Could where you sit in the testing center impact your SAT or ACT scores? According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, college entrance exam scores can be influenced by both location in the testing room, and the total number of students sitting for the exam.
Researchers have studied a phenomenon known as the superstar effect focusing on the performance of participants in challenging situations. While conventional wisdom may be that challenging competitions bring out the best in people, these recent studies showed the opposite. When competing against a peer who seems far superior, instead of rising to the challenge, many people choke and give up.
College entrance exams are no exception. In a paper released last year, researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Haifa compared average SAT scores with the average number of students in test-taking venues in all 50 states, and found that students who took the SAT in larger groups did worse. The researchers concluded that knowledge and sight of competitors decreased motivation and performance.
The lesson from the study — it’s a good idea to sit at the front of the exam room when taking a hard test. If you don’t see peers in front of you, you can concentrate better on the exam and will be less likely to harm your performance by comparing yourself to others.