To What Factors do University Students Attribute Their Academic Success?




Academic achievement, Causal attributions, Effort, Exit attribution, Motivation for achievement


This study explores the attributions to which undergraduate university students ascribe academic achievement. Attribution theory was used as a means to understand scholastic success-failure. The questions that guided the study were the following: What are the causal attributions that predominate in students' academic achievement? Is there a difference between male and female students? Is there a difference if average grades and the number of failed subjects, factored as benchmarks of academic achievement, are considered? Do the measured attributions have any weight when predicting students’ grades? A Likert scale measuring eight different attributions of academic achievement was applied to 165 students. The results showed that the most important attribution for academic achievement was intelligence. Sex-related differences were found in two attributes: calm and effort. In general, students with four failed subjects were those with the lowest averages measured in attributions. The variables that predicted good grades for male students were effort and good teachers, for female students, a liking for teachers, luck, and attention.


Bandura, A. (1997) Self-efficacy: the exercise of control, New York: W.H. Freeman.

Bandura, A. (1986) Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Batool, S. and Akhter, T. (2006) ‘Causal attribution patterns mainstream school students and their effect on achievement’, FWU Journal of Social Science, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 131-134.

Boruchovitch, E. (2004) ‘A study of causal attributions for success and failure in mathematics among brazilian students’, Interamerican Journal of Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 53-60.

Bouchaib, B., Ahmadou, B., and Abdelkader, S. (2018) ‘High School Students Attributions of success in English Language Learning’, International Journal of Instruction, Vol. 11., No. 2, pp. 89-102.

Cheah, J. H., Sarstedt, M., Ringle, C. M., Ramayah, T. and Ting, H. (2018) ‘Convergent validity assessment of formatively measured constructs in PLS-SEM: On using single-item versus multi-item measures in redundancy analyses’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 30, No. 11, pp. 3192-3210.

Diamantopoulos, A., Sarstedt, M., Fuchs, C., Wilczynski, P. and Kaiser, S. (2012) ‘Guidelines for choosing between multi-item and single-item scales for construct measurement: a predictive validity perspective’, Journal of Academic Marketing Science, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 434-449.

Digia, G. and Zdravkovi, M. (2019) ‘Attributions to academic success and failure and the strategies for dealing with the examination situation as predictors of academic success’, Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology and History, Vol. 18, No 2, pp. 67-80.

Fisher, G. G., Matthews, R. A. and Gibbons, A. M. (2015) ‘Developing and investigating the use of single-item measures in organizational research’, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 3-23.

Feuerstein, R., Jensen, M., Rand, Y. and Hoffman, M. (1984) ‘Instrumental Enrichment: An intervention program for structural cognitive modifiability’, in Segal, J., Chipman, S. and Glaser, R. (ed.), Thinking and learning skills, Vol. 1, Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

García-Fernández, J. M., Inglés-Saura, C. J., Vincent, M., Gonzálvez C., Lagos, N. and Pérez-Sánchez, A. M. (2016) ‘Relación entre autoeficacia y autoatribuciones académicas en estudiantes chilenos [Relationship between self-efficacy and academic self-attributions in Chilean students]’, Universitas Psychologica, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 79-88.

García, J. L. (2006) ‘Aportaciones de la teoría de las atribuciones causales a la comprensión de la motivación para el rendimiento escolar [Contributions from the theory of causal attribution to understanding motivation for school performance]’, Ensayos, Vol. 21, pp. 217-232.

Gardner, H. (1993) Las inteligencias múltiples [The Multiple intelligencies], Madrid: Paidós.

Gonzálvez C., Sanmartín R., Vicent M., Inglés C. J., Aparicio-Flores M. P. and García-Fernández J. M. (2018) ‘Academic self-attributions for success and failure in mathematics and school refusal’, Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 55, No. 4, pp. 366–376.

Hsieh, P. H. P., and Schallert, D. L. (2008) ‘Implications from self-efficacy and attribution theories for an understanding of undergraduates’ motivation in a foreign language course’, Contemporary Educational Psychology, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 513-532.

Heider, F. (1958) The psychology of interpersonal relations, New York: Wiley.

Heider, F. (1944) ‘Social perception and phenomenal causality’, Psychological Review, Vol. 51, No. 6, pp. 358-374.

Kamal, M. and Bener, A. (2009) ‘Factors contributing to school failure among school children in very fast developing Arabian society’, Oman Medical Journal, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp. 212-217.

