anxiety,
academic achievement, and gender. The results of this study
showed that, test anxiety occurred in girls more than boys and
this difference was significant. On the other hand, there are
some contradictory results regarding gender and TA. Fan, Chen,
and Matsumoto (1997), Hyde, Fennema, and Lamon (1990),
Pajares and Graham (1999) explored the relationship between
TA and gender and reported that the differences among females
and males regarding TA were non-significant and slight.
Regarding RO and gender, it is commonly accepted that
women are more religious than men. Numerous surveys going
back at least a century have repeatedly found this to be the case
(Beit-Hallahmi & Argyle, 1997; Brown, 1987; Francis, 1997;
Paloutzian, 1996; Walter & Davie, 1998). Batson, Schoenrade,
and Ventis’s overview (1993), on predominantly Christian sam-
ples, reported higher levels of attendance and Bible study
among women than among men. Beit-Hallahmi and Argyle
(1997) concluded that there were higher levels of religious
involvement, prayer, experience and overall religiosity among
women compared to men, and suggested that these gender dif-
ferences may be a reflection of greater opportunity among wo-
men for religious activity, or perhaps of differences in person-
ality and socialization.
This study aims at seeking answers to the following major
and minor research questions.
Major Resear ch Questions
1) Is there any relationship between internal-external locus of
control and test anxiety among Iranian EFL learners?
2) Is there any relationship between internal-external locus of
control and intrinsic-extrinsic religious orientation among Ira-
nian EFL learners?
3) Is there any relationship between intrinsic-extrinsic reli-
gious orientation and test anxiety among Iranian EFL learners?
Mino r Research Question
4) Are there any differences among males and females con-
sidering internal locus of control, external locus of control, test
anxiety, intrinsic religious orientation, and extrinsic religious
One hundred Iranian EFL students studying at the depart-
ment of foreign languages of Shahid Bahonar University of
Kerman took part in this study. These students, including both
males and females, were randomly selected from junior and
senior students majoring in English Translation and English
Literature. Among the sample population, there were fifty
seven females (57%) and forty three males (43%).
In order to obtain the required data on the variables locus of
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
M. RASTEGAR, N. HEIDARI
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 75
control, test anxiety, and religious orientation, three question-
naires were utilized:
1) Locus of Control Scale (Rotter, 1966);
2) Test Anxiety Scale (Sarason, 1975);
3) Religious Orientation Scale (Allport & Ross, 1967).
Locus of Control Scale (Rotter, 1966)
Rotter’s (1966) LOC scale was used to measure an individ-
ual’s internal-external orientation. The scale is referred to as the
I-E scale and provides a measure of individual differences in a
generalized belief for internal versus external control of rein-
forcement. It is a two-point scale and participants are supposed
to select choice (a) or (b) in each part. The scale consists of 29
items. Of the 29 items, 23 related to internal-external expectan-
cies, and 6 are filler items intended to disguise the purpose of
the test. Students’ answers can range from 1 to 23, and the
scores obtained from this scale were divided into two groups by
the researcher in order to make the analysis of the data easier.
Scores from 1 - 10 indicated ILOC and scores above 10 indi-
cated ELOC. Item and factor analyses indicated high internal
consistency, test-retest reliability was satisfactory, and the test
correlated satisfactorily with other method of assessing the
same variable (Rotter, 1966).
The Test Anxiety Scale (Sarason, 1975)
Sarason’s (1975) test anxiety scale (TAS) was used as the
research tool to determine the students’ degree of test anxiety.
Sarason’s (1975) TAS is a Likert scale with 37 items which
reflect the multi-componential aspects of test anxiety (Zeinder,
1998). The items are based on the evidence that test anxiety is
composed of test-relevant and test-irrelevant thinking. Re-
sponses range from 1 (completely disagree) to 5 (completely
agree). For each item, the highest degree of anxiety receives
five points and the lowest, one point. Students’ scores can range
from 37 to 185, the greater the number, the stronger the degree
of test anxiety. The TAS is a reliable instrument in identifying
students’ anxiety experience in language learning. The internal
consistency measure of TAS showed an alpha coefficient of .90
(Aydin, Karakuza, & Elkilik, 2009).
