Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/107831
Authors: 
Czibor, Eszter
Onderstal, Sander
Sloof, Randolph
van Praag, Mirjam
Year of Publication: 
2014
Series/Report no.: 
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 14-116/V
Abstract: 
The provision of non-pecuniary incentives in education is a topic that has received much scholarly attention lately. Our paper contributes to this discussion by investigating the effectiveness of grade incentives in increasing student performance. We perform a direct comparison of the two most commonly used grading practices: the absolute (i.e., criterion-referenced) and the relative (i.e., norm-referenced) grading schemes in a large-scale field experiment at a university. We hypothesize that relative grading, by creating a rank-order tournament in the classroom, provides stronger incentives for male students than absolute grading. In the full sample, we find weak support for our hypothesis. Among the more motivated students we find evidence that men indeed score significantly higher on the test when graded on a curve. Female students, irrespective of their motivation, do not increase their scores under relative grading. Since women slightly outperform men under absolute grading, grading on a curve actually narrows the gender gap in performance.
Subjects: 
Education
Test performance
Grade incentives
Competition
Gender
Field experiment
JEL: 
I21
I23
A22
D03
C93
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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