What is unique about high performing students? Exploring personality, motivation and competitiveness

Chris Baumann*, Marina Harvey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The novel variable of competitiveness is explored to determine whether it has a role in differentiating high performing students from others. While the Big Five personality traits and motivation have been well-researched in relation to academic performance, the concept of competitiveness has yet to receive such attention. The competitiveness of business students (n = 226) was investigated in tandem with personality traits and motivation. Four academic performance tiers emerged from the analysis. These results unambiguously reveal that the Tier one cohort, which was comprised of a homogenous subset–i.e. the students attaining a high distinction grade–was statistically unique. The distinct point of differentiation is that these students were competitive as well as conscientious and intrinsically motivated. The implications of this finding open opportunities for future research, and potentially for learning and teaching strategies that acknowledge competitiveness in student learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1327
Number of pages13
JournalAssessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
Issue number8
Early online date15 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2021


  • Academic performance
  • Big Five
  • competitiveness
  • motivation
  • personality traits


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