Students Who Turn in Work Right at the Deadline Get Worse Grades, Study Finds

As any chronic procrastinator will tell you, there's no excuse quite as seductive as the phrase "but I work better under pressure!" The ticking clock becomes, if not a friend, a motivator, inspiring work of a quality not possible under less time-crunched conditions.

Fellow procrastinators, we may be kidding ourselves. A new study, by professors at the Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom, found that students who turned in their work at the last minute got worse grades, with average scores continuing to decline by the hour as the deadline approached.

The professors analyzed the final assignments of 504 first-year students and 273 third-year U.K. marketing students. Work completed well in advance of the deadline was far more likely to receive a better mark (out of 100) than work handed in at the last minute, they found.

Related: Procrastinators: How to Fight Your Genes and Get Stuff Done Now

Turns out, most college students aren’t exceptional at time management. Out of the 777 who participated, 86 percent waited until the last 24 hours to hand in their assignments. At this point, submitters' average grades only took a slight tumble compared to their more prompt peers: 64 compared to 64.3 (under the U.K. grading system, this is a 'B').

But as the deadline approached, the grade differential continue to increase with each hour, and those that handed in their assignment at the last possible minute did, in general, far worse than everyone else, with an average score of 59 (or a 'C+').

“Our research demonstrates that delaying submission due to poor study habits has a serious and detrimental effect on performance," the professors conclude, noting that they hope their study will encourage schools to identify chronic procrastinators early, and intervene.

In other words, as seductive as it often sounds, working under intense time pressure probably isn't the best strategy for achieving stellar results.  

Related: The 80/20 Rule and Listening to Your Inner Procrastinator