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Abstract

This research investigated the prevalence of “optimistic bias” (unrealistic performance expectations) among low scoring students. Possible causes and remediations are discussed. Two hundred seventy four undergraduate students were surveyed after their first course exam, and again after their second exam, to assess the effects of optimistic bias. At both survey points, each student provided (1) a performance estimate for the recently taken exam, (2) actual score for that exam after receiving it, and (3) an estimate of future exam performance. The sample was divided into quartiles based on first exam actual scores. Lowest quartile students were overly optimistic regarding their first exam performance after having taken it (but prior to receiving their actual scores). These low scoring students continued to be overly optimistic regarding performance on future exams despite the contradictory evidence they had just received in the form of their actual poor exam scores. Implications are discussed and suggestions are offered for actions the instructor can take (e.g., in class informational presentations) that might help reduce optimistic bias, other student misconceptions, and their detrimental impact on low scoring students.

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