The effects of binge drinking on college students' next-day academic test-taking performance and mood state


Jonathan Howland, Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, 801 Massachusetts Avenue, Crosstown Center—3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02118, USA. E-mail:


Aim  To assess the effects of binge drinking on students' next-day academic test-taking performance.

Design  A placebo-controlled cross-over design with randomly assigned order of conditions. Participants were randomized to either alcoholic beverage [mean = 0.12 g% breath alcohol concentration (BrAC)] or placebo on the first night and then received the other beverage a week later. The next day, participants were assessed on test-taking, neurocognitive performance and mood state.

Participants  A total of 196 college students (≥21 years) recruited from greater Boston.

Setting  The trial was conducted at the General Clinical Research Center at the Boston Medical Center.

Measurements  The Graduate Record Examinations© (GREs) and a quiz on a lecture presented the previous day measured test-taking performance; the Neurobehavioral Evaluation System (NES3) and the Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) measured neurocognitive performance; and the Profile of Mood States (POMS) measured mood.

Findings  Test-taking performance was not affected on the morning after alcohol administration, but mood state and attention/reaction-time were affected.

Conclusion  Drinking to a level of 0.12 g% BrAC does not affect next-day test-taking performance, but does affect some neurocognitive measures and mood state.