Is Social Media Responsible for Your Failed Test?

Stephon Harper, African American Studies

A lot of my co-workers have noted that, despite it being #Unofficial2015 today, many of them still had to take in-class exams. How does social media activity affect test scores, I wondered?

No matter how long it actually lasts or how many times we opened social media apps it seems like class goes by at the same speed. Social media has taken over our attention when things that we deem boring or not important get presented in front of us. Things like studying, really paying attention in class, and doing homework get put on the back burner, thus compromising things like test scores.

When graded tests get turned back and your friend, who was on social media about the same length of time as you or more when studying, got a higher score than you, it makes you think “how did this happen”? There are numerous stories out there claiming that Facebook or the simple task of multitasking itself are distracting enough to make a student’s test scores drop. However, in a new study by an Iowa State University professor named Reynol Junco, this result is not as simple as it seems.

Junco, in his article Student class standing, Facebook use, and academic performance, not only looks at how being on social media affects grades and GPA but other factors like the amount of text messages you send and receive, the length of time you’re not paying attention directly, and how many sites you are on. “It’s not just the way students are accessing the site, but the way in which they’re using the site that has an affect on academic outcomes,” Junco states. In his study he found that, when studying, freshman through junior-level students using social media will have their grades affected by their social media use.

Interestingly, the younger/less experienced a student is with juggling social media and college expectations, the more his or her grade will be affected. Freshman feel the impact most fully due to their experience of transitioning to college. Seniors, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as adversely affected by social media use. This is not because they get better at balancing, however, but because they get better at simply not using social media as much. As Junco concludes: “Generally, the pattern of results shows that students interact less with Facebook as they progress in class standing.” So don’t fret about not getting the test score you initially desired. Just wait until senior year starts up or take matters into your own hands and   slow down on the posts, shares, and likes you share on Facebook now. (But don’t stop reading this blog, of course.)


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