Academic Performance of College Students: Influence of Time Spent Studying and Working

Article (PDF Available)inThe Journal of Education for Business 81(3):151-159 · January 2006with 43,300 Reads 
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DOI: 10.3200/JOEB.81.3.151-159
Cite this publication
Today's college students are less prepared for college-level work than their predecessors. Once they get to college, they tend to spend fewer hours studying while spending more hours working, some even full time (D. T. Smart, C. A. Kelley, & J. S. Conant, 1999). In this study, the authors examined the effect of both time spent studying and time spent working on academic performance. The authors further evaluated the interaction of motivation and ability with study time and its effect on academic performance. The results suggested that nonability variables like motivation and study time significantly interact with ability to influence academic performance. Contrary to popular belief, the amount of time spent studying or at work had no direct influence on academic performance. The authors also addressed implications and direction for future research.
ABSTRACT. Today’s college students
are less prepared for college-level work
than their predecessors. Once they get to
college, they tend to spend fewer hours
studying while spending more hours work-
ing, some even full time (D. T. Smart, C. A.
Kelley, & J. S. Conant, 1999). In this study,
the authors examined the effect of both
time spent studying and time spent working
on academic performance. The authors fur-
ther evaluated the interaction of motivation
and ability with study time and its effect on
academic performance. The results suggest-
ed that nonability variables like motivation
and study time significantly interact with
ability to influence academic performance.
Contrary to popular belief, the amount of
time spent studying or at work had no
direct influence on academic performance.
The authors also addressed implications
and direction for future research.
Copyright © 2006 Heldref Publications
oday’s college students are spend-
ing less time studying. The fall
2003 survey conducted by the Higher
Education Research Institute at
UCLAs Graduate School of Education
and Information Studies found that
only 34% of today’s entering freshmen
have spent six or more hours per week
outside of class on academic-related
work (e.g., doing homework, studying)
during their senior year in high school.
The sample consisted of 276,449 stu-
dents at 413 of the nation’s 4-year col-
leges and universities (over one fourth
of entering freshmen in the United
States), and the data were statistically
adjusted to reflect responses of all first-
time, full-time students entering all
four-year colleges and universities as
freshmen in 2003. In fact, in 1987 when
this question was asked of entering
freshmen, 47.0% claimed they spent 6
or more hours per week studying out-
side of class. Since then, the time spent
studying outside of class has declined
steadily each year (Higher Education
Research Institute, 2003).
Another trend that is emerging is the
increase in the number of college stu-
dents who are employed either part time
or full time. According to Gose (1998),
39% of college freshmen work 16 or
more hours per week, an increase of 4%
since 1993. Among all business majors,
marketing students typically work even
more hours per week than do other stu-
dents (Smart, Tomkovick, Jones, &
Menon, 1999). The 2002 survey con-
ducted by the Higher Education
Research Institute also found that
65.3% of entering freshmen have either
“some concern” or “major concerns”
about not having enough money to com-
plete their college degrees (Higher Edu-
cation Research Institute, 2002). This
was an increase of almost 1% from
2001 and is likely to increase in the
years ahead because of reduced funding
for higher education by state legisla-
tures. Although more women (70.9%)
were concerned about whether they
would have enough funds to complete
college than were men (58.3%), all stu-
dents seemed to be working out of the
need to make up for rising tuition and
fewer available grants. In summary, the
proportion of college students who are
employed either part or full time is like-
ly to increase in the years to come, leav-
ing greater numbers of students with
less time for academic work.
Students spending less time studying
and more time working are two trends
that all colleges and universities will have
to confront. Lowering academic stan-
dards by rewarding minimum effort and
achievement (expecting less) is certainly
a short-term strategy, but one that will
have negative long-term consequences. A
more productive way to handle these con-
cerns is to conduct empirical research to
determine to what extent these trends will
Academic Performance of College
Students: Influence of Time Spent
Studying and Working
January/February 2006 151
negatively impact the academic perfor-
mance of college students and use the
findings from these studies to improve
our academic programs.
