‘Women are better able to hold on to their performance during the test’

NPO Radio 1

On average, boys score better than girls on mathematic and beta tests. However, Matthijs Oosterveen, alumni of Erasmus School of Economics and affiliated with Tinbergen Institute, discovered that there is something remarkable going on the moment the test is made longer. Because the more questions and the more time is need for a test, the more girls manage to bridge the gap with the boys. Sometimes they even catch up with them.

In an interview with NPO Radio 1, Oosterveen explains the results of his paper Female show more sustained performance during test-taking than males, which he wrote together with Pau Balart (Universitat de les Illes Balears), and how the pattern works.

The study looked at the performance of boys and girls during the test. ‘We looked at the difference between men and women on the first questions, and on the second question, etc. We compared each questions to the end of the test. In the beginning of the test we see the “male-female differences” that previous studies also documented. So, boys perform better when it concerns mathematics and girls perform better when it concerns languages. But if we look at subsequent questions, we see that women are better able to maintain their performance during the test. And that is the case for every subject. So, for reading, women extend their advantage during the test. Furthermore, the results suggest that longer maths test have a smaller male-female difference.’ The researchers do not fully understand why this gender difference exists. They looked at whether differences in test-taking strategies, levels of effort and non-cognitive skills played a role, but these were unable to explain the variation.

More information

Listen to the inter interview by NPO Radio 1, 4 September 2019 (in Dutch).
Read more about the research on Physicsworld.com, 3 September 2019.