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Desire to Succeed Linked to Better Grades in College

MONDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Personality may not be the key to success, but one specific personality trait -- conscientiousness -- seems to be associated with achieving a higher grade point average (GPA) among college students, a new study has found.

For their analysis, researchers examined 51 previous studies that looked at the link between the co-called "Big Five" personality traits -- agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness to experience -- and college GPA.

In all of the studies, only higher levels of conscientiousness were associated with higher college GPAs, according to the findings published in a recent online edition of the journal Psychological Assessment.

Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well, and is usually found in people who are organized and who tend to think about things carefully and follow through.

In addition, the investigators found that five common personality tests were consistent in their evaluation of the correlation between GPA and the personality traits, with only conscientiousness having a positive effect.

The findings could prove important for college admission offices and employers, who use personality tests to measure a person's capacity for success, according to study lead author Sam McAbee, a psychology graduate student at Rice University in Houston.

"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 in a university news release.

"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," McAbee added.

Study co-author and psychology professor Fred Oswald stressed that "institutions like Rice provide intellectual environments for any student to flourish. 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," he explained in the news release.

Further research is needed, according to the study authors.

"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."

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SOURCE: Rice University, news release, March 19, 2013

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