Does Geographic Location in the Classroom Matter?

Does where you sit in class determine your grade?


A study done by Penn State Altoona has revealed that students who sit in the front and middle of the classroom are achieving higher grades. Students sitting in the front of the class scored an average of 80% on an exam, the middle students scored a 71.6% on the exam, and back row students scored a 68.1% respectively. The difference between sitting in the front and back of the classroom is an astounding 11.9%, just solely based on your geographic location. This seems too good to be true, and I think there are some important third variables that have yet to be ruled out. I think it’s common knowledge that smarter people tend to sit in the front of the classroom, and slackers who don’t really care much sit in the back. IQ is an important third variable to consider, what if we switched the front and back row students? Would their geographic location in the classroom make their exam grades go up even though they tend to “slack” more? Or would the back row students this time around score higher, because their branded to be smarter? I think that study would have interesting results, and would help rule out that third variable, or even prove that this study is having skewed results, because smarter people tend to sit in the front of the classroom anyways, and that this experiment produced a false positive, saying something is going on with geographic location in the classroom, when in reality we have a number of third variables, such as IQ, motivation, and overall attentiveness to blame for the higher exam grades. Reverse causation in this study would say that getting higher scores on an exam causes students to sit in the front, which also could be true, but also could be false. If a student receives a good score on an exam, they may be motivated to keep up the good work and continue on achieving a good grade in the class. On the other hand, if a student receives a bad score on an exam, this may set off an alarm in their head saying I need to do better, and maybe if I sit towards the front of the classroom, my grade in the class will get better. I still have a lot of questions about this study, but I think it was an interesting subject to look at.


Here is a link to the study I found published by PSU Altoona.

Here is the link to the photo I used above

5 thoughts on “Does Geographic Location in the Classroom Matter?

  1. Alison B Mamtsis

    This is something my friends and I talk about all the time! It’s interesting because the accepted norm is to say that smarter or more motivated students tend to sit in the front while slackers tend to sit in the back. I’m not sure why this is just accepted as a norm, and it usually seems true, but I also know many student who sit in the back and receive A’s on tests. These people could just be anecdotes though. Another thing to consider is those people who did badly on the first exam, or on the homework’s so they moved toward the front to try to focus more. This study is a hard one because many people just sit where there’s an empty seat, or close to the wall or isle, or close to a vent, there are so many outliers that it would be very difficult to determine concrete results. This experiment would be interesting in a setting with assigned seats like in high school because it would be interesting to see if people with high GPA’s who got put in the back saw their grades suffer and vice versa or if the null hypothesis would be accepted.

  2. William Spencer Hershon

    I believe that this study was done correctly and the results are not due to a confounding third variable. It has long been a stereotype that smart people sit in the front. But what makes them smart? They are smart because they choose to sit in the front. They are forced to pay attention, forced to be quieter, and most importantly forced out of class if they screw around. The back on the other hand is far away from the teacher meaning they can be louder and more obnoxious. However going off of what Somil said, I am more inclined to sit in the front when I am interested in the topic and like the teacher. This piece of information leads to a whole new category of questioning and date that must be looked out. Some of these would be: For subjects with the highest interest how co people score? Based on the ratings of likability of a teacher how do people score? And so on. These are all interesting topics but mostly I agree with the main post of the fact that the front scores higher

  3. Julia Molchany

    The first point that stood out to me was your claim that generally, smarter people sit in the front of the classroom while the slackers tend to migrate to the back. Personally, I am maintaining A averages in all but one class and I have frankly never sat in the front of the classroom. I believe this is just a personal preference and location has no real significance on the intelligence or IQ of a person. This link leads you to an article that further supports my idea about intelligence and classroom location:
    The experiment explained in this report puts the students in predetermined seats. The results showed that students in the front and middle got higher grades, while helps rule out the assumption that people that sit in the front are just better students.

    However, I do believe that location in the classroom does not cause better grades, it can be a factor in the ability to learn. This is mainly due to one’s ability to focus. Those who sit in the front feel obligated to pay attention because the professor is aware of what they are doing, while those in the back are more so out of the instructor’s view.

  4. Julia Solly Levine

    Although this study that students who sit in the front row vs. kids who sit in the back row tend to have higher grades proves consistent, there are many variables to look out for. Reverse causation could affect the study in that the students who already have higher IQ’s tend to rather choose to sit in the front, and in turn, producing these results. However, a study published in the Huffington Post stated that students were randomly assigned to sit either in the front row or back row, and the results showed that the front row students were doing better in the class than the students sitting in the back row.

  5. Somil Patel

    Personally, I find that when I sit closer to the front of the room, it forces me to stay awake and more alert during class. The teacher is easier to hear, any notes or presentations shown are easier to read, and the people around me are more focused. It makes for a better learning environment than sitting in the back.

    This doesn’t mean sitting in the back can’t be a good learning environment, but surrounding oneself with people who don’t care as much about the class is not a good way to engage with the class.

    Our very own science class is a perfect example of this. We have a group of kids in the back of the class who prefer talking during class over paying attention. On the few occasions that I have sat near them, I’ve found it difficult to hear the lecture over their voices.

    In addition, I usually sit closer to the front of the class if I like the teacher more. When I like a teacher and their style, I tend to do better in the class. This could be another cause of kids in the front of the class receiving higher grades than those in the back.

Leave a Reply