Why study for an exam when you still have a resit?

| HOP, Josefine van Enk

Students spend less time preparing for an exam if there’s a resit opportunity. But there are ways to reduce this ‘perverse incentive’, research by PhD student Rob Nijenkamp shows.

Resits are usually a given in Dutch higher education. But past research has shown that this causes students to be less prepared for their first exam, increasing their likelihood of failing. Rob Nijenkamp, a PhD researcher at the University of Groningen, wanted to find out how this ‘resit effect’ could be counteracted.

He asked first-year psychology students to fill in questionnaires to find out which study strategies they used. The results were as he suspected: students will put less time and effort into preparing for their first exam if they know there will be a resit.

Minimum mark

That perverse incentive can’t be negated altogether, but there are ways to reduce it, Nijenkamp’s study revealed. He found that it helps if students must receive a minimum mark (a 4 out of 10, for instance) on the first exam to qualify for the resit. This encourages them to put serious effort into studying for the first exam.

Another possibility is to schedule the first exam and the resit further apart.

This ensures that students will have forgotten most of what they learned for the first exam opportunity by the time of the second one, meaning they have to start all over again to pass the exam. This also makes it less appealing to do a resit.