Being able to wear work clothes and use authentic tools are significant attractions of work-experience programmes, according to pupils.
Teenagers also value being treated as adults rather than children, said Elizabeth Hopkins, of Bishop Grosseteste University College in Lincoln.
In 2004, the Government made it statutory for all schools to include work experience as part of the curriculum at key stage 4. This "work-related learning" was defined as a planned activity that "uses the context of work to develop knowledge and skills useful in work."
Dr Hopkins interviewed 50 Year 10 pupils from four schools about their work programmes.
She found that the opportunity to spend time out of uniform and away from school was of great benefit. They felt time at work passed more quickly than lessons at school.
But the demands of the GCSE curriculum meant pupils were rarely given the time they would like in the workplace. Many felt that work experience was tacked onto the timetable, rather than incorporated into the curriculum.
Dr Hopkins said work experience and success in school were often linked: "Students perceived work-related learning as giving them an important head start.
"Through their experience students believed they were empowered to have a more informed understanding of the importance of passing nationally accredited exams."