Marathon, Hurdling, or Sprint? The Effects of Exam Scheduling on Academic Performance

  • 1 Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 434 Galvez Street, Stanford, USA
  • 2 Department of Economics, University of Queensland, Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Sofoklis GoulasORCID iD: and Rigissa Megalokonomou


Would you prefer a tighter or a more prolonged exam schedule? Would you prefer to take an important exam first or last? We exploit quasi-random variation in exam schedules across cohorts, grades and subjects from a lottery to identify distinct effects of the number of days between exams, the number of days since the first exam, and the exam order on performance. Scheduling effects are more pronounced for STEM exams. We find a positive and a negative relationship between STEM scores and exam order (warm-up) and number of days since the first exam (fatigue), respectively. In STEM, warm-up is estimated to outweigh fatigue. Marginal exam productivity in STEM increases faster for boys than for girls. Higher-performing students exhibit higher warm-up and lower fatigue effects in STEM than lower-performing students. Optimizing the exam schedule can improve overall performance by as much as 0.02 standard deviations.

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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (BEJEAP) is an international forum for scholarship that employs microeconomics to analyze issues in business, consumer behavior and public policy. Topics include the interaction of firms, the functioning of markets, the effects of domestic and international policy and the design of organizations and institutions.