No. 3/2016:Preparation time, exam scores, and tertiary education


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 studentsí 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.