MOSCOW — Keep your chin up, especially if you’re a student. A new study finds that having confidence in your studies and your outcome on exams will have a positive effect on your grades.
Prior studies showed conflicting schools of thought when it comes to high student expectations and test performance. Some researchers found that having over-confidence actually led to poorer test scores, while other researchers claim it caused students to study harder and perform better.
In this latest experiment, 600 second-year students taking a statistics course at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow were recruited. The course requires students to take three two-part exams throughout the year. After completing the first part of each exam, they were given a break and asked to predict their grade. Students who made accurate predictions earned extra points on the exams, ensuring that they’d give their best guesses.
The results showed that most students are over-confident, and that higher expectations do in fact lead to higher test scores. The authors’ findings fall in line more with the previous held belief that over-confidence drives students to work harder. “We find that for most students overconfidence is advantageous, possibly because it increases ambition, morale, resolve, persistence, and hence the probability of success,” they write.
Gender played a role in the results, too. Girls tended to grow more realistic with expectations by the third exam, while boys were more likely to maintain their over-confidence through all three tests.
One suggestion the study authors have for teachers and professor is to administer tests at the beginning of the course so students don’t grow so confident they wind up mired in disappointment.
“Don’t wait too long in setting your first test,” they write. “This will help students to adjust their expectations at an early stage, and this in turn will be of use to them in their allocation of time and effort for the course.”
The full study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.