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Journal of Educational Psychology

2000, Vol. 92, No. 1,160-170


Copyright 2000 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
0022-0663/00/55.00 DOI: 10.1037//0022-0663.92.1.160
Test Prediction and Performance in a Classroom Context
Douglas J. Hacker, Linda Bol, Dianne D. Horgan, and Ernest A. Rakow
University of Memphis
This study focused on students' ability to predict and postdict test performance in a classroom
context. Ninety-nine undergraduate students participated during a semester-length course in
which the relation between self-assessment and performance was stressed. Research questions
were (a) Can students accurately predict test performance? (b) Does accuracy vary with
performance? (c) Does prediction accuracy increase over multiple tests? and (d) Do prior
performance and predictions of performance influence subsequent predictions? High-
performing students were accurate, with accuracy improving over multiple exams. Low-
performing students showed moderate prediction accuracy but good postdiction accuracy.
Lowest performing students showed gross overconfidence in predictions and postdictions.
Judgments of performance were influenced by prior judgments and not prior performance.
Performance and judgments of performance had little influence on subsequent test preparation
behavior.
Can students accurately predict test performance? Predic-
tions of test performance are metacomprehension judg-
ments, which require, in part, that students self-assess what
they know about the to-be-tested material, judge how
thoroughly they understand it, and judge whether they will
be able to use their knowledge to optimize performance on
the upcoming test. Greater accuracy in prediction can help
students avoid either premature termination or prolonged
duration of study, thereby helping with the management of
time and effort. Greater accuracy can also help students
narrow the focus of their study to specific areas judged to
have a low probability of success. Accurate predictions of
test performance, therefore, can play a critical role in
maximizing test preparedness.
Although people are generally inaccurate in predicting
their performance (e.g., Glenberg & Epstein, 1985; Glen-
berg, Sanocki, Epstein, & Morris, 1987; Lichtenstein, Fis-
chhoff, & Phillips, 1982; Maki & Berry, 1984), under certain
conditions and for certain tasks, people's prediction accu-
racy can be somewhat better than chance (e.g., Gillstrbm &
Ronnberg, 1995; Horgan, 1990; Horgan, Bol, & Hacker,
1997; Magliano, Little, & Graesser, 1993; Maki, 1995; Maki
& Serra, 1992; Pressley & Ghatala, 1989; Weaver, 1990;
Weaver & Bryant, 1995). Prediction accuracy often is
resistant to improvement (e.g., Gigerenzer, Hoffrage, &
Kleinbolting, 1991; Koriat, 1997; Koriat, Lichtenstein, &
Fischhoff, 1980), but sometimes there are modest improve-
ments (Hertzog, Dixon, & Hultsch, 1990; Horgan, 1990;
Horgan, Hacker, & Huffman, 1997; Koriat & Goldsmith,
1994, 1996; Pressley, Snyder, Levin, Murray, & Ghatala,
Douglas J. Hacker, Linda Bol, Dianne D. Horgan, and Ernest A.
Rakow, Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research, Univer-
sity of Memphis.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to
Douglas J. Hacker, who is now at the Department of Educational
Studies, University of Utah, 1705 East Campus Center Drive,
Room 307, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9256. Electronic mail may
be sent to hacker__d@gse.utah.edu.
1987; Walczyk & Hall, 1989). Gains may be greater for
higher performing students than for lower performing stu-
dents (Maki, 1998; Maki & Berry, 1984; Shaughnessy, 1979;
Sinkavich, 1995).
Further, the studies that we could find about test predic-
tion accuracy were restricted to laboratory settings, used
experimentally learned materials, or asked questions concern-
ing generic world knowledge. Therefore, studies of predic-
tion accuracy, despite having important relevance to educa-
tional issues, have generally lacked ecological validity. Only
in Shaughnessy (1979) and Sinkavich (1995) were actual
classroom tests used as the focus of metacognitive judg-
ments. In addition, we have not found a study in which an
actual classroom context was used. Even though several
researchers have voiced a need for metacognitive research
conducted in more naturalistic environments (e.g., Koriat &
Goldsmith, 1996; Nelson & Narens, 1994), most metacogni-
tive studies are still conducted in the laboratory using
experimentally based materials. Thus, little focus has been
given to students' prediction accuracy and to improvements
in accuracy when students are asked to make judgments
concerning richer knowledge domains that have been devel-
oped over longer periods of time under more motivating
circumstances.
To shed light on these inconsistent or incomplete results,
the present study was conducted in an undergraduate
educational psychology course. Over an entire semester,
students received instruction that included, in part, an
emphasis on the important relation between self-assessment
of performance prior to testing and actual performance. We
addressed four specific questions: (a) Can students accu-
rately predict test performance? (b) Does accuracy vary with
test performance? (c) Does prediction accuracy increase
over multiple tests? and (d) To what extent do prior
performance and predictions of performance influence sub-
sequent predictions? We also addressed these questions with
respect to postdiction accuracy. Because a postdictive judg-
ment serves as a self-evaluation of how well a student
160
TEST PREDICTION AND PERFORMANCE 161
actually did on a test, these self-evaluations can provide
valuable feedback to the student on which future self-
assessments of performance may be based (Glenberg &
Epstein, 1985; Glenberg et al., 1987; Maki & Serra, 1992).
