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While I teach some economics classes, I must admit to near complete ignorance on the optimization processes students undertake when studying. We often say that the "best" students are those who earn the highest grades. However, from (naive) economic first principles, a rational student might be expected to endeavor not to maximize her grade, but rather to study until the marginal benefit of additional study equals its cost.

Thus, we view students as grade producers who transform labor into grades. Have there been any studies that investigate the optimization problem these "grade producers" are solving when they choose how much to study (and especially on how they assess the benefits of grades)?


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+1. Great question. –  D.H. Oct 13 '11 at 19:27
There certainly are students who actually want to learn their subjects thoroughly. These will not stop studying when reaching the equilibrium point you described. Apart from that, how do you measure the benefit of a certain grade? –  Rasmus Oct 13 '11 at 20:07
@Rasmus I'm guilty of implicitly assuming that the grade is a good measure of the amount of course material the student actually mastered. At some point, the marginal benefit from diving further into "Recursive Methods in Economic Dynamics" has to be less than that of doing something else, right? (That was my excuse anyway.) –  Jason B Oct 13 '11 at 20:24
@JasonB that was definitely my reasoning in my first-year days. Heck we were learning about convex combinations of consumption baskets, why not apply that to the information I'm consuming? Especially because it often did seem to be the case that there was diminishing returns to a single source of information... –  Nate Oct 18 '11 at 16:05
Obviously I'm not a scientific study, but I often had this happen to me inadvertently by nature of being a (probably) overextended college student. At some point, I would have to stop studying and I knew that by that point, I either knew the material or I didn't. –  Aarthi Oct 22 '11 at 1:18

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