The effects of private and social incentives on students’ test-taking effort

Dipanwita Sarkar, Jayanta Sarkar, Uwe Dulleck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite widespread educational reforms, the challenge of students’ suboptimal academic effort persists across numerous countries. We investigate the role of private and social incentives on test performance in real, low-stakes test settings. We implemented a multifaceted incentive program for three cohorts of Grade 7 students participating in a low-stakes national standardized test in Australia. Results indicate that incentives can improve test performance. Our experimental design ensures that performance gains are attributable to increased test-taking effort only. Performance gains in three subject domains are measured against a baseline domain with no incentives in a within-student design. Although the private incentives that targeted individual performance elicited larger improvements than a social incentive targeting group outcomes, the latter proved more cost efficient. Our intervention suggests valuable strategies to enhance assessment of student performance that may be biased due to suboptimal effort, especially in low-stakes scenarios that are often employed for educational policy evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106709
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalEconomic Modelling
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Mar 2024


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