Examinations of postdictive accuracy, therefore, can provide
important insights into predictive accuracy. Finally, we
looked at predictive and postdictive accuracy and study
times to determine whether students' metacognitive judg-
ments of test performance and actual performance influ-
enced subsequent test preparation behavior.
Theoretical and Empirical Bases for Predictive
and Postdictive Accuracy
Although most studies of metacognitive judgments have
been conducted in laboratory contexts, there is much from
them that can inform research examining metacognitive
judgments made in more naturalistic contexts. For example,
many of the factors that contribute to prediction or postdic-
tion accuracy in laboratory contexts remain likely candidates
in naturalistic contexts. Judgments concerning future perfor-
mance are influenced to some extent by self-assessments
concerning (a) how much learning has occurred, (b) how
much learning might be forgotten until the test is taken, or
(c) how well one will perform given the nature of the test,
the kinds of items on the test, and the difficulty of the items
(Maki, 1998). In addition, predictions of performance in
classrooms may be based on (d) students' familiarity with
the course content (Benjamin & Bjork, 1996; Glenberg et
al., 1987; Maki & Serra, 1992) or (e) students' perceptions of
the teacher and course. Rather than re-examining this broad
array of contributing factors, in the present study we focused
more narrowly on the associations between students' perfor-
mance and their prior and subsequent judgments of
performance.
We hypothesized that with the benefit of internally
generated and externally provided feedback on performance
and judgments of performance over multiple tests during a
semester-length course, students would gain greater experi-
ence making predictions and postdictions with each test and
learn to adjust their judgments to more accurately reflect
performance. Repeated testing (Koriat, 1997) and repeated
study (Lovelace, 1984) have been found to increase accu-
racy of judgments of learning. Also, Hertzog et al. (1990)
found that predicted word recall performance approached
actual performance over multiple testing trials.
Koriat (1997) and Kelley and Jacoby (1996) have sug-
gested that the positive effects of repeated practice on
accuracy may be due to "a general shift from theory-based
to experience-based judgments" (Koriat, 1997, p. 367); that
is, one's a priori theories or beliefs about the factors that
affect memory give way to one's actual experiences with
making memory judgments. At the beginning of the semester-
length course that was used in the present study, students had
little on which to base their judgments of performance other
than their past performance in similar courses, their self-
perceptions as learners, and their beliefs about the difficulty
of the teacher. Over the semester, students were given many
opportunities to make memory judgments on multiple
practice and actual tests. Each of these opportunities pro-
vided feedback to students on their actual performance that
we believed would promote a shift from their theory-based
judgments of their general academic ability to more special-
ized and more accurate experience-based judgments of their
specific academic ability in this particular course.
In addition, Koriat and Goldsmith (1996) have argued that
one reason many metacognitive studies have not shown
greater accuracy in metamemory judgments is because the
researchers have not included strong incentives for people to
give accurate judgments. When strong incentives are in-
cluded, "people can, at least under some circumstances,
provide memory reports that are very accurate" (p. 493).
Because the participants in the present study were enrolled
in a course that was required for graduation and because the
feedback received on their metacomprehension judgments
and performance could help them earn higher grades, we
believed that students had strong incentives to increase their
metamemory accuracy. Therefore, in contrast to laboratory
studies of metacognitive judgments, we predicted in the
present study that the longer duration of the course, the
richer the knowledge base gained during the course, and the
greater motivation to engage in the course would result in
more accurate judgments of performance.
Once students have finished a test, they have more
complete knowledge of the accuracy of their predictions.
Students' predictive judgments of performance turn from
expectations of what may happen to postdictive assessments
of what actually did happen (Pressley & Ghatala, 1989;
Pressley, Levin, Ghatala, & Ahmad, 1987). Immediately
after the test, students' speculations about item difficulty,
how much learning occurred, or how much learning was
forgotten become more definite judgments about what was
known or not known. In addition, once the test is over,
students can better judge their familiarity with the topic and
the nature of the course and teacher. The test itself and
students' performance on it are sources of feedback that
serve as input to their postdictive judgments. Hence, with
the benefit of feedback on these contributing factors, we
hypothesized that students would exhibit greater postdictive
than predictive accuracy.
Upgrading of prediction accuracy has been found in other
studies (e.g., Glenberg & Epstein, 1985; Glenberg et al.,
1987; Lovelace, 1984; Lovelace & Marsh, 1985; Maki &
Serra, 1992; Pressley & Ghatala, 1989); however, when
more complex tasks such as text recall are required, Hertzog
et al. (1990) have observed reduced levels of upgrading.
