Why do students vary in their performance on exams? It may be that their test preparation is insufficient because they overestimate their anticipated grade. Our study investigates four issues related to performance on a final examination. First, we analyze whether students’ ability to accurately predict their grade and their subjective confidence in this prediction may account for their grade. Second, we ask whether students at different levels of performance vary in their ability to accurately predict their grade, and if so, whether subjective confidence also differs. Third, we ask whether the accuracy and confidence of learners’ predictions are conditioned by self-efficacy beliefs and causal attribution habits, which serve as indices of motivation for test preparation. Fourth, we ask whether different causal attribution preferences contribute to self-efficacy. We use statistical analysis of data from a general education course at a large public university in the United States. Our results indicate that poor performers’ overestimates are likely to be wishful thinking as they are expressed with low subjective confidence. Self-efficacy is a significant contributor to the inaccuracy of students’ predicted grades and subjective confidence in such predictions. Professors’ understanding of learners’ forecasting mechanisms informs strategies devoted to academic success.
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