University of Wisconsin–Madison
Person turning off smartphone

Turn off your phone to raise your grade?

In some classes, using apps on laptops, phones or tablets is an absolute necessity. But using those devices for anything other than an academic purpose can be a performance-diminishing distraction for you and for others.

A classroom experiment at Rutgers University showed that students in a lecture section where mobile phone usage was allowed scored 5% lower on the final exam that students in one where no devices were allowed.

So can you raise your final exam grade half a point by leaving your phone in your pocket during lecture?

Not necessarily. The Rutgers study showed that students who didn’t use devices where they were allowed scored lower on the final exam by the same amount as their device-using classmates. This finding suggests that the distracting effects of device usage affect more than just the person holding the phone.

Another study showed that “Students who were not using their mobile phones wrote down 62% more information in their notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information from the lecture, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their mobile phones.”

What can you do?

You can’t do away with others’ device usage, so try focusing on what you can control:

  • Seat yourself away from others who are using their devices in class to access Facebook or perform other non-academic tasks.
  • If you aren’t using your phone in class for an academic purpose, turn if off. Or at least silence it and put it in a pocket or purse where you can’t see the screen.

Here’s to your distraction-free learning!