These researchers have argued that accuracy in memory
monitoring could be due to "concurrent awareness of the
status of the memory system or to some kind of postrecall
performance evaluation not necessarily associated with
conscious awareness of the contents of memory" (Hertzog et
al., 1990, p. 225). Therefore, upgrading of accuracy couid be
reduced when people are confronted with complex memory
demands, which impose greater difficulties in gauging
concurrent awareness of memory. Given the large number of
factors potentially contributing to accurate judgments in a
classroom context, some students could encounter difficul-
ties dealing with the cognitive constraints imposed by
162 HACKER, BOL, HORGAN, AND RAKOW
monitoring and may simply rely on their predictions of
performance as a basis for making postdictions. In this case,
upgrading of postdiction accuracy would be minimized.
Thus, we examined whether the added complexities of
making memory judgments in a naturalistic context would
compromise students' postdiction accuracy.
Finally, we were interested in examining the relations
among prior performance, judgments of performance, and
subsequent judgments of performance. Early in the semes-
ter, with limited feedback on their actual performance,
students'judgments of performance are likely based, in part,
on some or all of the five contributing factors that were
identified earlier. These initial judgments of performance
would then serve as anchors for subsequent judgments
(Dunlosky & Hertzog, 1998). However, because prior
performance is one of the best predictors of future perfor-
mance, with each test, students would learn to rely more on
prior performance than on prior judgments of performance
to make accurate judgments of performance; that is, students
would learn to reanchor their judgments of performance
from prior judgments to prior performance. We hypoth-
esized, therefore, that as the course progressed, the strength
of the relation between judgments of performance and prior
judgments would decrease, with a corresponding increase in
the relation between judgments of performance and prior
performance.
Method
Participants
Participants were 99 undergraduate college students enrolled in
two sections of an introductory educational psychology course at a
mid-south university. The two sections were taught by the same
instructor, had equivalent instruction, and had the same course
requirements. Approximately 90% of the students were enrolled in
a teacher education program and took the course as a requirement
of that program. The remaining 10% of the students took the course
as an elective.
Measures
Predictions were made before each exam as the percentage of
items students expected to answer correctly. Postdictions were
made after each exam as the percentage of items they believed they
had gotten correct. As in other calibration research (e.g., Koriat &
Goldsmith, 1996; Liberman & Tversky, 1993), the accuracy of
people's subjective judgments of performance was determined by
comparing their assessed probability that a collection of items
would be or were answered correctly with the actual percentage of
items correct. Last, students were asked to estimate the number of
hours they spent studying for the exam.
Performance was measured by scores obtained on three multiple-
choice exams. Most of the test items came from the test bank
distributed by the publisher of the text used for the course (Good &
Brophy, 1995). These items were mixed with respect to difficulty
(low, medium, or high) and type (understanding, integration, or
application). A few of the items on each test were developed by the
course instructor. There were 63 items on the first exam and 96
items on the second exam. The third exam was a comprehensive
final that contained 133 items. Although the tests varied in length,
each of the tests contained approximately the same proportions of
low, medium, and high difficulty items (i.e., about 42% low, 52%
medium, and 6% high). Also, a Cronbach's alpha of .83 among the
three tests indicates that students maintained consistent perfor-
mance across the three exams. An example of a difficult integration
item is
Which one of the following ideas seems to be the basis for
how reciprocal teaching is done?
a. Vygotsky's zone of proximal development
b. Bruner's spiral curriculum
c. Ausubel's advance organizer
d. Gagne's events of instruction.
An example of an easy understanding question is
How do constructivist and associationist theories of memory
differ?
a. Associationists are more likely to stress the law of effect.
b. Constructivists put more stress on the active creation of
memory.
c. Constructivists base their theory on the contiguity principle.
d. Associationists were more likely to use school tasks as the
basis for their theory.
Procedure
A major emphasis of the course was on self-assessment.
Throughout the course, students received instruction about the
importance of reflection in learning, particularly its importance
concerning accurate self-assessments of one's knowledge and
performance. Specific lessons that the students received focused on
the benefits of accurate self-assessment, including how accuracy in
self-assessment could lead to more effective use of feedback,
improved time management, and appropriate goal setting.
To help students develop their self-assessment skills in the
preparation for testing, 1 week prior to taking each of the three
exams, students were given practice exams that were parallel
versions of the actual exams. Students were encouraged to use their
performance on the practice exams as a way to identify strengths
and weaknesses in their understanding of the material. With each
practice exam, students were given an answer key with page
numbers referencing each question. They were urged to take the
practice exam without referring to the text or their notes, score it,
and then, using their text and notes, try to understand their errors.
Students were free to discuss the practice exams with other students
or the instructor.
One week after the practice exams, students were given the
actual exams. Immediately before each exam, students recorded on
a form attached to the front of the exam their predictions of what
percentage of items they expected to get correct and their estimated
study times. Immediately after the exams, they recorded their
postdictions on a form attached at the end. To ensure confidentiality
of students' predictions and postdictions, a graduate assistant
assigned to the course collected the forms and compiled the data
from them.
