Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 1069–1092 | Cite as

The impact of high-stakes school admission exams on study achievements: quasi-experimental evidence from Slovakia

  • Miroslava Federičová
  • Daniel MünichEmail author
Original Paper


We explore whether and to what extent the presence of high-stakes admission exams to selective schools affects student achievement, presumably through more intensive study effort. Our identification strategy exploits a quasi-experimental feature of a reform in Slovakia that shifted the school grade during which high-stakes exams are taken by 1 year. This reform enables us to compare students at the moment when they pass these exams with students in the same grade 1 year ahead of the exams. Using data from the low-stakes international TIMSS skills survey and employing difference-in-difference methodology, we find that the occurrence of high-stakes admission exams increased 10-year-old students’ math test scores by 0.2 standard deviations, on average. This effect additionally accrues by around 0.05 standard deviations among students with the highest probability of being admitted to selective schools. Although we find similar effects for both genders, there are indications that high-stakes exams in more competitive environments affect girls more than boys.


High-stakes exams Students’ motivation Achievement 

JEL classification

I21 I24 I28 



This research was supported by grant P402/12/G130 awarded by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic. We would especially like to thank Štěpán Jurajda and Steven Rivkin, participants at the Educational Governance and Finance Workshop at the AEDE Meeting in Valencia and at the Research Seminar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, for their helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper. We are indebted to Jana Palečková and Vladislav Tomášek for their assistance with data provision, as well as to Andrea Galádová from the National Institute for Certified Educational Measurements in Slovakia. Last but not least, we feel indebted to two anonymous referees who provided us with very helpful advice for improving the clarity and persuasiveness of the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CERGE-EI, a joint workplace of Charles University and the Economics Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPragueCzech Republic

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