AIAS Lunch Seminar 30 June by Trudie Schils - Maastricht University

The leaning tower of PISA: disentangling ability and motivation

Trudie Schils – Maastricht University


It has been documented in the literature that test scores on achievement tests depend not only on ability, but also on motivation and personality. The predictive power of achievement tests is therefore potentially due to all components. The question of this paper is whether it is possible to disentangle ability and personality factors from test results. Using data from the international achievement test PISA, in this paper we decompose the test scores into ability and motivation. We investigate the development of the performance of students during the test, utilizing the difference in order of the test questions in the 13 test booklets. We document that performance substantially drops during the test and that this performance drop differs between types of students and countries. The estimated size of the drop is very stable over the years, while correlation between this drop and the test scores is limited, suggesting that the decline in test scores during the test picks up something else than just ability. We argue that the performance drop can be interpreted as a measure for test motivation. The size of the performance drop is related to personality traits both within and across countries, mainly to agreeableness and it predicts outcomes in later life such as income and smoking in addition to the pure test score. The test performance drop decreases with ability and decreases when students devote more time to studying in general. The motivation effect can explain about 34 percent of the total variation in these test scores between countries. The ability of Japanese, Canadian, Italian and Greece students seems to be much higher than PISA scores suggest while the PISA scores of the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria are substantially influenced by the strong test motivation of students in these countries

Day: Thursday 30 June
Time: 12.15 – 13.15 hrs.
Location: AIAS, 3rd floor M building (Business School), Plantage Muidergracht 12, Amsterdam
Registration: Please send an email ( asap (preferably before Tuesday 28 June, 13.00 hrs) to register.
A sandwich will then be provided.

Click here for an overview of all lunch seminars from January – July 2011

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