Discussion paper

DP14374 Leave them Kids Alone! National Exams as a Political Tool

This study examines whether standardized 12th grade national examination results are sensitive to coming legislative elections in Portugal. Using individual data for all exiting high school students taking national exams between the years 2004 and 2018, our empirical
investigation uncovers a 1.17 and 0.63 increase, on a scale of 0 to 20, in Mathematics and Portuguese scores, respectively, in the years where the exams occurred before legislative elections. The quality of students and the leniency of grading do not explain this rise in pre-election exam grades, suggesting the difficulty of the exam in itself is at stake. Further, we show that a unit increase in the average score of Mathematics and Portuguese exams, in those years, leads to a 1.46 percentage point rise in the vote share of the seating government.


Mesquita Gabriel, J, J Pereira Dos Santos and J Tavares (2020), ‘DP14374 Leave them Kids Alone! National Exams as a Political Tool‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14374. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14374