Executive Functioning and Adolescents’ Academic Performance on Standardized Exams

  •  William Ellery Samuels    
  •  Nelly Tournaki    
  •  Stanley Sacks    
  •  Sheldon Blackman    
  •  Theresa Peterford    
  •  Jo Ann Sacks    
  •  Kenneth Byalin    


Executive functions (EFs) help regulate and direct thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. They also play vital roles in many areas of life. However, few studies address the role EFs play in adolescents’ lives, including their academic performance. We investigated the effects of EFs on standardized exams in mathematics, reading, and English language arts. The main findings were that: 1) adolescents’ EFs—especially when measured by their current teachers—predict performance on standardized academic assessments throughout the middle and high school grades; 2) this effect existed among a rather diverse sample of students both with and without diagnosed disabilities; 3) the predictiveness of EFs tended to increase across these grades when measured by the teachers, but not those gauged by the students themselves; and 4) EFs were somewhat more strongly associated with performance on standardized reading and English language arts exams than on math exams. In addition, students who identified as female tended to show stronger EFs; race/ethnicity showed some significance, but not in easily interpreted ways; and age was reliably associated with performance on these standardized exams such that older students tended to do better even though the exam scores were standardized by grade level. The results illustrate the contributions of EFs to standardized assessments for students with and without diagnosed disabilities.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1927-0526
  • ISSN(Online): 1927-0534
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: semiannual

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