Trait and process determinants of Advanced Placement test performance

The Advanced Placement® (AP®) program represents a highly sought-after set of opportunities for accelerated study among talented high school students. However, little is known about the ingredients for success in the AP programs beyond some general information regarding student aptitudes and abilities. One central question is whether individual differences in personality, interest, and motivational traits can be used in combination to predict individual differences in success on an AP test. The ultimate practical aim of this research is to develop a brief self-assessment instrument that can be used by various stakeholders (e.g., students, parents, teachers, and counselors) to provide an efficient and accurate prediction of future AP test performance, from measures administered prior to course enrollment, so that students and AP courses can be more optimally matched. The other issue addressed in this research was to examine how personal traits related to the student self-perceptions during the AP course, namely: how stressed the students felt about the course, how conident they were about their performance in the course, their self-efficacy for good AP test performance, and their perceived preparation for the AP Exam. To address these questions, this study involved an assessment of a small set of key cognitive, affective, and conative trait complexes and a set of monthly questionnaires of student behaviors, attitudes, and self-evaluations in a sample of 128 students enrolled in AP Biology courses, across IO different high schools, during 2007-2008 academic year. Evidence was found for changes in students perceptions and attitudes during the academic year, but also evidence was found for substantial consistency of individual differences in the same measures. In the final analysis, three variables were found, such that when combined, provided an excellent prediction of AP Biology Exam performance. These variables were student cumulative grade point average (GPA), student interest in Biology, and student self-efficacy for AP Biology Exam performance.