**No. 3/2016:Preparation time, exam scores, and tertiary
education
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*Abstract
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Past research has emphasized that school year length and instruction time affect student test
scores. In many cases students are allowed some time in preparation for high-stakes tests, and
the length and use of this time is likely to affect actual test scores in a similar way as school
year length. However, today no empirical evidence exist on the effect of preparation time. This
paper adds to the literature by using what is in effect random variation in students’ preparation
time prior to high-stakes exams. Explicitly, all Norwegian high school students are notified
which exams each student will take at a precise date and time. Because students are randomly
assigned to take exams in several different subjects, there is a random within-student variation
in the length of preparation time varying between 5 and 25 days in the data. Using this randomization
and administrative student level data, the study finds that 5 extra days of preparation
time increases exams scores between 5.7 and 6.7% of a standard deviation. The effect differs
somewhat between the genders, and also materializes strongly in longer-run outcomes indicating
increased human capital. Finally, the paper uses the variation in preparation time to estimate
an IV estimate of the effect of exam scores on longer-run outcomes.