Tests Early In The Day Make For Higher Scores, New Study Projects


Let’s imagine for a minute that you as a student, have a choice in the matter or even more realistically, that someone who has the veto power actually reads this, a new study has compared every hour that a test is pushed to later on in the day, to missing ten days of school. That’s a scary thought, especially as tests seem to have such a direct correlation to intelligence in this part of the world.

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It does not matter that there’s already an impressive list of factors that work towards varying test scores, some of which include; scholastic aptitude and knowledge (of course), nutrition, economic background, psychological problems and so forth, with the latest addition from this study being the time of day the test is taken. The study was carried out on 2 million Danish school children between the ages of 8 to 15 who took their nation’s comprehensive national test.


The test-taking schedule had to be determined by availability of computers and class schedule, making the timing essentially random for students. The researchers found that for every hour after 8am that the tests were taken, test scores declined significantly and the students who’d already been performing badly in class, sunk even lower. In essence, for every hour that passed before the tests held, scores declined by 0.9%. The team also discovered that a 20 to 30 minutes break before the tests saw an average improvement of 1.7% in test scores, which was equivalent to if the tests were taken 2 hours earlier.


So all those giddy celebrations that occur when we find out that tests have been moved to later on in the day, may be more suitable as subdued complaints with these new results. The simple suggestion from the study is that if students are unable to sit for exams right at the beginning of the day when minds are still fresh, they should get a short break from class to prepare themselves mentally and combat cognitive fatigue.

One of the researchers, Hans Henrik Sieversten, told New Scientist; “I’m very interested in what’s going on in these breaks…Is it because they have something to eat, or fresh air? If we know that, we can maybe speculate why some children are more affected than others.” so it may not be solely based on the fact that you had a break, but what indeed you do with that break, more pressured reading, may not be the answer.


The team is now in the process of a follow-up experiment involving 106 schools and almost 32,000 teenagers in the UK to see if this 10am benefit is real but Science Alert happily states;

“So in a perfect world, students would get a sleep-in and sit their tests first thing in the mid-morning. But in the not-so-perfect real world, you start school when your school tells you to, so if you have a choice in when you sit your exams, make sure you pick the early slot, or demand a break beforehand. Cite “cognitive fatigue” – we’ve got your back.”

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