The influence that personal variables,
such as motivation and ability, have on
academic success is well documented,
but there is a paucity of research inves-
tigating the influence that time college
students spend on various activities
such as studying outside of class and
working has on their academic success.
One reason for a lack of research in this
area may be the common belief among
most students and academicians that
more time spent studying outside of
class positively influences academic
performance and that more time spent
working negatively influences academic
performance. Another, more plausible
reason for this lack of research may be
the complex nature of these relation-
ships when evaluated in the presence of
other variables, such as student ability
and motivation. For example, it is likely
that time spent studying outside of class
will have a differential impact on the
academic performance of college stu-
dents who vary in ability. That is, the
relationship that ability has with student
performance will be stronger for those
students who spend more time outside
of class studying than for students who
spend less time studying.
With this study, we attempted to fill
this void in the literature. First, we
attempted to determine the direct rela-
tionship that time spent on academics
outside of class and working had on aca-
demic performance among business stu-
dents. Second, we attempted to deter-
mine whether the time spent on
academics outside of class interacts with
variables, such as student ability and
motivation, in influencing the academic
performance of business students.
Hypotheses Tested
It is commonly believed that students
who spend more time on academic-
related activities outside of class (e.g.,
reading the text, completing assign-
ments, studying, and preparing reports)
are better performers than students who
spend less time on these activities. There
is some empirical support for this belief.
For example, Pascarella and Terenzini
(1991) found that the study habits of
freshmen relate significantly to their first
year cumulative grade point average
(GPA). In their investigation of 143 col-
lege students, McFadden and Dart
(1992) reported that total study time
influenced expected course grades. In
contrast, Mouw and Khanna (1993) did
not find study habits to significantly
improve the explanatory power of the
first year cumulative GPA of college stu-
dents. Ackerman and Gross (2003) have
found more recently that students with
less free time have a significantly higher
GPA than those with more free time.
Because of this conflicting evidence,
there is a need to reinvestigate this rela-
tionship. Thus, our first hypothesis was
H1: There is a relationship between time
spent studying outside of class and aca-
demic performance.
Along with the present trend of stu-
dents spending less time on academic-
related activities, a growing number of
college and university administrators are
concerned that today’s postsecondary
students are working more hours than
their counterparts were years ago (Gose,
1998). It can be reasonably assumed that
working more hours per week will leave
students less time for studying outside of
class and that this will negatively influ-
ence their academic performance.
Although working more hours per week
can be one key reason for a student to be
in academic trouble, available research
does not seem to support this hypothesis.
Strauss and Volkwein (2002) reported
that working more hours per week posi-
tively related to a student’s GPA. Light
(2001), who interviewed undergraduate
students of all majors, found no signifi-
cant relationship between paid work and
grades. According to Light, “students
who work a lot, a little, or not at all share
a similar pattern of grades” (p. 29).
Because empirical evidence to date has
been counterintuitive, testing this
hypothesis using different samples and
different methodologies is important
before generalizations can be made. This
led to our next hypothesis that
H2: There is a relationship between time
spent working and academic performance.
According to Pinder (1984) and oth-
ers (Chan, Schmitt, Sacco, & DeShon,
1998; Chatman, 1989; Dreher & Bretz,
1991; Nonis & Wright, 2003; Wright &
Mischel, 1987), performance is a multi-
plicative function of both ability and
Performance = Ability × Motivation
For example, a student with very high
ability but low motivation is unlikely to
perform well, whereas a student with
low ability but high motivation is likely
to perform well. That is, the variability
in motivation across students may
dampen associations between ability
and performance.
In the same vein, one can argue that
it is simply the study behavior that ulti-
mately brings about the desired perfor-
mance and not students’ inner desires or
motivations. This is supported by the
widely held belief that it is hard work
(i.e., time spent on academic activities
outside of class by a student) that
results in academic success and that
laziness and procrastination ultimately
result in academic failure (Paden &
Stell, 1997). Therefore, similar to how
motivation interacts with ability to
influence academic performance, one
can infer that behavior such as hard
work interacts with ability to influence
performance among college students.
This led us to our third hypothesis to be
tested in this study.
