Do Cell Phones Negatively Affect Exam Scores?

In recent years, constantly being connected to others through smart phones has become a given. All demographics, but especially high school and college aged young adults, have become reliant on their phones to get them through the day. Walk into any class on any given day at Penn State, and you’ll likely see dozens of phones on peoples’ desks. But what impact are these pocket sized computers having on the academic performance of those who use them? One might assume having all the information in the world at your fingertips would make for a smarter, better performing generation. However, the science appears to suggest otherwise.

teenagers playing with mobile phones during class. Image shot 2005. Exact date unknown....AJEKXM teenagers playing with mobile phones during class. Image shot 2005. Exact date unknown.

According to a study from Longwood University, students who used their phones in class performed significantly poorer on exams. Dr. Chris Bjornsen led the study, asking students in all of his classes to fill out short surveys about how often and for what they had used their phones during lectures. The results he found were very strong in pointing to cell phone usage as detrimental to academic performance. He states that the students most affected used their phones for social reasons, such as texting and tweeting, or for gaming. According to Dr. Bjornsen, the average drop in score on an exam for each use of a phone was .6 points for social media and 3.1 for games. However, he did not find any strong evidence that phone usage for taking notes or managing a calendar was lowering test scores. While this evidence is certainly jarring, it must be taken with a grain of salt, as surveys are not always reliable. Students may be dishonest on self-evaluation style surveys, the results may be skewed due to lack of participation, and it is impossible to rule out the possibility of chance as the reason for the findings.


Dr. Chris Bjornsen

In closing, while it cannot be stated for certain, the results appear to be fairly clear that cell phone usage has severely negative effects on the academic performance of students. Perhaps in the future, we should keep the phones in our backpacks and avoid the temptation and the risk.

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5 thoughts on “Do Cell Phones Negatively Affect Exam Scores?

  1. Joshua Righter

    I agree with Sarah in that you definitely should have used more than just one source. You could have made your point even stronger if there were other sources included. I am interested to see more studies come out regarding whether cell phones are actually helping us as humans. Technology is usually a blessing and a curse. In this case, like you said, we have tons of information at our fingertips. Though, we also can get distracted so much easier now. The social changes will be caused by cell phones should be interesting to look for in the future. Here is an article already showing the effects that cell phones have on our social interactions.

  2. Nicholas E Schneider

    I agree that the studies you referenced in your post definitely point to an individual’s rate of cell phone usage having an impact on his/her test scores, but I’d like to offer some of my opinions on the topic based solely on personal experience. People of our age have, for the most part, have become accustomed to and dependent on the constant use of technology. While this technology undoubtedly makes people’s lives easier in many aspects, it can also be a strong distraction. I admittedly use my cell phone basically every hour of the day, including during lectures and while studying, and I feel that the same can be said for many or even most students at the high school/college level. Because we are always on our phones and have essentially become used to the multitasking that comes with using them, we fail to realize how much these devices can prevent us from being productive and accomplishing tasks. As Dr. Read mentioned in one of our class periods, answering a text may only take 10 or 20 seconds but when doing so the texter becomes totally unaware of the happenings around them. Due to this, answering a few messages, checking social media, or even changing your music to the next song while in class or studying is enough to make students miss important information or lose their concentration. Once these frequent distractions begin to add up it is clear that the student is not operating at their full potential. In conclusion, I’d say that recent technological advancements are doing more good than harm to students, but that these students will see their grades suffer when they are unable to recognize the right and wrong times to be using said technology.

  3. Reetu Shah

    I do have a huge belief that multi-tasking is not real. Many kids multi-task, trying to text and learn at the same time. It is a huge shame to see kids who are bright fail a test because they got distracted. Multi-tasking is said to be pointless because you might be doing many things at once, but you are not doing those tasks to the best of your abilities. I find it interesting for the kids who do decide to text during class. I guess they think they can listen and text at the same time. I definitely thing this is a correlation. There are definitely many 3rd variables to account for. But from observing in high school and college, many of the bad grades were because kids were on their cells
    Here is an article on why multi-tasking is very bad:,,20707868,00.html

    MacMillan, A. 12 Reasons To Stop Multi-tasking Now. Health

  4. Sarah Tarczewski

    Although I feel like you should’ve used more than one study to back up your idea, I agree absolutely with the results of that study. In classes where cell phone use is allowed, I find myself paying significantly less attention. Although we our consistently told just how important multitasking is in our lives as college students, I find that multitasking between texts/social media and class is near impossible. It’s a necessity for on to fully pay attention in class, something I have a very hard time doing. I’ve included a link for another study that backs up the idea that cell phones are detrimental to learning.

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