After each of the first two exams were scored and returned,
students were urged to reflect and analyze why their predictions
and postdictions were or were not accurate and then develop a plan
to prepare for the next exam. For example, if their predictions were
not accurate, students were encouraged to identify the possible
factors that may have contributed to either their overconfidence or
underconfidence and to focus on those factors for the next exam. To
help prepare for the final exam, students were free to go over prior
exams and practice exams.
TEST PREDICTION AND PERFORMANCE 163
Results
The results are organized according to our research
questions: (a) Can students accurately predict test perfor-
mance? (b) Does accuracy vary with test performance? (c)
Does prediction accuracy increase over multiple tests? and
(d) To what extent do prior performance and predictions of
performance influence subsequent predictions? These same
questions were addressed in regard to students' postdictions.
Therefore, findings concerning predictions and postdictions
are described within each section.
Can Students Accurately Predict and Postdict Test
Performance and Does Accuracy Vary With
Performance?
Students were divided into five performance groups on
the basis of the percentage of total items answered correctly:
Group 1 = 80-100%, Group 2 = 70-79%, Group 3 =
60-69%, Group 4 = 50-59%, and Group 5 < 50%. These
groups were formed to correspond roughly with the grading
system established in the course: Group 1 students earned
mostly As, Group 2 students mostly Bs, Group 3 students
mostly Cs, and Group 4 students mostly Ds or Fs. Group 5
was added to examine more closely students whose perfor-
mance was very low. Figures 1, 2, and 3 show the mean
predictions and postdictions for each performance group for
Exams 1, 2, and 3, respectively.
Across the three exams, students who scored in test
performance Groups 1 and 2 were mostly accurate in their
predictions and postdictions of test performance (i.e., mean
judgments differed by less than 8 percentage points from
actual performance), with the highest scoring students
showing consistent underconfidence in both predictive and
postdictive judgments. Students in performance Groups 3
and 4 gave accurate postdictions (i.e., mean judgments
differed by 8 percentage points or less) but showed strong
overconfidence in prediction (i.e., mean judgments were as
high as 17 percentage points over actual performance).
Students who scored below 50% showed little predictive or
postdictive accuracy, with their predictions and postdictions
exhibiting gross overconfidence (i.e., mean judgments dif-
fered by as much as 31 percentage points).
The strong relation between performance and predictive
and postdictive accuracy also was evident in the correlations
between performance and absolute difference scores for
prediction and postdiction (i.e., difference between students*
prediction or postdiction scores and their actual performance
scores). Higher performance scores were associated with
smaller differences between performance and prediction or
postdiction (i.e., greater accuracy). Pearson correlations
were -. 74, .62, and .78 for prediction and .34, .51,
and -. 67 for postdiction for Exams 1,2, and 3, respectively
(allps<. 002).
Does Predictive and Postdictive Accuracy Increase
Over Multiple Tests?
Throughout the course, students received multiple forms
of instruction and feedback on self-assessment. By the third
exam, they had received feedback not only on their predic-
tions, postdictions, and performance on two exams, but on
three practice exams as well. They also had been encouraged
repeatedly during class periods to consider the importance of
self-assessment on performance. We believed that if meta-
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Predicted and Postdicted Scores
Figure 1. Mean performance versus mean predicted and postdicted performance by subgroups for
Exam 1.
164 HACKER, BOL, HORGAN, AND RAKOW
Predicted
Postdicted
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Figure 2. Mean performance versus mean predicted and postdicted performance by subgroups for
Exam 2.
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comprehension skills can be increased, these increases
should have been evident by the end of this 15-week course.
We identified gains in accuracy by performing linear
regression analyses of test performance on prediction and
postdiction for each of the three exams and then compared
the regressions across the course. Results of the linear
regression analyses for each of the three exams are shown in
Table 1. Increasing R
2
values for prediction (.08, .19, and
.24) but consistent values for postdiction (.25, .25, .27)
indicate that prediction accuracy increased with each exam,
whereas postdiction accuracy remained relatively consistent
across the three exams. Greater R
2
values for postdiction
than prediction on the first two exams indicate that postdic-
tive accuracy exceeded predictive accuracy, which is consis-
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40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 100
Predicted and Postdicted Scores
Figure 3. Mean performance versus mean predicted and postdicted performance by subgroups for
Exam 3.
TEST PREDICTION AND PERFORMANCE 165
Table 1
Prediction and Postdiction Regressions for Each Exam
With Test Performance as the Outcome Variable
Exam
1
2
3
**D<
y =
> =
.005.
Prediction
= 36.44
= 37.22
= 10.91
+ .
+ .
+ .
<
39*
50*
76*
.001.
R
2
.08**
24***
Postdiction
y = 39.05 + .41*
y = 36.91 + .51*
y = 21.23 + .65*
R
2
25***
25***
27***
tent with other studies of accuracy (e.g., Glenberg &
Epstein, 1985; Glenberg et al., 1987; Maki & Seira, 1992).
However, the similar R
2
values for prediction and postdic-
tion on the last exam suggest that by the third exam,
prediction accuracy was approaching a ceiling.