H3: Behavior (time spent studying out-
side of class) will significantly interact
with ability in that the influence that abil-
ity has on academic performance will be
higher for students who spend more time
studying outside of class than for students
who spend less time studying.
All indications are that today’s college
freshmen are less prepared for college
than their predecessors. American Col-
lege Testing (ACT) Assessment reports
that fewer than half of the students who
take the ACT are prepared for college.
According to the Legislative Analyst’s
Office (2001), almost half of those stu-
dents regularly admitted to the California
State University system arrive unpre-
pared in reading, writing, and mathemat-
ics. Although these statistics are common
at most colleges and universities in the
nation, how institutions handle these
concerns varies. Strategies include
attempting to develop methods to diag-
nose readiness for college-level work
while students are still in high school or
152 Journal of Education for Business
requiring remedial courses of entering
freshmen, thereby lowering academic
There are others who believe that it is
not only reading, writing, and mathemat-
ics abilities that influence academic per-
formance, but also nonability variables,
such as motivation (Barling & Charbon-
neau, 1992; Spence, Helmreich, & Pred,
1987), self-efficacy (Bandura & Schunk,
1981; Multon, Brown, & Lent, 1991;
Zimmerman, 1989), and optimism
(Nonis & Wright, 2003). Although a
minimum level of ability is required, it is
plausible that nonability variables will
compensate for ability inadequacies to
bring about the required level of perfor-
mance. One question that interests all
parties is whether hard work (i.e., more
time spent studying) will influence the
relationship between motivation and per-
formance. That is, will the relationship
between motivation and academic per-
formance be stronger if a student puts
more effort or time into studying outside
of class compared with those who put in
less time? This led to our final hypothe-
sis, one that was speculative in nature,
but nevertheless has implications for
both students and academicians.
H4: Behavior (more time spent studying
outside of class) will significantly interact
with motivation in that the influence that
motivation has on academic performance
will be higher for students who spend
more time studying outside of class com-
pared with students who spend less time
studying outside of class.
We secured the data for this study
from a sample of undergraduate stu-
dents attending a medium-sized
(10,000+), Association to Advance
Collegiate Schools of Business
(AACSB)-accredited, public university
in the mid-south United States. To
obtain a representative sample of all
students, we selected classes from a
variety of business courses (e.g., man-
agement, accounting, MIS, finance)
,offered at various levels (freshmen,
sophomore, junior, and senior) and at
different times (day or night), for the
study. Data collection occurred during
the 9th week of a 15-week semester.
This timing was deliberate because
data were being collected for the moti-
vation variable, one that is likely to
change among students during the
early and late parts of a semester. In
addition, information on such variables
as time spent on academics or work-
related activities is also likely to vary
during the beginning, middle, and end
of a semester.
We distributed surveys and explained
them to those students who participated
in the study. The survey consisted of
two parts. The first part required stu-
dents to maintain a journal during a 1-
week period, documenting how much
time they spent on various activities
each day of the week (there were over
25 activities listed under three broad
categories: academics, personal, and
work related). For accuracy purposes,
we asked students to complete their
journal each morning, recording the
previous day’s activities. The second
part of the survey contained demo-
graphic information, such as gender,
age, and race, as well as measures of
several other constructs including moti-
vation (only motivation was used in this
study). Participants had to provide their
social security numbers for documenta-
tion purposes. We assured them that
their responses would be pooled with
others and no effort would be made to
evaluate how any one individual may
have responded to the survey. We urged
students to take the task seriously and
to be accurate in their responses to each
question. A cover letter signed by the
dean of the college of business was
included in each student’s journal. We
administered 440 surveys, and 288
were returned. Two hundred and sixty-
four of the returned surveys were
usable, yielding an effective response
rate of 60.0%.
We used the social security numbers
provided by the respondents to collect
university data for the variable grade
point average for the semester (SGPA),
semester courseload, number of hours
completed to date, and ACT composite
score. As such, these variables were not
self-reported and should provide more
validity to the study’s findings.
