Almudena Sevilla, University College London

The Gender Gap in Student Performance: The Role of the Testing Environment


There is a substantial body of literature that focuses on measuring how gender differences in cognitive abilities and gender-stereotyping norms impact the gender gap in student performance. However, little attention has been devoted to investigate how the organization of student testing may influence the relative performance of male and female students.

This paper analyzes the gender gap in test scores that arises as a result of differential responses by boys and girls to the testing environment. To that end, we exploit a unique randomized intervention on the entire population of students in 6th and 10th grades in the Region of Madrid (Spain).

The intervention assigned schools to either internally or externally administered testing. We find that girls do worse than boys in exams that are externally administered, especially in subjects that are male-dominated. Additional survey evidence on stress, self-confidence, and effort suggests that lower relative female performance in externally administered tests results from a lower ability to cope with stressful situations as a result from less familiarity with the testing environment.

Almudena Sevilla is a Professor in Economics and Public Policy at UCL, and fellow of the Centre of Time Use Research at the University of Oxford. She has also held positions at Queen Mary University, University of Oxford, University of Essex Institute for Social and Economic Research, and the Congressional Budget Office in Washington DC.

She received her Ph.D. from Brown University in 2004 in the fields of family and population economics and econometrics. Almudena is an applied micro economist whose research focuses on the areas of gender, child development and human capital. She teaches courses in these areas at the Graduate and Undergraduate Level.

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