Letters A and F affect test scores

February, 2010

In another demonstration of the many factors that affect exam success, three experiments have found that seeing the letter A before an exam makes a student more likely to perform better than if he sees the letter F instead.

In another demonstration of the many factors that affect exam success, three experiments involving a total of 131 college students have found that seeing the letter A before an exam makes a student more likely to perform better than if he sees the letter F instead. In the first experiment, 23 undergraduates took a word-analogies test, of which half were labeled "Test Bank ID: F" in the top right corner, and half "Test Bank ID: A". The A group got an average of 11.08 of 12 answers correct, compared to 9.42 for the F group. The same pattern was confirmed in two more studies. Moreover, performance of students whose exams were labeled "Test Bank ID:J" fell between those with the A and F test papers. While hard to believe, these findings are consistent with the many findings supporting the idea of "stereotype threat" (the tendency to do less well on a test when a person fears their performance could confirm a negative stereotype about their racial or gender group).

Reference: 

[154] Ciani, K. D. [1], & Sheldon K. M. [2]
(2010).  A versus F: The effects of implicit letter priming on cognitive performance.
British Journal of Educational Psychology. 80, 99 - 119.