The Impact of Time Between Cognitive Tasks on Performance: Evidence from Advanced Placement Exams
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.
We are grateful to Derek Neal and seminar participants at the University of Chicago for helpful suggestions. Ian Fillmore would like to thank the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) for funding through the Pre-doctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Program at the University of Chicago. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Increasing the number of days between exams from one to ten improves the probability of passing both exams by 8 percent. In many...
Economics of Education Review Volume 48, October 2015, Pages 30–40 Cover image The impact of time between cognitive tasks on performance: Evidence from advanced placement exams Devin G. Popea, , , Ian Fillmoreb citation courtesy of