Article | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Cognitive Fatigue Influences Students' Performance on Standardized Tests

by Hans Henrik Sievertsen, F. Gino and Marco Piovesan

Abstract

Using test data for all children attending Danish public schools between school years 2009–2010 and 2012–2013, we examine how the time of the test affects performance. Test time is determined by the weekly class schedule and computer availability at the school. We find that, for every hour later in the day, test performance decreases by 0.9% of a standard deviation (95% CI: 0.7%–1.0%). However, a 20–30 minute break improves average test performance by 1.7% of a standard deviation (95% CI: 1.2%–2.2%). These findings have two important policy implications: First, cognitive fatigue should be taken into consideration when deciding on the length of the school day and the frequency and duration of breaks throughout the day. Second, school accountability systems should control for the influence of external factors on test scores.

Keywords: Time Management; Education; Performance Evaluation; Education Industry; Denmark;

Citation:

Sievertsen, Hans Henrik, F. Gino, and Marco Piovesan. "Cognitive Fatigue Influences Students' Performance on Standardized Tests." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (in press).