Achievement Striving
We used six items from a Spence et
al. (1987) Likert-type 1–5-point scale,
to measure students’ achievement striv-
ing, which we used as a surrogate for
motivation. In several prior studies,
researchers have used this variable as a
measure of motivation (Barling & Char-
bonneau, 1992; Barling, Kelloway, &
Cheung, 1996). The reported coefficient
alpha for this scale is high (0.87), and
this scale has been used in several other
similar studies (Carlson, Bozeman,
Kacmar, Wright, & McMahan, 2000;
Nonis & Wright, 2003).
Demographic Variables
Students reported demographic infor-
mation, such as gender, age, and racial
or ethnic group membership, in their
Behavior Variables
We also used student journal data to
determine the time spent outside of
class on academic activities like reading
the text and lecture notes for class
preparation, going over the text and lec-
ture notes to prepare for exams, and
completing assignments and homework.
The researcher added these items for the
week to derive the total amount of time
students spent outside of class on aca-
demic activities during the week (TSA).
Students also reported the time they
spent working, as well as the time it
took for them to travel to and from work
each day, during the given week. These
two items were also added to derive the
total amount of time students spent
working during a given week (TSW).
As Table 1 shows, sample character-
istics were comparable to available
demographic characteristics of college
students in the United States (Statistical
Abstract of the United States, 2002).
Other pertinent demographic character-
istics for the sample were as follows:
average age = 23.8 years; majors = 16%
accounting, 13.1% business administra-
tion, 12.3% finance, 13.5% manage-
ment, 14.5% marketing, 14.5% MIS,
and the remainder “other” business
January/February 2006 153
We coded gender and racial or ethnic
group membership and used them as
dummy variables consisting of two cat-
egories (coded 0 or 1), such as male or
female and African American or other,
because 97.5% of the sample was either
Caucasian or African American. To
determine the bivariate relationships
that the plausible predictor (indepen-
dent) variables had with the academic
success (dependent) variables, we cal-
culated Pearson’s product moment cor-
relation coefficients. Table 2 shows both
the descriptive statistics and the Pear-
son’s correlation coefficients. The
achievement-striving measure demon-
strated an acceptable reliability coeffi-
cient as per Nunnally (1978).
Prior to testing the hypotheses, it was
important for us to control for variables
that were likely to have an impact on
academic performance other than the
variables that we were testing. Studies
have found that demographic variables,
such as gender, age, and race (Cubeta,
Travers, & Sheckley, 2001; Strauss &
Volkwein, 2002), influence the academ-
ic performance of college students.
Therefore, we tested H1 and H2 using
partial correlation coefficients, control-
ling for the extraneous variables gender,
age, and racial or ethnic group. Aca-
demic load was also included as a con-
trol variable because students who take
more courses are likely to spend more
time studying outside of class compared
with students who take fewer courses.
In addition, we treated TSA and TSW as
independent variables, and we used
SGPA as the dependent variable.
We tested moderator relationships
proposed in H3 and H4 through moder-
ated multiple regression analysis
(Cohen & Cohen, 1983; Wise, Peters, &
O’Conner, 1984). We performed three
regressions: (a) We regressed the depen-
dent variable (SGPA) on the control
variables (gender, age, racial or ethnic
group membership, and academic load);
(b) we regressed the dependent variable
on the control variables, plus the inde-
pendent variable (i.e., ACT composite
score as a surrogate for ability), plus the
moderator variable (i.e., TSA as a surro-
gate for hard work or behavior); and (c)
we regressed the dependent variable on
the control variables, plus the indepen-
dent variable, plus the moderator vari-
able, plus the interaction (i.e., ACT
composite score and TSA).
The process involved conducting
three regression models for each mod-
erator hypothesis. This process facili-
tated the investigation of a potential
direct influence of the moderator vari-
ables (when they serve as predictors)
and the extent to which the posited
moderator influence actually exists.
