It is probably irresponsible to party during finals week. A student might work hard all semester, doing well on all other tests, and then walk into the final after a night of drinking and blow the whole semester when he sits down to the final exam and draws a blank on the first essay question.
The general belief is that drinking the night before a test has drastic effects on test-taking ability. However, recent research may indicate the impact is not as great as one would think, although there is an impact on mood.
A national study found that more than 40 percent of all college students had participated in binge drinking during the past two weeks (Wechsler et al., 2002). A recent study examined how binge drinking affects test-taking among college students (Howland, et al., 2010).
In the study, 193 participants received both the experimental and placebo conditions, thus acting as their own controls, in a double-blind design. The participants were 21 years or older and were college students or recently graduated from college.
The students were enrolled in two overnight experimental sessions, two weeks in a row. During one of the sessions, students consumed alcohol until their breath alcohol level was 0.12g%, and during the other a placebo was used. The order of the sessions was randomized.
Before consuming alcohol or the placebo, the participants studied a public health topic for 1.5 hours. After consuming the alcohol or placebo, the participants were given 8 hours of sleep time in a controlled study environment. When breath alcohol level was at 0.00g%, the participants were given a variety of assessments.
The participants were given a quiz on the public health topic and questions from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The researchers also administered the Profile of Mood State Brief Form (POMS) to assess mood disturbance.
The researchers found that there were no significant differences between the scores achieved for alcohol and placebo sessions. However, mood disturbances were significantly worse for those who had consumed alcohol the night before.
The results of the study may be limited. The participants were quizzed about an extracurricular topic, and it is possible that this caused a general tendency to underperform and the results may not be generalized to test results for a college course. In addition, the students were not tested after a night when no drinking occurred to compare those results.
The findings of the study provide information for students wanting to perform well on tests. Though differences were not found in test scores, mood disturbances were significantly affected by the consumption of alcohol. Further research is necessary to determine whether the study’s results can be replicated in an exam impacting a student’s achievement.