Religious Orientation Scale (Allport & Ross, 1967)
Allport and Ross’s (1967) Religious Orientation Scale (ROS)
was used to determine the participants’ I-E RO. The scale con-
sists of 20 items divided into two subscales, intrinsic and ex-
trinsic. The intrinsic sub-scale has 9 items, while the extrinsic
sub-scale has 11items.The questions were answered using a 5
point Likert scale and responses range from 1 (strongly dis-
agree) to 5 ( strongly agree). Students’ answers can range from
9 to 45 in IRO subscale and 11 to 55 in ERO subscale. The
Religious Orientation Scale has demonstrated good psychomet-
ric properties, with high internal consistency for both subscales
(Hill & Hood, 1999). Hill and Hood (1999) noted that the in-
trinsic subscale has been found to be more internally consistent
than the extrinsic, with α > .80 and α > .70, respectively.
The present study was carried out during the class time in the
second semester of the academic year (2011). The question-
naires were distributed among the participants by one of the
researchers. Participants were given 35 minutes time to answer
the questionnaires and there were accompanying instructions.
They were informed that the information would be used for
research purposes and they were assured that they will be kept
Pearson Product Moment Correlation analysis was used to
seek any meaningful relations between the variables locus of
control, test anxiety, and religious orientation, and independent
sample T-test was used to find any significant differences be-
tween males and females regarding these three psychological
Results and Discussion
The Descriptive Statistics of the variables of the study (LOC,
TA, and RO) and students’ gender are presented in Tables 1
and 2 respectively.
According to Table 2, the collected data shows that 43 per-
cent out of 100 students were male and 57 percent were female
As can be observed in Table 3, there is a significant negative
relationship between ILOC and TA (P-value = .003, r = −.29),
and there is a significant positive relationship between ELOC
and TA (P-value = .007, r = .27).
According to Table 4, there is a significant positive rela-
tionship between ILOC and IRO (P-value = .000, r = .49), and
there is a significant positive relationship between ELOC and
ERO (P-value = .000, r = .39).
Descriptive Statistics of the variables.
N Range Minimum Maximum Mean SD Variance
ILOC 100 10 1 10 6.15 2.77 7.72
ELOC 100 9 11 20 15.25 2.88 8.35
TA 100 85 60 145 101.4 23.27 541.5
IRO 100 39 9 42 28.72 13.38 178.8
ERO 100 36 15 51 34.07 10.56 111.6
Valid N 100
The frequency distribution of the participants’ gender.
Frequency Percent Valid percent Cumulative percent
Valid Male 43 43 43 43
Female 57 57 57 100
Total 100 100 100
M. RASTEGAR, N. HEIDARI
Correlations of the variables I-ELOC and TA.
Note: **Correlation is significant at the .01 level (2-tailed).
Correlations of the variables I-ELOC and I-E RO.
Note: **Correlation is significant at the .01 level (2-tailed).
As can be observed in Table 5, there is a significant negative
relationship between ILOC and TA (P-value = .000, r = −.80),
and there is a significant positive relationship between TA and
ERO (P-value = .000, r = .59).
An Independent Sample T-test was applied to compare the
means of locus of control, test anxiety, and religious orientation
in two groups of males and females. P-Value in all the variables
is above the significant level of α = .05. So the results indicated
that there were no significant differences between two groups
of males and females regarding locus of control, test anxiety,
and religious orientation (Table 6 ).
In this section, the research questions presented in this article
are dealt with one by one. Each question will be answered
based on the findings of the study. Because LOC and RO are
bipolar concepts, they will be discussed separately as (I-E LOC
and I-E RO) in this section. The first research question asked
whether there was any relationship between LOC orientation
and TA. The results revealed that there was a significant nega-
tive relationship between ILOC and TA. Regarding the nega-
tive relationship between ILOC and TA, the finding of this
study is in line with Berrenberg’s study (1987) who found
similar results. However, this finding contrasts with some other
studies. For example, Carden et al. (2004) found that internals
experienced higher academic procrastination and test anxiety
than externals. Regarding the positive relationship between
ELOC and TA, the result of this study is in line with some other
studies. For example (Archer, 1979; Beekman et al., 2000; Gab-
bard, Howard, & Tageson, 1986; Moore, 2006; Watson, 1967)
found the same results. However, Carden et al. (2004) found a
negative relationship between ELOC and test anxiety.