As we stated earlier, postdictions are based, in part, on
students' knowledge of the nature of the test and test items
and how well they believe they performed. This privileged
knowledge gained after the test generally contributes to
higher postdictive than predictive accuracy (e.g., Glenberg
& Epstein, 1985; Glenberg et al., 1987; Maki & Serra,
1992). Indeed, with the benefit of this knowledge, greater
predictive than postdictive accuracy would be difficult to
explain. The stable postdictive accuracy across the three
exams suggests that students were making the most of this
privileged knowledge. If one accepts that predictive accu-
racy cannot exceed postdictive accuracy, then the extent to
which predictive accuracy can increase is restricted by the
value of postdictive accuracy. Therefore, it appears that the
increases in predictive accuracy may have reached a maxi-
mum by the end of the 15-week course.
Because of the relation between accuracy and perfor-
mance indicated in the analyses above and in other studies of
accuracy (e.g., Maki & Berry, 1984; Shaughnessy, 1979;
Sinkavich, 1995), we separated into two groups those
students who had exhibited high performance at the begin-
ning and end of the course from those who had exhibited low
performance. We again performed linear regression analyses
of performance on prediction and postdiction for each group
using only the first and third exams. Students who scored
above the median on both the first and third exams were
assigned to a high performance group, and students who
scored below the median on both exams were assigned to a
low performance group. Students who scored at the median
for one of the two exams were placed in the high or low
group on the basis of whether their other score fell above or
below the median. The median score on each of these exams
was 68; therefore, confounding effects of test difficulty on
judgments of performance were minimized. The low perfor-
mance group consisted of 38 students, and the high perfor-
mance group consisted of 35. Results of the analyses are
shown in Table 2.
For the low performance group, prediction and postdic-
tion regressions were nonsignificant for both exams. Low-
performing students showed poor prediction and postdiction
accuracy on the first exam, and they showed no improve-
ment by the end of the course. High performance students
also showed low predictive and postdictive accuracy on the
first exam. By the end of the course, however, high
performance students showed increases in predictive accu-
racy (R
2
= .24) and especially postdictive accuracy
(R
2
= .46).
Our earlier regression analyses, which did not differenti-
ate by performance, indicated that prediction accuracy
increased across the course, whereas postdiction accuracy
remained relatively constant. However, the analysis of
performance subgroups suggests that the increase in predic-
tion accuracy may have been due primarily to the high-
performing students. Also, high-performing students showed
a large increase in postdictive accuracy between Exams 1
and 3, whereas low-performing students showed no in-
crease. It appears, therefore, that the postdictive stability
across the three exams that was noted earlier may have been
due to a moderating effect on the R
2
values caused by the low
performing students. Whether high-performing students
would continue to show increases in predictive and postdic-
tive accuracy with further feedback over still longer periods
of time is a question for future research.
To What Extent Do Prior Performance and Judgments
of Performance Influence Subsequent Judgments?
Another goal of this study was to examine the relations
among prior performance, judgments of performance, and
subsequent judgments of performance. We predicted that as
the course progressed, students would learn to base their
judgments of performance on the more accurate predictor,
prior performance. Therefore, the relation between judg-
ments of performance and prior judgments would decrease
with a corresponding increase in the relation between
judgments of performance and prior performance. It is
Table 2
Prediction and Postdiction Regressions for High Versus Low Performing Students for
Exams 1 and 3 With Test Performance as the Outcome Variable
Regression
Exam 1
Prediction
Postdiction
Exam 3
Prediction
Postdiction
**/> < .005. ***D <
Low performance
y =
V =
V =
y =
.001.
= 55.03 + .04*
= 56.91 + .02*
= 60.18 - .02*
= 63.13 - .06*
R
2
.002
.002
.0002
.004
High performance
y = 60.97 + .22*
y = 52.40 + .34*
y = 37.60 + .51*
y = 32.39 + .59*
R
2
.08
.11
.24**
.46***
166 HACKER, BOL, HORGAN, AND RAKOW
Table 3
Correlation Matrix and Descriptive Statistics for Variables Used in Multiple Regression Analyses
Variable
I. Prediction 1
2. Prediction 2
3. Prediction 3
4. Postdiction 1
5. Postdiction 2
6. Postdiction 3
7. Hours 1
8. Hours 2
9. Hours 3
10. Exam 1
11. Exam 2
12. Exam 3
M
SD
1

.43
.23
.47
.47
.24
.24
.06
-. 25
.36
.31
.03
79.64
8.90
2

.55
.40
.74
.50
.15
.39
.12
.29
.46
.21
75.34
9.60
3

.04
.43
.59
.25
.46
.30
.25
.41
.54
76.64
6.97
4

.49
.36
.12
-. 14
-. 15
.55
.27
.06
70.01
15.59
5
.62
.13
.40
.10
.33
.53
.30
73.22
10.81
6

.20
.42
.36
.28
.35
.50
74.24
8.46
7
.32
.32
.26
.29
.16
7.83
4.57
8

.63
-. 03
.30
.30
11.60
8.63
9
-. 13
.15
.24
9.94
8.80
10

.68
.54
68.20
12.40
11
.72
74.74
11.88
12

69.36
12.09
Note. Correlations are based on completed pairs.
possible, though, that judgments of performance are medi-
ated by the number of hours students studied for a test. For
example, one who studies a great deal for a test will likely
give more confident predictions of performance than one
who studies very little. Therefore, in addition to the variables
of performance and judgments of performance, we also
investigated the number of hours studied.
