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Abstract:

Journal article
Entry through the narrow door: the costs of just failing high stakes exams
Stephen Machin, Sandra McNally and Jenifer Ruiz-Valenzuela October 2020
Paper No' :


JEL Classification: I20;I21;I24


Tags: schools; english; high stakes examinations; manipulation

In many countries, important thresholds in examinations act as a gateway to higher levels of education and/or improved employment prospects. This paper examines the consequences of just failing a particularly important high stakes national examination taken at the end of compulsory schooling in England. It uses unique administrative data, including full information on both initial and regraded exam marks, to show that students of the same ability have significantly different educational trajectories depending on whether they just pass or fail this exam. Three years later, students who just fail to achieve the required threshold have a lower probability of entering an upper-secondary high-level academic or vocational track and of starting tertiary education. Those who fail to pass the threshold are also more likely to drop out of education by age 18, without some form of employment. The moderately high effects of just passing or failing to pass the threshold in this high-stakes exam has high potential long-term consequences for those affected.