Business School
  • Students warned leaving work until last minute can drastically affect grades

  • Research found marks dropped by five per cent as submissions got closer to deadline

  • Academics argue spotting 'procrastinators' early is key to overcoming poor practice

  • Research urges universities to teach more time management to help students

As the new academic year begins and many new students start at Warwick Business School, it is perhaps worth taking heed of research from two WBS academics.

The pair warn students that hand in assignments at the last minute face a five per cent drop in marks.  

Research from David Arnott and Scott Dacko, of Warwick Business School, looked at work submitted online and found marks dropped the closer to the deadline the essays were handed in.

The academics believe spotting ‘procrastinators’ early on and warning them of the dangers of handing in work late could help students achieve higher grades.

Dr Arnott said: “Our research demonstrates that delaying submission due to poor study habits has a serious and detrimental effect on performance.  

“If this can be eradicated in a student’s first year, it may aid the output degree classification and employability of our students.”

Why leaving assignments to the last minute is bad

The study investigated 504 first year students’ and 273 third year students’ end of term assignments for two marketing modules, set four weeks or more before submission deadline.

Work handed in online ahead of schedule was far more likely to be awarded a distinction than work not handed in until much closer to the deadline.

Out of the 777 marketing students studied over a five-year period, 86.1 per cent waited until the last 24 hours to hand in their work at only a slight cost on average score against early submitters at 64.04 compared to 64.32.

The average mark dropped by the hour until those handing in the paper at the last minute produced the worst results.

Those that literally handed work in at the last minute could see as much as a five per cent drop on score, from 64.17 to 59.00 – taking them a grade lower.

The research noted there was no major difference between first and third year students, and therefore procrastinators are likely to continue their poor practice unless something is done to tackle it early on.

The paper, Time of Submission: An indicator of procrastination and a correlate of performance on undergraduate marketing assignments, which was presented at the European Marketing Academy conference, calls on universities to look into teaching more time management to students in order to help avoid students losing marks by leaving work to the last minute.

Dr Dacko added: “If we are to adjust our educational practices then identifying students who might benefit from interventions becomes crucial.

“Quite alarming for an educator from our research, however, is the implication that we are failing some students based not on subject matter, curriculum, teaching methods, or assessments, but on providing them with study skills to make the most of their undergraduate study.

“The need to enhance students’ ability to organise themselves and self-regulate learning and their subsequent confidence in their abilities is evident.”

The researchers believe they have found a new, non-intrusive, real-time method of addressing the issue.

Dr Arnott added: “We have now identified and validated a useful tool to identify procrastinators. Our suggested method analysis can be done in real time.

"This can be done by looking at a student’s first assessment and then used to identify students more likely to procrastinate for targeted training.”

See this article featured in The Times, Bloomberg, Time and The Economist.


David Arnott teaches Marketing on the Full-time MBA. He also teaches Service Marketing on the Warwick Executive MBA plus Research Methods for Marketing and Strategy and Issues in Marketing Theory and Practice on MSc Marketing & Strategy and Markets, Marketing and Strategy on the Undergraduate programme.

Scott Dacko teaches Strategic Marketing on the Warwick Executive MBA and Warwick MBA plus Business Studies I and II and Marketing Strategy on Warwick Business School's Undergraduate programme.

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