The second research question asked whether there was any
relationship between LOC orientation and RO. The results re-
vealed that there was a significant positive relationship between
ILOC and IRO. Strickland and Shaffer (1971), Kahoe (1974),
and Sturgeon and Hamley (1979) found the similar results.
However, the result of this study contrasts with some other
studies. For example McIntosh et al. (1985) found a negative
relationship between ILOC and IRO. Also, the results revealed
that there was a significant positive relationship between ELOC
and ERO. According to Strickland and Shaffer (1971), ERO
was positively related to ELOC, specifically controlled by
powerful others and chance. However, McIntosh et al. (1985)
reported that no significant correlation was found between
ELOC and ERO.
The third research question asked whether there was any re-
lationship between RO and TA. The results revealed that there
was a significant negative relationship between IRO and TA.
The finding of this study support previous established results.
For example (Baker & Gorsuch, 1982; Bergin et al., 1987;
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
M. RASTEGAR, N. HEIDARI
Correlations of the variables TA and I-ERO.
Note: **Correlation is significant at the .01 level (2-tailed).
Gender differences and the variables LOC, TA, and RO.
P-value (sig) df Statistics T SD Mean N Gender
2.01 6.42 43 Male .40 98 −.83
3.24 5.95 57 Female
3.60 15.60 43 Male .21 98 −1.23
2.83 14.80 57 Female
23.14 99.12 43 Male .38 98 .87
23.41 103.25 57 Female
13.29 29.67 43 Male .54 98 .615
13.63 28.00 57 Female
10.73 34.21 43 Male .91 98 −.114
10.53 33.96 57 Female
Koenig et al., 1988; Maltby et al., 1999; Sturgeon & Hamley,
1979) found the similar results. However, Maltby and Day
(2000) and Watson et al. (2002) did not find any significant
relationship between IRO and TA. Also, the results revealed
that there was a significant positive relationship between ERO
and TA. Baker and Gorsuch (1982), Bergin et al. (1987), Wat-
son et al. (2002) found similar results. However, Maltby and
Day (2000) did not find any significant relationship between
ERO and TA.
The last research question asked whether there were any dif-
ferences among males and females regarding ILOC, ELOC, TA,
IRO, and ERO. The results revealed that there were not any sig-
nificant differences among males and females regarding gender.
First, regarding I-ELOC and gender, the results of this study
contrast with what McLaughlin and Saccuzzo (1997), and Young
and Shorr (1986) found. They reported that females tended to
attribute both success and failure outcomes to internal causes
significantly more often than males.
Second, regarding test anxiety and gender, there are some
studies that are in line with the findings of this study. For ex-
ample (Fan et al., 1997; Hyde et al., 1990; Pajares & Graham,
1999) reported that the differences among females and males
regarding TA were non-significant and slight. However some
other studies by Lashkaripour et al. (2007) and Mousavi et al.
(2008) found that TA occurred in girls more than boys.
Third, regarding I-E RO, the findings of this study contrast
with some other studies. For instance, according to (Batson et
al., 1993; Beit-Hallahmi & Argyle, 1997; Brown, 1987; Francis,
1997; Paloutzian, 1996; Walter & Davie, 1998) women are
concluded to be more religiously-active than men.
This study sets out to find out 1) relationship between LOC
orientation, TA, and RO among Iranian EFL learners; 2) the ef-
fects of gender on LOC orientation, TA, and gender. The find-
ings of this study revealed that there was a significant nega-
tive relationship between ILOC and TA, and there was a sig-
nificant positive relationship between ELOC and TA. Further-
more, there was a significant positive relationship between
ILOC and IRO, and there was a significant positive relationship
between ELOC and ERO. Finally, there was a significant nega-
tive relationship between IRO and TA, and a significant posi-
tive relationship between ERO and TA. The variable gender did
not prove to have a significant effect on the above-mentioned
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