Marathon, hurdling, or sprint? The effects of exam scheduling on academic performance

Sofoklis Goulas, Rigissa Megalokonomou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190177
Number of pages36
JournalBE Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • cognitive fatigue
  • exam schedule
  • exam warm-up
  • gender gap
  • lottery
  • practice
  • scaffolding
  • STEM
  • student performance

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