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How Much is That Exam Grade Really Worth? An Estimation of Student Risk Aversion to Their Unknown Final College Course Grades


  • Lanier Nalley
  • Andrew McKenzie


This study created an experimental design with which students can empirically assess their risk behavior with respect to exam grades within an expected utility framework. Specifically, the authors analyzed students’ risk preferences associated with taking exams and earning a “risky” unknown grade versus not taking exams and instead obtaining a “sure” grade. Students have grade-choice decisions in nonhypothetical situations that impact their actual exam grades. Estimates indicate that the more risk-averse a student is, the more willing he or she is to accept a lower certain grade and not take an exam than to run the risk of actually taking it. We believe that this experimental setup and its binding results make it an easy but effective way of teaching the obtuse concept of risk aversion.

Suggested Citation

  • Lanier Nalley & Andrew McKenzie, 2011. "How Much is That Exam Grade Really Worth? An Estimation of Student Risk Aversion to Their Unknown Final College Course Grades," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(4), pages 338-353, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:42:y:2011:i:4:p:338-353 DOI: 10.1080/00220485.2011.606085

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Todd Kaplan, 2006. "Why banks should keep secrets," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 27(2), pages 341-357, January.
    2. Shy Oz & Stenbacka Rune, 2008. "Rethinking the Roles of Banks: A Call for Narrow Banking," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-4, June.
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