When both the independent and the
moderator variable are continuous
154 Journal of Education for Business
TABLE 1. Demographic Characteristics of the Sample Compared With the
Population, in Percentages
Demographic characteristic Population
Male 43.6 44.2
Female 56.3 55.8
Racial/Ethnic Group
White 77 85
African American 12.1 12
Other 11 2.5
Employment Status
Do not work 35.6 34
Work part time 30.3 28
Work full time 34.1 37
Note. The sample consisted of undergraduate students enrolled in business courses at a medium-
sized, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited public university in the
Based on Statistical Abstract of the United States (2002).
TABLE 2. Descriptive Statistics and Pearson Product–Moment Correlations for Study Variables
Variable MSD 12345678
1. Gender
2. Age 23.76 6.29 –0.04
3. Race 0.04 –0.07
4. ACT composite (ACT) 22.00 3.91 –0.01 –0.24* 0.31*
5. Achievement striving (AST)
3.53 0.71 –0.17* 0.21* –0.09 –0.02
6. Time spent outside of class on
academic activities (TSA) vs.
academic load 12.94 8.57 –0.07 0.34* –0.16 –0.18* 0.29*
7. Time spent working (TSW) vs.
academic load 16.84 14.55 0.03 –0.03 0.06 –0.03 –0.16* –0.06
8. Semester grade point average
(SGPA) 2.97 0.76 –0.11 –0.09 0.27* 0.45* 0.35* 0.05 –0.10
reliability coefficient = 0.77.
*p < .05 (one-tailed).
(ACT composite and TSA), as in this
study, the appropriate statistical proce-
dure to detect interaction is the moder-
ated multiple regression analysis (Bar-
ron & Kenny, 1986).
Because the measurement units asso-
ciated with the various scales used in
this study were different, we standard-
ized variables investigated in the analy-
ses and used z scores when testing
The partial correlation coefficient
between TSA and SGPA, controlling for
the variables gender, age, race, and aca-
demic load (r = .10, p = .19), was in the
expected direction, but not significant.
Therefore, H1 was not supported. The
partial correlation coefficient between
TSW and SGPA (r = .08, p = .28) was
also statistically insignificant, failing to
support H2.
Moderated Multiple Regression
(MMR), controlling for gender, age,
race, and academic load, provided the
statistics required to test the remaining
two hypotheses. For H3, the R
for the
control variables was statistically signif-
icant (R
= .06, p < .05). In the second
step, the increment to R
was statistical-
ly significant for the addition of the
main effects of ACT composite and
= .19, p < .05). In fact, the
main effects of both ACT composite and
TSA were also significant (p < .05).
From Step 2 to Step 3, the increment of
was also significant for the addition
of the interaction term (R
= .03, p <
.05); this supported H3, which stated
that TSA would interact with ability
(see Table 3). Predicted values generat-
ed from the regression equation that
were one standard deviation above and
below the mean for ACT composite
score and TSA indicated that students
who were high in ACT composite and
TSA most likely had a very high semes-
ter GPA (y-hat or predicted value =
3.95), relative to students high in ACT
composite score with low TSA (y-hat =
3.1) and relative to students low in ACT
composite with either high (y-hat = 2.5)
or low (y-hat = 2.7) TSA. This is the
appropriate technique to interpret inter-
action terms when moderated multiple
regression is implemented (Cleary &
Kessler, 1982; Cohen & Cohen, 1983).
Results are shown in Figure 1.
For H4, the R
for the control variables
was once again statistically significant
= .10, p < .05). In the second step, the
increment to R
was statistically signifi-
cant (R
= .14, p < .05) for the addition
of the main effects of achievement striv-
ing and TSA. However, the main effect
of TSA was not statistically significant.
From Step 2 to Step 3, the increment of
was also not statistically significant
= .01, p > .05) for the addition of
the interaction term. These results did not
provide support for H4, which stated that
time spent studying outside of class
would interact with motivation (see Table
4). Therefore, H4 was not supported.
