A team of psychologists has now shown that students are often and very bored during exams. The scientists report in the “Journal of Educational Psychology” that this “exam boredom” leads to poorer results, especially when overstrained.
Boredom is currently an internationally highly regarded topic – a large number of studies have shown harmful effects on learning and performance, but also on mental and physical health. Their appearance in exam situations has so far hardly been examined, explained educational psychologist Thomas Götz from the University of Vienna in a broadcast. An international team led by Götz asked a total of 1,820 German pupils in grades 5 to 10 between test blocks of examinations whose results have relatively little consequence, about the extent of boredom, whether they were under- or over-challenged, and about their personal relevance.
Boredom from over- and under-challenging
Different types of boredom were revealed: Pupils are bored because they are under- or overwhelmed by the tasks. In particular, excessive demands are particularly detrimental to performance. The researchers see the reason for this in the “abundance hypothesis” they formulated, which was confirmed in the study: According to this, all mental resources should flow into the task processing when overwhelmed, but energy is lost through boredom and am no longer available to process the tasks.
On the other hand, boredom due to under-challenging has a positive effect on the results achieved in the exams. This came as a surprise to the scientists because they had originally suspected that any form of boredom had a negative impact on performance. Such an under-challenge would arise if you had no problem processing the tasks, and would probably also strengthen your confidence in your own abilities, Götz told the APA.
Boredom decreases when the topic is relevant
According to the psychologists, in addition to being under and overwhelmed, an important cause of boredom is the subjective assessment of the importance of the exam and the relevance of the content. Boredom is the only emotion that decreases with higher perceived importance or relevance. Accordingly, the team derived recommendations for action for educators: “In order to combat boredom in exams, teachers should work through exam tasks in such a way that there are references to the reality of life of students,” appealed Götz. In addition, excessively demanding tasks should be avoided.