High ceilings impact test scores

High ceilings impact test scores

There is an interesting new study that suggests, that taking an examination inside a big hall with high ceilings can affect the examinee’s test scores.

In an article written by Isabella Bower, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of South Australia, and Jaclyn Broadbent, the pro vice-chancellor sessional academic experience and deputy head of school (psychology), Deakin University, they said there is a correlation between having your exams inside a big hall and how poor your test outcome would be.

“In our previous 2022 lab-based study, we found if rooms were larger, there was an impact on brain activity associated with our ability to concentrate,” the researchers said. “This leads us to wonder whether, in everyday life, large rooms have an impact on cognitive performance (or how well our brains can perform tasks) – and therefore whether traditional large exam halls have an impact on students’ results.”

Bower and Broadbent have analysed, using the linear mixed model as their statistical model, the test scores of 15,400 psychology undergraduates (2011 – 2019), at one Australian university, across three campuses.

“We matched exam scores and the room dimensions where the examinations were held. This included rooms with ceiling heights between 2.79 metres to 9.50m, and internal floor areas between 38m² to 1,562m². We factored in students’ coursework scores as well as variables such as their gender, age, past exam experience and the unit of study. We also looked at geographic location, as admission requirements were different across campuses. All of these helped us understand what might affect our results,” they said.

The result is just simply mind-blowing.

“The “significance” score for coursework was less than 0.001 and for ceiling height, it was 0.002. A score below 0.05 means the result is unlikely to happen by chance, so we can be confident there’s a real effect,” Bower and Broadbent said. “This means a students’ prior coursework scores had a bigger impact on their exam score. But we still found ceiling height was a significant predictor of their results. In other words, even after accounting for other factors, higher ceiling heights were a significant predictor of the students’ exam scores.”

While study habits do matter in getting better scores, based on the research result, the dimensions of the room have also a profound effect on the test results.

The researchers said that their study yielded some other aspects worth studying, in connection with examinees' performance during exams, such as room temperature and insolation, room context, crowd or the number of people taking the exams in just one big hall, sitting arrangement/distance, and room allocation.