January/February 2006 155
TABLE 3. Results of Moderated Multiple Regression Analysis of Time
Spent Outside of Class on Academic Activities (TSA), ACT Composite
Score (ACT), and Semester Grade Point Average (SGPA)
Independent variable Slope SE t p R
Control (Step 1) .06*
Gender –0.12 0.13 –0.90 .36
Age 0.03 0.10 0.26 .78
Race 0.70 0.22 3.22 .00*
Academic load 0.05 0.07 0.74 .46
Predictor (Step 2) .25*
ACT composite (ACT) 0.43 0.07 6.60 .00*
Time studying (TSA) 0.17 0.07 2.54 .01*
Moderator (Interaction) (Step 3) .28*
ACT × TSA 0.18 0.07 2.69 .01*
*p < .05.
FIGURE 1. Time spent studying (TSA) and ACT composite score (ACT)
interaction on semester grade point average (SGPA). Graph is based on
predicted values (y-hat) generated from the regression equation for indi-
viduals 1 standard deviation above and below the mean for TSA and ACT.
TSA (Low)
TSA (High)
We drew the following conclusions
from the analyses.
1.Contrary to popular belief, the
findings suggest that TSW has no direct
influence on SGPA.
2. Based on the partial correlation,
findings suggest that TSA has no direct
influence on academic performance
(measured as SGPA).
3. The main effects of both ACT com-
posite score and achievement striving
are statistically significant.
4. In the presence of ACT composite
score, the main effect of TSA also has a
statistically significant relationship with
SGPA. However, in the presence of
achievement striving, the main effect of
TSA does not have a significant interac-
tion with SGPA.
5. The interaction between ACT com-
posite score and TSA significantly
influences SGPA.
6. The interaction between TSA and
achievement striving did not significant-
ly influence SGPA.
Based on partial correlation coeffi-
cients, neither of the hypotheses that
tested direct relationships (H1 and H2)
was supported. However, one of the
hypotheses that investigated the mod-
erator relationship was supported
(H3). These results indicate that the
relationships that college students’
abilities (ACT composite score), moti-
vation (achievement striving), and
behavior (TSA and TSW) have with
academic performance are more com-
plex than what individuals believe
them to be.
One important finding of this study
is the lack of evidence for a direct rela-
tionship between TSW and academic
performance (H2). TSW did not
directly affect academic performance.
At a time when the percentage of col-
lege students who work is at an all-
time high and administrators are con-
cerned about its influence on academic
performance, these results are encour-
aging. Although more empirical evi-
dence may be required prior to making
any definitive conclusions, these
results did not contradict the findings
of Strauss and Volkwein (2002) or
Light (2001). Contrary to popular
belief, both Strauss and Volkwein and
Light found that working more hours
was positively related to GPA and sug-
gested that students apply the same
work ethic to both their academic and
paid work (i.e., those who earn higher
grades are students who are more
motivated, and work harder and longer
than others). Perhaps academically
strong students are better at balancing
academic and job-related work, there-
by reducing the negative effects that
TSW may have on academic perfor-
Based on the partial correlation (r =
.10, p > .05), the expected influence
that TSA has on academic performance
(H1) was not supported. When we test-
ed H4, the insignificant main effect
between time spent outside of class on
academic activities (TSA) and academ-
ic performance (see Table 4) also sup-
ports the above conclusion. However,
when we tested H3, the significant
main effect between TSA and academ-
ic performance (Table 3) was not con-
sistent with the previous findings in H1
and H4. That is, when ACT composite
score was used as a predictor (in the
absence of achievement striving), TSA
had an impact on academic perfor-
mance (see Table 3). Also, when
achievement striving was used as a pre-
dictor (in the absence of ACT compos-
ite), TSA did not impact academic per-
formance (see Table 4). In summary,
when ACT and TSA were used as pre-
dictors, TSA was able to explain varia-
tion in academic success that was not
explained by ACT (Table 3). However,
when achievement striving and TSA
were used as predictors, TSA was
unable to explain any variation in aca-
demic performance that was not
explained by achievement striving.
Results from H3 show that TSA was
a predictor and a moderator in the pres-
ence of ACT composite (a quasimoder-
ator). Results suggest the importance of
both ability (i.e., ACT composite score)
and behavior (TSA) measures in deter-
mining academic performance (H3). As
indicated by the significant and positive
slope coefficient for the interaction term
between ability and behavior (slope =
0.18), it is simply not ability alone that
brings about positive performance out-
comes. Variables such as TSA strength-
en the influence that ability has on stu-
dent performance. At a time when most
efforts by administrators and instructors
are focused on curriculum and pedagog-
ical issues, this study’s results show the
need to also give attention to the com-
position of today’s college student pop-
ulations in terms of what they bring to
class (i.e., study habits).
