Findings: Resolve gives good results

July 4, 2003

Students' good intentions to perform well in their degrees can sometimes come to nothing for reasons other than a packed social calendar, writes Natasha Gilbert.

Researchers from the University of Sussex have assessed the importance of good intentions in attaining a desired grade and how personality traits affect motivation.

PhD student Pru Phillips and colleagues from the department of psychology found that differences in students' intentions to achieve a good degree and perceptions of control over degree classification accounted for one-third of the variation in final grades.

The study states: "Intention is a very good predictor of exam performance."

The researchers studied the effect of different personality traits, such as conscientiousness, openness to new ideas and neuroticism, on levels of intention.

They also examined how students' beliefs concerning their perceptions of control over exam results and whether they anticipated feeling regret at not achieving a good grade interacted with personality traits to affect levels of motivation.

According to the study, conscientiousness directly helped to maintain students' motivation. Motivation was heightened when conscientious students believed they had control over exam results and anticipated regretting not achieving a good grade.

By contrast, the researchers found that neuroticism weakened students' good intentions by diminishing their perceptions of control over exam results.

But the study states that this negative effect on intention was counterbalanced when neurotic students anticipated regret at not performing to the best of their ability.

Charles Abraham, one of the study's authors, told The THES: "The overall effects of students' personalities on levels of intention are mediated by some of the beliefs they hold."

Professor Abraham said that training students to change their beliefs regarding perceived levels of control over exam results, for example, could help weak students raise their grades and prevent vulnerable students from dropping out. These findings will be published in The European Journal of Personality.

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