Kelley, H. H. (1967) ‘Attribution theory in social psychology’, in Levine, D. (ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, Vol. 15, pp. 192-238. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Lagos, N., Inglés, C., Ossa C., Gonzálvez-Maciá, C., Vicent, M. and García-Fernández, J. (2016) ‘Relación entre atribuciones de éxito y fracaso académico y ansiedad escolar en estudiantes chilenos de educación secundaria. [Relationship between academic success and failure and school anxiety in Chilean high school students]’, Psicología desde el Caribe, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 146-157.

Lee, J., Song, K. and Kim, D. (2018) ‘Self-efficacy, attribution, and adjustment to college life’, North American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 575–600.

Lei, C. (2009) ‘On the causal attributions of academic achievement in college students’, Asian Social Science, Vol. 5, No. 8, pp. 87-96.

Matteucci, M. A. and Gosling, P. (2004) ‘Italian and French teachers faced with pupil's academic failure: The norm of effort’, European Journal of Psychology of Education, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 147-166.

Maymon R., Hall N. C., Goetz, T., Chiarella, A. and Rahimi, S. (2018) ‘Technology, attributions, and emotions in post-secondary education: An application of Weiner's attribution theory to academic computing problems’, PLoS ONE, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 1-36.

Munir, T. (2020) ‘Gender differences in attribution to success and failure in exams: students´ perspectives’, Pak Armed Forces Medicine Journal, Vol. 70, No. 2, pp. 437-441.

Pajares, F. (1996) ‘Self-Efficacy Beliefs in Academic Settings’, Review of Educational Research, Vol. 66, No. 4, pp. 543-578.

Perry, R. P., Daniels, L. M. and Haynes, T. L. (2008) ‘Attributional (explanatory) thinking about failure in new achievement settings’, European Journal of Psychology of Education, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 459-475.

Rodríguez-Marín, J. and Inglés, C. J. (2011) ‘Diferencias de sexo y curso en autoatribuciones académicas de estudiantes universitarios [Differences in sex and course in academic self-attributions of college students]’, Revista Mexicana de Psicología, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 173-181.

Rotter, J. (1966) ‘Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement’, Psychological Monographs, Vol. 80, No. 1, pp. 1–28.

Sáez F. M., Bustos, C. E., Pérez, M. V., Mella, J. A., Lobos, K. A. and Díaz, A. E. (2018) ‘Disposición al estudio, autoeficacia y atribuciones causales en estudiantes universitarios chilenos [Willingness to study, self-efficacy and causal attributions in Chilean university students]’, Propósitos y Representaciones, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 199-245.

Stajkovic, A. D. and Summer, S. M. (2006) ‘Self-efficacy and causal attributions: Direct and reciprocal link’, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol 30, No. 4, pp. 707-737.

Smith, J. F. and Skrbi, Z. (2017) ‘A social inequality of motivation? The relationship between beliefs about academic success and young people’s educational attainment’, British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 441–465.

Sucuoglu, H. (2014) ‘Construct validity of success/failure attribution scale among Turkish university students’, Educational Research and Reviews, Vol. 9, No. 11, pp. 326-339.

Taskiran, A. and Aydin, B. (2018) ‘Do adult english language learners and their teachers have similar approaches to success?’, Journal on Efficiency and Responsibility in Education and Science, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 1-8.

Van Overwalle, F. (1989) ‘Structure of freshmen's causal attributions for exam performance’, Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 400-407.

Vélez, T. I. (2007) ‘Éxito escolar en el nivel medio superior: una mirada desde los jóvenes [School success at the upper middle level: A look of young people]’, Tiempo de Educar, Vol. 8, No. 16, pp. 245-273.

Weiner, B. (2010a) ‘The development of an attribution-based theory of motivation: A history of ideas’, Educational Psychologist, Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 28-36.

Weiner, B. (2010b) ‘Attribution theory’, International Encyclopedia of Education, Vol. 6, No. 6, pp. 558-563.

Weiner, B. (1985) ‘An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion’, Psychological Review, Vol. 92, No. 4, pp. 548-573.

Weiner, B. (1972) ‘Attribution theory, achievement motivation, and the educational process’, Review of Educational Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 203-215.

Additional Files



How to Cite

García y García, B. E. (2021) ’To What Factors do University Students Attribute Their Academic Success?’, Journal on Efficiency and Responsibility in Education and Science, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 01-08



Research Paper