Students’ last-minute submissions score lower, study finds

Universities have a duty to help procrastinators improve study habits, say researchers

September 18, 2014

Students who hand in essays at the last minute score five percentage points lower on average, according to a study.

In a wake-up call to undergraduates who congratulate themselves on submitting assignments just minutes before deadlines, researchers at Warwick Business School found that this practice could cost them a grade.

Analysing 777 marketing students who submitted their work online over a five-year period, the research team found marks dropped the closer to the deadline the essays were handed in.

Those who submitted work 24 hours before the deadline scored an average of 64 per cent, whereas those who handed work in with just a minute to go, scored 59 per cent – a degree classification lower.

Students who submitted work between two and 12 hours before the cut-off scored only slightly lower – 63 per cent – than those who submitted the day before.

Although the findings in the paper Time of Submission: An Indicator of Procrastination and a Correlate of Performance on Undergraduate Marketing Assignments may not surprise lecturers, they highlight the importance of warning students about the dangers of leaving work to the last minute, researchers say.

Spotting “procrastinators” early on in the first year and helping them to improve their study habits could improve grades, said the study’s co-author David Arnott, principal teaching fellow in marketing and e-business at Warwick. “If this can be eradicated in a student’s first year, it may aid the output degree classification and employability of our students,” said Dr Arnott.

His co-author Scott Dacko, associate professor of marketing and strategic management, also believed that universities should look into teaching students about time management to help improve results.

“The need to enhance students’ ability to organise themselves and self-regulate learning and their subsequent confidence in their abilities is evident,” said Dr Dacko.

He added that it was “quite alarming” that universities “are failing some students…on providing them with study skills to make the most of their undergraduate study”.

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