Grade expectations: Rationality and overconfidence

Jan R. Magnus, Anatoly A. Peresetsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Confidence and overconfidence are essential aspects of human nature, but measuring (over)confidence is not easy. Our approach is to consider students' forecasts of their exam grades. Part of a student's grade expectation is based on the student's previous academic achievements; what remains can be interpreted as (over)confidence. Our results are based on a sample of about 500 second-year undergraduate students enrolled in a statistics course in Moscow. The course contains three exams and each student produces a forecast for each of the three exams. Our models allow us to estimate overconfidence quantitatively. Using these models we find that students' expectations are not rational and that most students are overconfident, in agreement with the general literature. Less obvious is that overconfidence helps: given the same academic achievement students with larger confidence obtain higher exam grades. 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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2346
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue number2346
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2018


  • Behavioral education
  • Classroom experiment
  • Education
  • Gender difference
  • Overconfidence
  • Persistence
  • Rational expectations


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