Students who do Transition Year (TY) engage better with their studies for the Leaving Certificate than those who do not.
They spend significantly more time on homework in fifth and sixth year, and are more likely to persist with difficult questions, according to new research.
The research, into the study habits of teenagers, from third to sixth year, has a particular focus on whether the fifth and sixth years participated in TY.
The findings may help to explain why teens who do TY tend to perform better in the Leaving Cert.
But they also highlight a class divide in education, with schools in disadvantaged areas, or students from less-well off backgrounds least likely to participate in TY.
About 90pc of schools now offer TY and about 65pc of students in these schools participate in the "gap" year between the Junior and Leaving Cert.
The new study, conducted by Aidan Clerkin of the Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, Dublin, involved about 5,500 students, in 20 schools, over three years. It is published in the current edition of the 'Irish Journal of Education'.
Mr Clerkin found substantial variations between students, at each grade level, in relation to homework, with some reporting no, or a negligible amount, of time devoted to it each week, and others reporting putting in several hours a night.
On average, the time students say they spend on homework every week is:
Third and fifth years - 8.8 hours and 8.3 hours, respectively;
Sixth years - nearly 13 hours;
TY students - about 2.3 hours.
When account is taken of whether fifth or sixth-year students had done TY, big variations emerge in both time spent on homework and their general approach to study.
Fifth years who skipped TY were more likely to say they rarely, or never, engaged in self-directed study behaviours, such as revising with bullet points, practising exam questions or doing extra study.
This group also reported giving up on difficult questions and not doing their assigned homework on a more frequent basis than classmates who opted for TY.
When it came to the time spent on homework, fifth years who had done TY reported putting in about 8.9 hours a week, compared with six hours for those who had not.
In sixth year, both TY and non-TY participants put in substantially more study time, but a gap remains: 13.3 hours for the former compared with 10.5 hours for the latter
The report refers to other factors that come into play in relation to how Leaving Cert students approach homework and study, such as the level of educational attainment of the student's mother and whether the student aspired to a degree.
However, according to Mr Clerkin, even taking these into account, participation in TY was a key indicator.
"Students' TY participation status was among the strongest predictors of spending more time on homework." He said it was likely that the TY programme developed students' self-regulatory and self-management skills.
He said the TY programme could not, and should not, be judged solely on the exam results or academic behaviours of students who participated. But, he added, the tendency for TY participants to spend more time studying in their Leaving Cert years, may go some way towards explaining the consistent evidence that they perform better in the Leaving Cert.