Entry Through the Narrow Door: The Costs of Just Failing High Stakes Exams

63 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018

See all articles by Stephen J. Machin

Stephen J. Machin

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics

Sandra McNally

University of Surrey; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Jenifer Ruiz-Valenzuela

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

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Abstract

In many countries, important thresholds in examinations act as a gateway to higher levels of education and/or good employment prospects. This paper examines the consequences of just failing a key high stakes national examination in English taken at the end of compulsory schooling in England. It uses unique administrative data to show that students of the same ability have significantly different educational trajectories depending on whether or not they just pass or fail this exam. Three years later, students who just fail to achieve the required threshold have a lower probability of entering an upper-secondary high-level academic or vocational track and of starting tertiary education. Those who fail to pass the threshold are also more likely to drop out of education by age 18, without some form of employment. The moderately high effects of just passing or failing to pass the threshold in this high stakes exam are therefore a source of educational inequality with high potential long-term consequences for those affected.

Keywords: high stakes examinations, manipulation, English

JEL Classification: I20, I21, I24

Suggested Citation

Machin, Stephen J. and McNally, Sandra and Ruiz-Valenzuela, Jenifer, Entry Through the Narrow Door: The Costs of Just Failing High Stakes Exams. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11476. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3170265

Stephen J. Machin (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Sandra McNally

University of Surrey ( email )

Guildford
Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jenifer Ruiz-Valenzuela

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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