Changes in examination practices reduce procrastination in university students
European Journal of Higher Education
The purpose of the study reported here was to observe the effects of examination practices on the extent to which university students procrastinate. These examination practices were: (1) limiting the number of resits, (2) compensatory rather than conjunctive decision-making about student progress, and (3) restricting the time available for completing the first bachelor year. Study success in the first academic year (successful completion within one year, delay, or dropout) of 12,432 students entering a Dutch university before the introduction of the new examination practices was compared with that of 17,036 students admitted after its introduction. After the implementation of the new examination practices successful completion increased with 23% and delay decreased with 25%. The data were collected using an interrupted time series design. Three attempts were made to deal with possible threats to its internal validity. (1) Potential confounding variables were demonstrated not to play a role in explaining the effect of the new examination practices. (2) Interrupted time series regression demonstrated that the intervention, not other changes over time, contributed to study success. And (3), extraneous events interfering with the effect of the intervention were shown to be unlikely. In conclusion, the study presented here is the first to demonstrate the effect of examination rules on study delay. The findings indicate that delays, as usually observed in higher education, are not necessarily the result of lack of ability. Nor are they necessarily the effect of some inherent personality disorder.