NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Impact of Time Between Cognitive Tasks on Performance: Evidence from Advanced Placement Exams

Ian Fillmore, Devin G. Pope

NBER Working Paper No. 18436
Issued in October 2012
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

In many education and work environments, economic agents must perform several mental tasks in a short period of time. As with physical fatigue, it is likely that cognitive fatigue can occur and affect performance if a series of mental tasks are scheduled close together. In this paper, we identify the impact of time between cognitive tasks on performance in a particular context: the taking of Advanced Placement (AP) exams by high-school students. We exploit the fact that AP exam dates change from year to year, so that students who take two subject exams in one year may have a different number of days between the exams than students who take the same two exams in a different year. We find strong evidence that a shorter amount of time between exams is associated with lower scores, particularly on the second exam. Our estimates suggest that students who take exams with 10 days of separation are 8% more likely to pass both exams than students who take the same two exams with only 1 day of separation.

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the January 2013 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Information about Free Papers

You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18436

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Dranove, Forman, Goldfarb, and Greenstein w18281 The Trillion Dollar Conundrum: Complementarities and Health Information Technology
Adrian, Colla, and Shin w18335 Which Financial Frictions? Parsing the Evidence from the Financial Crisis of 2007-9
Lazear and Spletzer w18386 The United States Labor Market: Status Quo or A New Normal?
Conti, Galeotti, Mueller, and Pudney w18475 Popularity
Gibson, Fendrick, and Chernew w18402 Cost-Sharing and Productivity
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us