New research suggests conscientious students are more likely to have higher grade point averages.

Rice University researchers looked at previous studies that explored the link between the “Big Five” personality traits of agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness to experience, and college grade point average.

Researchers found that different, yet commonly used personality tests revealed the positive correlation between conscientiousness — usually characterized as disciplined and achievement-oriented — and grade point average.

And all of the personality tests found the other four personality traits were not linked to grade point average.

According to doctoral student and lead author Sam McAbee, the study has important implications for college admission offices and employers, who use personality tests to measure an individual’s capacity for success.

“Research on these personality tests helps us gain a better understanding of how various personality traits may affect academic outcomes and other important life outcomes,” McAbee said.

“And although some researchers have questioned whether these personality measures might vary in their validity or effectiveness for predicting these outcomes, our analysis shows that all five measures produce similar results in the academic domain.”

“Of course, institutions like Rice provide intellectual environments for any student to flourish,” said Dr. Fred Oswald, professor of psychology and the study’s co-author.

“But because college admissions generally does not select directly or heavily on personality traits, admitted students who score higher on measures of conscientiousness will tend to excel in academic pursuits above and beyond what their high-school grade point averages or achievement test scores would suggest by themselves.”

For the study, 51 previous research efforts that investigated relationships between the five personality traits and college grade point averages were reviewed. This entailed more than 26,000 total participants.

All 51 studies used one of the five most common tests of personality — the NEO Personality Inventory, the NEO Five-Factor Inventory, the Big Five Inventory, Goldberg’s Unipolar Big Five Factor Markers or the Big Five International Personality Item Pool — to measure the link between these personality traits and grade point average.

These personality tests ask people to rate how much they agree or disagree with various statements or descriptions about themselves, such as “I am always prepared” and “I am exacting in my work.” All of the tests examined in the current study included eight to 12 such items for each personality trait.

Both McAbee and Oswald hope the study will encourage further research of how personality impacts student success.

“Grade point average is just one of many factors that can predict student performance and long-term success,” McAbee said. “We hope our findings will encourage research that investigates how different personality traits impact important outcomes.”

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Psychological Assessment.

Source: Rice University

Serious female student photo by shutterstock.