H4, which stated that the influence
that behavior (i.e., TSA) has on aca-
demic performance would be higher for
students with high levels of motivation
than for students with low levels of
motivation, was not supported. In this
instance, it is clear that, in the absence
of ability as a predictor, high levels of
motivation or behavior will not bring
about the desired academic perfor-
mance or outcome.
156 Journal of Education for Business
TABLE 4. Results of Moderated Multiple Regression Analysis of Time
Spent Outside of Class on Academic Activities (TSA), Achievement
Striving (AST), and Semester Grade Point Average (SGPA)
Independent variable Slope SE t p R
Control (Step 1) .10*
Gender –0.23 0.13 –1.81 .07
Age –0.07 0.07 –1.08 .28
Race 0.87 0.28 4.42 .00*
Academic load 0.06 0.06 0.98 .33
Predictor (Step 2) .24*
Achievement striving (AST) 0.40 0.07 6.36 .00*
Time studying (TSA) 0.01 0.06 0.18 .85
Moderator (Interaction) (Step 3) .24
AST × TSA 0.04 0.06 0.58 .57
*p = .05.
At a time when students spend less
time studying and more time working,
our results provide food for thought,
although it may be premature to derive
implications from the findings of this
study. Should subsequent researchers
using different samples validate find-
ings of this study, there are implications
for both students and administrators.
Results from studies such as this can
be passed on to students. This can be
easily done at a student orientation, in
student newsletters, on the Web, or in
the classroom. It should be clearly com-
municated to them that their abilities,
motivation, and behavior work in tan-
dem to influence their academic perfor-
mance. If students are lacking in even
one of these areas, their performances
will be significantly lower. Once stu-
dents have a better understanding of
how ability, motivation, study time, and
work patterns influence academic per-
formance, they may be more likely to
understand their own situations and take
corrective action. More important, they
may be less likely to have unreasonable
expectations about their academic per-
formance and take more individual
responsibility for its outcome rather
than conveniently putting the blame on
the instructor. For example, it is not
uncommon for intelligent students to
believe that ability will result in high
levels of academic performance regard-
less of their level of motivation or effort.
The results of this study show the
impact of ability on academic perfor-
mance to be much higher for students
who spend more time studying than for
those who spend less.
Also, the results did not show a direct
link between TSW and academic per-
formance. Although this can be an
encouraging finding at a time when a
large percentage of college students are
working longer hours while attending
college (Curtis & Lucus, 2001), more
research is needed prior to making gen-
eralizations. For example, it is plausible
that the direct relationship between
TSW and academic performance can be
moderated by several personal (i.e.,
ability, motivation, study habits) and sit-
uational (i.e., level of stress, courseload)
variables, and, as such, the impact that
TSW has on academic performance
may be different for different student
populations under different situations or
circumstances. We did not investigate
those relationships in this study.
Study results also have implications
for both the recruitment and retention of
students. According to ACT, only 22%
of the 1.2 million high school graduates
who took the ACT assessment in 2004
achieved scores that would make them
ready for college in all three academic
areas: English, math, and science (ACT
News Release, 2004a). First, university
administrators as well as faculty should
realize the importance of recruiting stu-
dents who are academically prepared for
college as indicated by ACT composite
or SAT scores. Having the motivation or
a strong work ethic may not bring about
desired performance outcomes in the
absence of ability, as evidenced by H4.
