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Entry through the narrow door: The costs of just failing high stakes exams

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  • Machin, Stephen
  • McNally, Sandra
  • Ruiz-Valenzuela, Jenifer

Abstract

In many countries, important thresholds in examinations act as a gateway to higher levels of education and/or improved employment prospects. This paper examines the consequences of just failing a particularly important high stakes national examination taken at the end of compulsory schooling in England. It uses unique administrative data, including full information on both initial and regraded exam marks, to show that students of the same ability have significantly different educational trajectories depending on whether they just pass or fail this exam. Three years later, students who just fail to achieve the required threshold have a lower probability of entering an upper-secondary high-level academic or vocational track and of starting tertiary education. Those who fail to pass the threshold are also more likely to drop out of education by age 18, without some form of employment. The moderately high effects of just passing or failing to pass the threshold in this high-stakes exam has high potential long-term consequences for those affected.

Suggested Citation

  • Machin, Stephen & McNally, Sandra & Ruiz-Valenzuela, Jenifer, 2020. "Entry through the narrow door: The costs of just failing high stakes exams," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:190:y:2020:i:c:s0047272720300888
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104224
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    6. José Montalbán, 2023. "Countering Moral Hazard in Higher Education: The Role of Performance Incentives in Need-Based Grants," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 133(649), pages 355-389.
    7. Steve Machin & Sandra McNally & Camille Terrier & Guglielmo Ventura, 2020. "Closing the Gap between Vocational and General Education? Evidence from University Technical Colleges in England," CESifo Working Paper Series 8678, CESifo.
    8. Lee Elliot Major & Stephen Machin, 2020. "Covid-19 and social mobility," CentrePiece - The magazine for economic performance 583, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    9. Gill Wyness & Lindsey Macmillan & Jake Anders, 2021. "Does education raise people's productivity or does it just signal their existing ability?," CEPEO Briefing Note Series 12, UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, revised Apr 2021.
    10. Oliver Anderson, 2022. "Walking the line: Does crossing a high stakes exam threshold matter for labour market outcomes?," CEPEO Working Paper Series 22-05, UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, revised Apr 2022.
    11. Fumagalli, Laura & Rabe, Birgitta & Burn, Hettie, 2023. "Teacher grade predictions for ethnic minority groups: evidence from England," ISER Working Paper Series 2023-03, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    12. Cabrera-Hernández, Francisco & Padilla-Romo, María & Peluffo, Cecilia, 2023. "Full-time schools and educational trajectories: Evidence from high-stakes exams," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 96(C).
    13. Aspasia Bizopoulou & Rigissa Megalokonomou & Stefania Simion, 2022. "Do Second Chances Pay Off?," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 22/762, School of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    14. Stephen Gibbons & Claudia Hupkau & Sandra McNally & Henry G. Overman, 2021. "The Effects of College Capital Projects on Student Outcome," CVER Research Papers 035, Centre for Vocational Education Research.
    15. Sandra McNally & Luis Schmidt & Anna Valero, 2022. "Do management practices matter in further education?," POID Working Papers 026, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    16. Holford, Angus, 2020. "Youth employment, academic performance and labour market outcomes: Production functions and policy effects," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    17. Ahmet Alkan & Sinan Sarpça & Sinan Sarpca, 2023. "Effects of High-Achieving Peers: Findings from a National High School Assignment System," CESifo Working Paper Series 10794, CESifo.
    18. Foliano, Francesca & Green, Francis & Sartarelli, Marcello, 2019. "Away from home, better at school. The case of a British boarding school," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
    19. Stephen Machin & Sandra McNally & Jenifer Ruiz-Valenzuela, 2023. "School qualifications and youth custody," CEP Occasional Papers 57, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    20. Emanuela Macrí & Giuseppe Migali, 2022. "The effect of test anxiety on high stakes exams," Working Papers 365237216, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    21. M. Antonella Mancino & Leonardo Fabio Morales & Diego F. Salazar, 2023. "Signaling Worker Quality in a Developing Country: Lessons from a Certification Program," Borradores de Economia 1259, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    22. Albarran, Pedro & Battaglia, Marianna & Sartarelli, Marcello, 2022. "The psychological effect of a math signal," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    23. Oliver Anderson, 2023. "Walking the line: Does crossing a high-stakes exam threshold matter for labor market outcomes?," French Stata Users' Group Meetings 2023 01, Stata Users Group.
    24. Chiara Cavaglia & Stephen Machin & Sandra McNally & Jenifer Ruiz-Valenzuela, 2020. "Gender, achievement, and subject choice in English education," CVER Research Papers 032, Centre for Vocational Education Research.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    High stakes examinations; Manipulation; English;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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