Psychological Correlates of University Students' Academic Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

A review of 13 years of research into antecedents of university students' grade point average (GPA) scores generated the following: a comprehensive, conceptual map of known correlates of tertiary GPA; assessment of the magnitude of average, weighted correlations with GPA; and tests of multivariate models of GPA correlates within and across research domains. A systematic search of PsycINFO and Web of Knowledge databases between 1997 and 2010 identified 7,167 English-language articles yielding 241 data sets, which reported on 50 conceptually distinct correlates of GPA, including 3 demographic factors and 5 traditional measures of cognitive capacity or prior academic performance. In addition, 42 non-intellective constructs were identified from 5 conceptually overlapping but distinct research domains: (a) personality traits, (b) motivational factors, (c) self-regulatory learning strategies, (d) students' approaches to learning, and (e) psychosocial contextual influences. We retrieved 1,105 independent correlations and analyzed data using hypothesis-driven, random-effects meta-analyses. Significant average, weighted correlations were found for 41 of 50 measures. Univariate analyses revealed that demographic and psychosocial contextual factors generated, at best, small correlations with GPA. Medium-sized correlations were observed for high school GPA, SAT, ACT, and A level scores. Three non-intellective constructs also showed medium-sized correlations with GPA: academic self-efficacy, grade goal, and effort regulation. A large correlation was observed for performance self-efficacy, which was the strongest correlate (of 50 measures) followed by high school GPA, ACT, and grade goal. Implications for future research, student assessment, and intervention design are discussed.

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