Standard multiple regression analyses were performed for
each of the three exams, with predictions and postdictions as
the dependent variables. The independent variables for each
regression analysis included all measures of predictions,
postdictions, performance, and hours studied taken prior to
the prediction or postdiction under question. Hence, each
regression analysis differed in its collection of independent
variables. The correlation matrix and descriptive statistics
for the variables used in the multiple regression analyses are
shown in Table 3.
Predictive and postdictive judgments on Exam 1. The
only variable measured prior to the first prediction was
number of hours studied. The regression of prediction on
number of hours studied for Exam 1 was not significant
(r .19, p .07). For postdiction on Exam 1, the indepen-
dent variables were prediction of Exam 1 and number of
hours studied. Table 4 shows the unstandardized (B) and
standardized (/3) regression coefficients, the squared semipar-
tial correlations (sr
2
), and the R, R
2
, and adjusted R
2
values.
Only prediction of Exam 1 contributed significantly to
postdiction (sr
2
= .22). Thus, optimism in prediction contrib-
uted to optimism in postdiction. Surprisingly, amount of
time studying for the exam did not contribute significantly to
either prediction or postdiction. A reasonable hypothesis is
that more study time would be associated with greater
confidence in the material studied and hence contribute to
more optimistic predictions and postdictions. Because this
was the first exam, perhaps students were uncertain about
what to study and how much to study and, therefore, were
uncertain of what impact, if any, their study time and effort
would have on their performance.
Predictive and postdictive judgments on Exam 2. The
independent variables measured for predicting performance
on Exam 2 were prediction and postdiction of Exam 1,
number of hours studied for Exams 1 and 2, and score on
Exam 1. The results of the standard multiple regression (see
Table 4) show that number of hours studied for Exam 2
(sr
2
= .16) contributed the most to the prediction of Exam 2,
Table 4
Multiple Regressions With Postdiction of Exam 1 and Prediction and Postdiction
of Exam 2 as Outcome Variables
Variable
Prediction Exam 1
Prediction Exam 2
Postdiction Exam 1
Hours studied Exam 1
Hours studied Exam 2
Exam 1
R
2
Adjusted R
2
R
B
.78
.02
.22
.21
.47*
Postdiction
P
.47 .
.01 <
**
1
sr
2
22***
01
Prediction 2
B
.31
.21
-.33
.52
.05
.45
.42
.67**
P
.29 .
.32 .
-.17 .
.46 .
.06 <
sr
2
06**
06**
02
]***
01
Postdiction 2
B
.18
.55
.19
-. 24
.33
.01
.67
.64
.82***
3
.15
.48
.26
-.11
.27
.01
sr
2
.02
19***
.05*
.01
.04**
<.01
*p < .05. **p < .005. ***p < .001.
TEST PREDICTION AND PERFORMANCE 167
followed by prediction (sr
2
= .06) and postdiction (sr
2
.06)
of Exam 1.
For postdiction of performance on Exam 2, the indepen-
dent variables were prediction of Exams 1 and 2, postdiction
of Exam 1, number of hours studied for Exams 1 and 2, and
score on Exam 1. The results of the standard multiple
regression (see Table 4) show that prediction of Exam 2
(sr
2
= .19) was the primary contributor to postdiction of
Exam 2, followed by postdiction of Exam 1 (sr
2
= .05) and
number of hours studied for Exam 2 (sr
2
= .04).
The relation between prediction and postdiction that was
evident in the first exam was again evident in the second
exam: Optimistic predictions contributed to optimistic post-
dictions. In contrast to Exam 1, students on average reported
studying nearly 4 hr more for Exam 2, and this greater study
time contributed strongly to their predictions and, to some
extent, their postdictions for Exam 2. Expecting to do well
on a test because one has studied a lot is a reasonable
expectation, as is expecting that one has done well because
of studying. Thus, the hypothesis that was proposed in the
analysis of Exam 1 concerning an association between study
time and confidence in one's knowledge and performance
was supported by the results from Exam 2.
Prior predictions and postdictions contributed to both
prediction and postdiction of Exam 2, but prior performance
did not. This provides support for at least part of our third
hypothesis. We predicted that early in the semester, students
would rely more on prior judgments of performance than on
prior performance in making subsequent judgments of
performance. However, we predicted that this reliance on
prior judgments of performance would later shift to prior
performance. Whether this shift occurred is examined next.
