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February 03, 2018 Saturday 11:01:16 AM IST

Overconfidence Colors Exam Results

Teacher Insights

3 rd February, 2018. Confidence and overconfidence are essential aspects of human nature. However, to measure (over)confidence is not easy. A study conducted by researchers from the Higher School of

Economics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Tinbergen Institute has analyzed the effects of overconfidence on the results of exams. They studied students’ forecast of the results of their exams by a sample of about 500 second-year graduate students enrolled in a statistics course in Moscow. The course contained three exams and each student produces a forecast for each of the three exams. To estimate overconfidence quantitatively, the researchers have developed a model. The key observations of the study are listed below:

  • Part of a student's grade expectation is based on the student's previous academic achievements; what remains can be interpreted as (over)confidence.
  • The model predicts that students' expectations are not rational and that most students are overconfident.
  • Less obvious is that overconfidence helps: given the same academic achievement, students with larger confidence obtain higher exam grades. Some studies suggest that overconfident students are less successful at exams since they allocate less time and efforts to study. This may be the case for some students, but we find that for most students overconfidence is advantageous, possibly because it increases ambition, morale, resolve, persistence, and hence the probability of success.
  • Female students are less overconfident than male students, their forecasts are more rational, and they are also faster learners in the sense that they adjust their expectations more rapidly.
  • Overconfidence decreases during the course and is smallest at the third exam, which shows that students adjust their expectations as information accrues, in particular when the third exam has a higher weight in the total course grade.
  • Tip to teachers: Don't wait too long in setting your first test. This will help students to adjust their

    expectations at an early stage, and this in turn will be of use to them in their allocation of time and


    effort for the course.

    (For more details: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02346/full)

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