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

26 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2012

See all articles by Ian Fillmore

Ian Fillmore

University of Chicago

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: October 2012

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Fillmore, Ian and Pope, Devin G., The Impact of Time between Cognitive Tasks on Performance: Evidence from Advanced Placement Exams (October 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18436. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2157880

Ian Fillmore (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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