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Study: Ceiling Height Affects Exam Performance – Knowledge

Study: Ceiling Height Affects Exam Performance – Knowledge

Having to write high school exams in a school gym or college exams in a cafeteria can sometimes be a disadvantage for test takers. According to an Australian study, large exam halls are linked to poor test performance among students.

For the study, a team led by Isabella Power of the University of South Australia in Adelaide analyzed the performance of 15,400 students over eight years. Examination results were compared to the height of the examination room’s ceiling. The researchers also factored in other factors such as the individual students’ previous achievements, age, gender or field of study. The result: If students sat in high rooms, their grades tended to be worse than what the examiners expected. The reports The team in Journal of Environmental Psychology.

However, this does not prove that the lower student performance is actually due to the high ceilings themselves or other features typical of large rooms. In previous studies, lower room temperature and air quality have been linked to poorer performance, as have a large number of test takers in the same room. The researchers also speculate that a smaller room may provide students with more opportunities to cheat.

Poor insulation and less cheating

However, lead author Bauer stresses in a press release: “The central point is that large rooms with high ceilings seem to be detrimental to students, and we need to understand what brain mechanisms are at play and whether this affects all students equally.” With training in both psychology and architecture, one of Bauer’s research focuses on the effects of building design on human brain function.

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In the study, the researchers point out that a poor result on a crucial exam can, under certain circumstances, have a negative impact on one’s entire career. They also criticize the focus on cost and staff efficiency that often drives the decision to have a large examination room. Although the exact reasons still need more research, “if we want to better assess students’ abilities, we should move away from taking exams in rooms with high ceilings,” the report says.

Bauer has previously used virtual reality technology to research questions similar to those in the current study.In those experiments, different types of rooms were simulated for test subjects, during which time brain activity was measured via electrodes attached to the scalp. Breathing and heart rate were also monitored. Because Bauer and her colleagues were able to control factors like size, temperature, and brightness in the VR experiments, the tests revealed evidence that larger space alone was associated with difficulty concentrating on challenging tasks. With the new study, Bauer wanted to test these initial findings in real-world situations.