Blogs » Neurognosis » Drinking bender before the big exam? No problem...


There have been plenty of studies which found a link between binge drinking and reduced cognitive performance (Townshend & Duka, 2006) especially in tasks such as attention and episodic memory (Hartley, Elsabagh & File, 2004). Therefore, from this we could surmise that if a college student had a beer bender the night before an exam, they'd probably perform poorly on the next day exam, right? Well according to a new study in the journal Addiction, they perform just fine.

In a controlled repeated measures, cross-over design researchers at Boston University School of Public Health tested college students performance on a GRE practice test the day after an evening binge drinking session (Howland et al., 2010). One group of students was given regular beer and another was given non-alcoholic beer (a placebo control). The specific designation was a BrAC of 0.12%g for the alcohol concentration (the legal limit being 0.08% used to define intoxication). At the level between 0.11% and 0.20% is usually when slurred speech arises, deficits in reaction time, reflexes and gross motor control are seen.

In both groups at both testing times (a week apart) there were no differences in performance upon the exams. The researchers concluded that while the binge drinking did produce deficits in mood, attention and reaction time, it did not affect the students' ability to perform on an academic test.

However, this doesn't mean it's okay to have a whirlwind kegger the night before finals folks. It's probably a better idea to spend the time studying and getting a good night's sleep.


Hartley, D., Elsabagh, S. & File, S. (2004). Binge drinking and sex: effects on mood and cognitive function in healthy young volunteers. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 78(3), 611-619.

Howland, J., Rohsennow, D., Greece, J., Littlefield, C., Almeida, A., Heeren, T. et al. (2010). The effects of binge drinking on college students' next-day academic test-taking performance and mood state. Addiction, 105(4), 655-665.

Townshend, J. & Duka, T. (2006). Binge drinking, cognitive performance and mood in a population of young social drinkers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 29(3), 317-325.