Predictive and postdictive judgments on Exam 3. The
independent variables measured for prediction of Exam 3
were predictions and postdictions of Exams 1 and 2; number
of hours studied for Exams 1, 2, and 3; and scores on Exams
1 and 2. The results of the standard multiple regression (see
Table 5) show that only prediction of Exam 2 (sr
2
= .08) and
postdiction of Exam 1 (sr
2
.01) contributed significantly
to the prediction of Exam 3. In contrast to Exam 2 but
similar to Exam 1, number of hours studied did not
contribute significantly to prediction. The lack of a signifi-
cant contribution from hours studied was likely due to the
nearly 2-hr decrease in study time from Exam 2. In addition,
because of the low correlation (r = .15, p = .16) between
performance on Exam 2 and number of hours studied for
Exam 3, the decrease in study time for Exam 3 appears to
have occurred for all students, regardless of how they
performed on Exam 2.
The independent variables measured for postdicting Exam
3 were prediction of Exams 1,2, and 3; postdiction of Exams
1 and 2; number of hours studied for Exams 1, 2, and 3; and
scores on Exams 1 and 2. The results of the standard
multiple regression are shown in Table 5. Prediction of
Exam 3 (sr
2
= .13), postdiction of Exam 2 (sr
2
= .04), and
number of hours studied for Exam 3 (sr
2
= .04) contributed
significantly to students' postdictions of Exam 3. As with
Exams 1 and 2, prediction was the single largest contributor
to postdiction: Optimistic expectations for performance
contributed to optimistic evaluations of performance. In
addition, even though students devoted about 2 hr less to
study for Exam 3 than Exam 2, number of hours studied for
Exam 3 uniquely contributed to postdiction. Therefore,
students' optimistic expectations for their performance may
have served as a kind of anchor to their optimistic evalua-
tions of performance, and this optimism was adjusted on the
basis of the number of hours studied.
Because actual performance did not contribute signifi-
cantly to either prediction or postdiction of Exam 3, our
hypothesis that students would shift the basis of their
judgments from prior judgments of performance to prior
performance was not supported. Prior metacognitive judg-
ments of performance continued to have a greater associa-
tion with students' current judgments than actual perfor-
mance. Considering that past performance is the single best
predictor of future performance, the lack of a measurable
contribution from prior test performance is surprising. This
result is also surprising in light of the fact that students were
Table 5
Multiple Regressions With Prediction and Postdiction of Exam 3 as Outcome Variables
Variable
Prediction Exam 1
Prediction Exam 2
Prediction Exam 3
Postdiction Exam 1
Postdiction Exam 2
Hours studied Exam 1
Hours studied Exam 2
Hours studied Exam 3
Exam 1 performance
Exam 2 performance
R
2
Adjusted R
2
R
B
.05
.32
-. 14
.05
.07
.10
.12
.15
-. 02
.46
.38
.67***
Prediction 3
.07
.44
-. 30
.07
.05
.13
.15
.27
-. 03
j r
2
<.01
!08**
.01*
<.01
<.01
.01
.02
.02
<.01
B
-. 03
-. 14
.52
.12
.37
-. 07
.03
.25
.07
-. 11
.61
.55
.78***
Postdiction 3
(3
-. 04
-. 16
.43
.23
.47
-. 04
.03
.26
.10
-. 16
sr
2
cm
c.01
13***
.05
.04**
C.01
c.01
.04*
c.01
COl
*p < .05. **p < .005. ***/? < .001.
168 HACKER, BOL, HORGAN, AND RAKOW
asked after the two prior exams to compare their predictions
and postdictions with their actual performance and to plan
for the next exam. Prior test performance could have served
well as a basis for subsequent judgments of performance.
The Pearson correlations between exam scores were some of
the largest in this study: For Exams 1 and 2, r = .68; for
Exams 1 and 3, r = .54; and for Exams 2 and 3, r ~ .72.
Discussion
In contrast to studies that have shown poor metamemory
accuracy, higher performing students in the present study
demonstrated high accuracy. On each exam, the predictions
and postdictions of students who scored at or above 70%
differed from actual test performance by less than 8 percent-
age points, with students scoring 80% or better showing
slight underconfidence, and students scoring between 70 and
79% showing slight overconfidence. Consistent with prior
metamemory research (e.g., Glenberg & Epstein, 1985;
Glenberg et al., 1987; Lovelace & Marsh, 1985; Maki &
Serra, 1992), postdictions were more accurate than predic-
tions. Although Hertzog et al. (1990) observed reduced
levels of accuracy upgrading when complex cognitive tasks
were involved, in the present study, accuracy was upgraded
using very complex tasks.
Lower performing students showed strong overconfi-
dence in their predictions, with overconfidence becoming
greatly exaggerated the lower they scored. In contrast,
postdictions for all but the lowest scoring students were
about as accurate as higher performing students. Thus,
before an exam, lower performing students appeared less
able than higher performing students to self-assess their
knowledge of the course, to judge their knowledge against
what they expected to be tested, or both. Once lower
performing students were finished with an exam, however,
they were as able as higher performing students to self-
evaluate what they knew against what was tested.
The lowest performing students exhibited very poor
self-assessment and self-evaluation of their knowledge.