This can be a potential concern for col-
leges and universities that have low
admission standards (i.e., low ACT or
SAT score requirements and lower
acceptable high school GPAs) or open
admission policies. Due to low admis-
sion requirements, these institutions are
more likely to have a larger percentage
of students who lack the minimum abil-
ity needed to succeed in college com-
pared with a smaller percentage of such
students in colleges and universities that
have high admission standards. There-
fore, colleges and universities that have
relatively low admission standards need
to have a process in place to identify
those students who lack the necessary
abilities (e.g., quantitative skills, verbal
skills) to succeed in college and provide
them with ample opportunities to devel-
op those abilities while in college by
offering remedial courses. Failure to
develop those abilities prior to taking
college-level courses can be a recipe for
poor academic performance and low
retention rates. Data compiled by ACT
show a strong inverse relationship
between admission selectivity and
dropout rates: Highly selective = 8.7%,
selective = 18.6%, traditional = 27.7%,
liberal = 35.5%, and open = 45.4%
(ACT Institutional Data File, 2003).
Also, on the basis of the results from
H3, students with high ability who also
spend more time studying are the ones
who are most likely to excel in college as
indicated by their GPA (Figure 1). These
are the type of students who are most
likely to perform well academically and
bring universities as well as individual
programs a high-quality academic repu-
tation, and, as such, a process should be
in place to recruit and retain them.
In addition to recruiting, retaining the
students and helping them to achieve
their goals is an important issue for
institutes of higher education. Research
results indicate that just over half of stu-
dents (63%) who began at a 4-year insti-
tution with the goal of a bachelor’s
degree have completed that degree with-
in 6 years at either their initial institu-
tion or at another institution (U.S.
Department of Education, 2002).
Unfortunately, an alarming number of
schools have no specific plan or goals in
place to improve student retention and
degree completion (ACT News Release,
2004b). This shows the need for insti-
tutes of higher education to have their
own models to precisely predict and
track the academic performance of their
prospective students to ultimately mon-
itor and control student retention and
dropout rates. Although measures of
ability such as ACT and SAT scores and
high school GPA are widely used for
college admission and GPA at college is
used to evaluate the progress of the stu-
dent, the results of this study show that,
if included, nonability variables such as
motivation and TSA may significantly
improve these prediction models. This
information, if collected and monitored,
would be useful in terms of decision
making for university administrators as
well as faculty.
Limitations and Direction for
Future Research
We made significant efforts to mini-
mize measurement error in variables
that are normally self-reported, such as
ACT composite scores and academic
performance (GPA), as well as those
variables that rely on memory of past
events, such as TSA and TSW (i.e., a
question such as time spent studying in
a given week or time spent studying
January/February 2006 157
the previous week). By using universi-
ty data for variables such as ACT com-
posite scores and academic perfor-
mance as well as collecting the time
data based on a diary maintained by
participants during a 1-week period,
we minimized measurement error.
Nevertheless, although results can be
generalized to the university where we
collected the data, additional evidence
will be required prior to generalizing
statements to all university settings. In
this respect, a national sample that
investigates these relationships can
either support or refute this study’s
The study did not include a variable
that measured the effectiveness level or
quality of the time students spent
studying, which may be one reason
why H1 was not supported. It is very
likely that both the time that students
spend studying as well as how this
time is spent should be measured. That
was certainly a limitation of this study.
Results of future studies in which
researchers include this variable (i.e.,
time management perceptions and
behaviors measured by Macan, 1994;
Macan, Shahani, Dipboye, & Phillips,
1990) will provide more insight into
this issue.
If TSA moderates the relationship
between ACT composite and academic
performance, it is plausible for TSW
also to moderate the relationship
between ACT composite and academic
performance. Therefore, in a future
study, researchers might investigate
whether the relationship between ACT
composite score and academic perfor-
mance is stronger for students who
spend less time working compared with
the students who spend more time
working. We did not investigate these
relationships because they were outside
the scope of this study.
We limited the personality variable
under investigation to achievement
striving. Other variables such as opti-
mism and self-efficacy are likely to
influence academic performance, and
future studies will be able to address
these issues in more depth. However, in
this study, we addressed an important
concern of the academic community at a
time when such empirical research is
not widely available, and, as a result, we
have contributed to the higher education
Correspondence concerning this article should be
addressed to Sarath A. Nonis, Professor of Market-
ing, Department of Management and Marketing,
Box 59, Arkansas State University, State University,
AR 72467. E-mail:
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