In the past, academic performance has always been associated with intelligence instead of personality (e.g. Elshout & Veenman, 1992; Harris, 1940; Neisser, Boodoo, Bouchard, Boykin, Brody, Ceci, Halpern, Loehlin, Perloff, Sternberg, & Urbina, 1966; Sternberg & Kaufman, 1998). However, from recent research findings, individual performance is in fact, affected by both intelligence (what a person can do) and personality traits (what a person will do). Thus, this report will be discussing on how personality traits, both super and primary can be predictors of academic performance.
Firstly, Conscientious individuals are hard-working, organized and ambitious. Via examining the primary traits of Conscientiousness, it was found that dutifulness, achievement-striving and self-discipline are the main traits that cause a positive correlation between academic performance and Conscientiousness (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003). Furthermore, in Chamorro-Premuzic’s and Furnham’s (2002) study, it was also found that conscientiousness was positively correlated specifically with final-year project marks. This shows that people who are conscientious have better academic performance as they are often self-driven or motivated to complete task assigned or goals set for them. This finding will help us and confirm that we are able to assess one’s academic performance by looking at their Conscientiousness scoring when we are conducting a personality test on him or her.
Secondly, people who have high score in Neuroticism have a nature full of anxiety, worries and guilt. This is supported by the findings from Chamorro-Premuzic’s and Furnham’s (2003) study that the main primary traits that affect academic performance are anxiety and impulsiveness. Common beliefs of people with high Neuroticism scoring are that they will not perform academically as anxiety may affect them while performing academic tasks. According to Eysenck (1967), he mentioned that Neuroticism is theoretically and empirically associated with ability. Individuals who have a low Neuroticism scoring tend to perform better on ability tests and it may be due to the fact that they are less affected by anxiety (Furhham & Mitchell, 1991; Zeidner, 1995; Zeidner & Matthews, 2000). In Chamorro-Premuzic’s and Furnham’s (2002) study, they found that there exist a negative and significant relationship between Neuroticism and academic performance. People who are emotionally stable tend to perform better in terms of examination result (Cattell & Kline, 1977; Goh & Moore, 1978; Lathey, 1991; Sanchez-Marin, Rejano-Infante and Rodriguez-Troyano, 2001; Savage, 1962). Moreover, looking at the checklist from the impulsiveness scale (See Costa & McCrae, 1992), the moody, irritable and excitable nature of impulsive individuals may be a bane for them to cultivate good study habits and thus, poor academic performance. From this, we can infer that Neuroticism is mainly a consequence of anxiety and impulsiveness.
Thirdly, individual who are high in Psychoticism scoring are deem as aggressive, egocentric and anti-social. Such descriptions can lead one to associate these people as those who will not excel academically. According to Aluja Fabregat and Torrubia-Beltri (1998), Psychoticism is a factor that relates to academic performance negatively as it affects interest in studies and responsibility. This is supported by the research of Sanchez-Marin et al. (2001), who found out that Psychoticism can limit academic performance. Furthermore, a research conducted by Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2002) has further supported this negative correlation of Psychoticism and academic performance. The results from these researches have confirmed our prediction regarding a person who is aggressive, egocentric and anti-social in nature tends to not perform academically. Furthermore, the negative association of psychoticism and academic performance (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003) further support the finding of positive correlation between conscientiousness and academic performance (see Eysenck, 1991) as both low conscientiousness and high Psychoticism refers to people who are poor in organization and co-operation as well as low achievement-striving (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003). This further confirms our prediction of people who have high Psychoticism scorings will not perform academically.
Next, Extroverts are people who are outgoing and experience high level of activity which requires a lot of personal time. Due to this, people usually have this perception that individuals with outgoing personality will not perform better than introverts in terms of academic results as they lack the time to study due to their active social lives and they do not cultivate good study habits like the introverts do. However, it is difficult to establish a relationship between Extraversion and academic performance (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2002) due to the different results found. Rolfhus and Ackerman (1999), found out through their study that there exist a negative relationship between Extraversion and academic performance while Furnham, Forde and Cotter (1998a,1998b) through their research argues that extroverts significantly performed better in logical reasoning than introverts. On the other hand, even when primary traits of Extraversion were examined, it was also difficult to draw any relations between Extraversion and academic performance. Although traits such as activity and gregariousness were both significantly and negatively related to examination grades, warmth and excitement, the traits that are associated with poorer study habits did not show and significant relationship (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003). Such contradicting results have to lead a conclusion that Extraversion is not a good predictor of academic performance as it does not show significant relation with academic performance (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2002).
Lastly, Openness to Experience had been interpreted as correlated with intelligence (Blickle, 1996). Thus, it is believed that Openness to Experience should have a positive correlation with academic performance (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2002). From recent studies, the result does not seem so (e.g. Busato, Prins, Elshout & Hamaker, 2000; Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2002). It was found that there are no significant correlation between Openness to Experience and academic performance. Hence, it is difficult to use Openness to predict academic performance of individual as the result is not sufficiently significant to allow researchers to draw conclusion form it.
There are some limitations to this report. The report emphasize on results drawn from grades performance and not other aspects of academic performance such as, absenteeism, seminar behavior and punctuality. Hence, it does not look at a person’s holistic development in terms of academic but only examination results. For example, if absenteeism is taken into account in this report, it will show us the participation rate of individuals for lesson and thus, explains if attendance of classes does affect learning and if it plays a part in the prediction of academic performance.
Furthermore, the report’s information was drawn from studies with has a homogenous set of sample which participants are from the same university and course. Thus the findings might not be applicable for people form other university or courses as the learning environment and requirements might be different. For example, students of tourism and hospitality management might require field training to understand their syllabus better but for students doing design courses, it might not be the case as creativity is subjective and need not require field training.
In conclusion, the report has shown us that personality can be a good predictor of academic performance in terms of conscientiousness, neuroticism and psychoticism. Overall, by allowing individual to go through a personality test, we will be able to predict their academic performance with accuracy to a large extent.