Although the number of students in this group was small,
their performance paints a potentially bleak picture of their
academic future. These students appear to lack not only
knowledge of the course content, but perhaps worse, lack an
awareness of their own knowledge deficits. Roeser, Eccles,
and Strobel (1998) have provided some useful insights that
could explain why this group of students makes highly
unrealistic and optimistic judgments of performance even in
the face of low performance. These researchers suggested
that students who
believe they are competent at learning despite significant
evidence to the contrary [may do so] because the self-relevant
information embodied in negative academic events does not
influence their perceptions of themselves as learners. Aca-
demic failures may simply generate negative perceptions of
others who are perceived as responsible for the difficulties, (p.
162)
Low-performing students, therefore, may believe that they
will do well on tests but then attribute their poor perfor-
mance to externalizing factors such as a tricky test or
unreasonable teacher.
Our analyses showed that by the end of the course,
high-performing students increased their predictive and
especially postdictive accuracy, but low-performing stu-
dents continued to show little predictive accuracy. Data from
the high performing students support our hypothesis that
with the benefit of internally generated and externally
provided feedback over multiple tests, predictive and postdic-
tive accuracy will increase. Alternatively, increases in accu-
racy could be explained by greater domain familiarity, which
has been associated with greater prediction accuracy (e.g.,
Glenberg & Epstein, 1987; Schommer & Surber, 1986).
High-performing students acquired more knowledge during
the semester and, correspondingly, showed greater accuracy
increases than those who acquired less knowledge. Differ-
ences between high and low performers could also be
explained by motivation differences. Koriat and Goldsmith
(1996) have argued that strong incentives are necessary for
people to make accurate metamemory judgments. We be-
lieved that there would be strong incentives to improve
accuracy because students were enrolled in a required
course. Perhaps this was true only for the high-performing
students. Low-performing students may have been resigned
to getting low grades, thereby diminishing their incentive for
increasing accuracy.
We predicted that early in the semester, students' judg-
ments of performance would be more strongly associated
with prior judgments of performance than actual prior
performance. However, because prior performance is one of
the best predictors of future performance, students would
learn to rely more on prior performance than on prior
judgments of performance. Results showed that a shift to
prior performance did not occur. Students continued to rely
on their prior metamemory judgments. These results put in
question the generality of Koriat's (1997) and Kelley and
Jacoby's (1996) notions of a shift from theory-based to
experience-based judgments. With greater experience gained
through repeated testing in a naturalistic context, students* a
priori theories or beliefs about the influences on memory
judgments did not give way to their actual experiences with
making judgments. Rather than basing judgments on actual
performance, students continued to give greater weight to
their expectations for performance.
Expecting to do well on an exam because one has a
history of high performance reflects a person's positive
self-appraisals of academic competence. Self-appraisals
may exert strong influences on measures of metamemory
accuracy. For example, students who often perform well and
who hold positive self-appraisals of academic competence
will likely make optimistic judgments of performance. If
these students then perform well, they demonstrate high
metamemory accuracy. However, their greater accuracy may
not be due to superior memory monitoring ability, but rather
to the strong relation between optimistic expectations for
performance and a history of high performance. In contrast,
students who make optimistic judgments of performance on
the basis of positive self-appraisals and who perform poorly
will demonstrate low metamemory accuracy. The low accu-
TEST PREDICTION AND PERFORMANCE 169
racy may not be due to an inability to monitor, but rather to
expectations for performance that are out of sync with actual
performance. This could explain the continued low accuracy
demonstrated by the lowest performing students in the
present study.
Finally, we expected that low performance on one test
would be associated with greater study time on the next test,
and, conversely, that high performance would be associated
with less study time. This pattern has received some
empirical support in laboratory studies of metamemory (e.g.,
Dunlosky & Connor, in press; Mazzoni & Cornoldi, 1993;
Nelson & Leonesio, 1988). In the present study, however,
study times were unrelated to prior performance. A straight-
forward explanation for the lack of an association between
prior performance and study time is that students may not
have accurately reported their study times. A more compel-
ling possibility is that students failed to use the results of
their monitoring to regulate subsequent behavior. Ability to
monitor one's cognition is no guarantee that one can or will
control subsequent cognition (e.g., Koriat & Goldsmith,
1996; Vosniadou, Pearson, & Rogers, 1988; Zabrucky &
Ratner, 1986). Psychological and contextual constraints
must be considered. In an actual class, there are complex
influences on students' allocation of study time. Pressley,
Van Etten, Yokoi, Freebern, and Van Meter (1998) argued
that the strategies students use to manage their study time
involve many aspects of students' lives, all of which must be
effectively juggled to maximize grades. For example, the
decrease in study time for Exam 3 may have been due to the
fact that Exam 3 was a final exam administered when
students had many demands to meet.
In conclusion, higher performing students in a naturalistic
context made accurate metamemory judgments, and their
accuracy increased. Future research needs to examine whether
and how these students use their more accurate judgments to
self-regulate studying and learning. Future research should
also investigate whether externalizing attributions affect the
judgments of low-performing students. To help low-
performing students become better self-regulators of then-
test preparation behaviors, their attributions may need as
much attention as their knowledge deficits.
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