Exam room heat may boost results for female students - but not males

Research uncovers gender divide over temperature in the exam hall

Mark Smulian

exam heat

Exam results can be influenced by the temperature of the room in which tests are held, but with different effects on male and female students.

That finding has come from research by academics from Berlin and California published in the scientific journal Plos One.

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Tests on 542 college students in Berlin found women generally performed better when rooms were warmer and men when it was cooler.

Researcher Agne Kajackaite, head of the ethics and behavioral economics research group at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, told Tes: “We suspect that the results would be similar [for school age pupils] but a study with children has to be conducted to really be sure.”

Students were tested in mathematics, verbal reasoning and cognitive reflection in environments that ranged from 16.1ºC to 32.6ºC.

The research report said: “At higher temperatures, women perform better on a math and verbal task while the reverse effect is observed for men.

“The increase in female performance in response to higher temperature is significantly larger and more precisely estimated than the corresponding decrease in male performance.

“In contrast to math and verbal tasks, temperature has no impact on a measure of cognitive reflection for either gender."

The results showed that gender is an important factor in determining the impact of temperature on comfort and on productivity and cognitive performance and that “at the very least, it suggests that future studies on the effect of temperature should examine potential heterogeneous effects across gender”.



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