Why Do Standardized Tests Underpredict Women's Academic Performance? The Role of Conscientiousness

Kristen C. Kling, Erik E. Noftle, Richard W. Robins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Women typically earn higher grades than men, even though they tend to score lower than men on the SAT, a pattern known as the female underprediction effect (FUE). In three samples, we tested our hypothesis that gender differences in Conscientiousness can explain this effect. Within each sample, we created a regression-based measure of under (vs. over) prediction, which reflects the extent to which an individual student's actual grade point average (GPA) exceeded (or fell below) the GPA predicted by his or her SAT score. Significant gender differences in this measure documented the presence of the FUE. Next, we demonstrated that Conscientiousness significantly mediated the link between gender and underprediction. Specifically, women were higher in Conscientiousness, and students who were more conscientious earned grades that were higher than their SAT scores would predict. Thus, our expectation that Conscientiousness is a partial explanation for the FUE was confirmed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-606
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Conscientiousness
  • academic achievement
  • gender differences
  • personality


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