Academic performance or "academic achievement" is the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has attained their short or long-term educational goals. Completion of educational benchmarks such as secondary school diplomas and bachelor's degrees represent academic achievement. Individual differences in academic performance have been linked to differences in intelligence and personality. Students with higher mental ability as demonstrated by IQ tests and those who are higher in conscientiousness (linked to effort and achievement motivation) tend to achieve highly in academic settings. A recent meta-analysis suggested that mental curiosity (as measured by typical intellectual engagement) has an important influence on academic achievement in addition to intelligence and conscientiousness.

Children's semi-structured home learning environment transitions into a more structured learning environment when children start first grade. Early academic achievement enhances later academic achievement.

Non-cognitive factors

Non-cognitive factors or skills, are a set of "attitudes, behaviours, and strategies" that promotes academic and professional success,[11] such as academic self-efficacy, self-control, motivation, expectancy and goal setting theories, emotional intelligence, and determination. To create attention on factors other than those measured by cognitive test scores sociologists Bowles and Gintis coined the term in the 1970s. The term serves as a distinction of cognitive factors, which are measured by teachers through tests and quizzes. Non-cognitive skills are increasingly gaining popularity because they provide a better explanation for academic and professional outcomes.


Self-efficacy is one of the best predictors of academic success. Self-efficacy is the belief of being able to do something. Stajković et al. looked at the Big Five traits on academic success as well and saw that conscientiousness and emotional stability were predictors of self-efficacy in over half of their analyses. However, self-efficacy was more indicative of academic performance than personality in all of the analyses. This suggests that parents who want their children to have academic achievement can look to increase their child's sense of self-efficacy at school.


Motivation is the reasoning behind an individual's actions. Research has found that students with higher academic performance, motivation and persistence use intrinsic goals rather than extrinsic ones.[11] Furthermore, students who are motivated to improve upon their previous or upcoming performance tend to perform better academically than peers with lower motivation.[14] In other words, students with higher need for achievement have greater academic performance.


Self-control, in the academic setting, is related self-discipline, self-regulation, delay of gratification and impulse control. Baumeister, Vohs, and Tice defined self-control as "the capacity for altering one's own responses, especially to bring them into line with standards such as ideals, values, morals, and social expectations, and to support the attainment of long-term goals."

In other words, self-control is the ability to prioritize long-term goals over the temptation of short-term impulses. Self-control is usually measured through self completed questionnaires. Researchers often use the Self-Control Scale developed by Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone in 2004.

Through a longitudinal study of the marshmallow test, researchers found a relationship between the time spent waiting for the second marshmallow and higher academic achievement. However, this finding only applied for participants who had the marshmallow in plain sight and were placed without any distraction tactics.

High locus of control, where an individual attributes success to personal decision making and positive behaviors such as discipline, is a ramification of self-control. High locus of control has been found to have a positive predictive relationship with high collegiate GPA.