Under the Button is part of a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Controversial New Research Shows Students Perform Better on Tests if They Study More

Photo by Lizzy Machielse / The Daily Pennsylvanian Credit: Lizzy Machielse

The results of a recent peer-reviewed study, led by two Penn psychologists, are unequivocal: more studying means higher grades. The two variables were positively correlated with a p-value of less than .004, suggesting that the results could not be due to chance.

Over 800 subjects across the country spent two hours a day, twice a week, listening to lectures about feline drug addiction. After three weeks, they were tested on what they had learned. Subjects studied zero, one, three, five, or eight hours for their test.

“It’s just incredibly clear, from our data, that studying notes and materials from lectures helps one recall relevant information when tested,” Dr. Marth Kelemen said. “These conclusions support a lot of similar research. Why any student wouldn’t study is absolutely beyond me.”

Any amount of studying, the study shows, is likely to produce better results than taking the test without studying

“If, for example, you are very busy and you figure it isn’t worth studying because you only have an hour, so you just scroll your Instagram explore page instead,” Dr. Kelemen continued, “you are nearly guaranteed to do worse than if you had studied even for an hour.” 

This new information ought to revolutionize the way people prepare for tests, but students aren’t buying it. 

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Wharton junior Sam Brontley. “In fact, I think it’s wildly irresponsible to call this science. The natural conclusion of this study is that we are in control of our own test scores, which is clearly false.”

Engineering sophomore Lisa Tute was equally dubious. “If studying means better test scores, why does nobody do it?" she asked. "I think it’s possible that this stuff is only true for learning about drug addiction among cats, not more complex subjects like anatomy or accounting. So, it was a flawed study.”

Some students suggest that even if the research is true, there are better ways to improve test scores.

“Adderall does the same thing and takes a lot less time to work,” offered College sophomore Evan Xin. “And it’s fun.”

“My rich parents just threaten my instructors,” Wharton freshman Ivan Sandis admitted. “I know not everyone can do that, but it works for me.”

Opinions among professors interviewed for this story were unanimous: They already knew this, and assumed students did, too.

History professor Alan Silveran asked, “How else do you prepare for a test? Do students not study?” He looked incredulous.

Dr. Melissa Nopal, a psychologist at Yale, said that the hardest thing about psychological research is that it can be difficult to see the impact of your work.

“Studying sucks and, honestly, is kind of nerdy,” she said. “There are so many other, cooler things you can do, like getting brunch, or smoking weed and watching YouTube videos, or searching for a high-paying job. It’s hard for students to accept that they should study more, let alone actually do it.”