Results of a National Merit Scholarship study indicate that psychological tests as well as the standard Scholastic Aptitude Tests are useful in predicting college freshmen grades.
Of 7500 Merit scholarship finalists in 1957, 743 Merit Scholars and 578 Certificate of Merit winners were given the California Psychological Inventory which provides a set of scales to measure non-intellectual characteristics. Agreement between psychological score and grades (both high or both low) meant positive correlation; disagreement, negative correlation.
The overall findings of the study suggest that "the high achiever lacks capacity for status, is unsociable, lacks poise and self-confidence, is self-deprecating and inflexible, minimizes worries and complaints, is conscientious and responsible, is well controlled, and creates a favorable impression."
The student who earns high grades, the study claims, also "does well academically under direction but is not as adept in situations demanding independent judgement, is interested in and responsive to the feelings of others, and has feminine interests.
"In contrast, the low achiever is poised and socially skillful, has positive self-attitudes, is flexible, admits worries and complaints, has less intense superego qualities, is impulsive, creates a less favorable impression, possesses less motivation for academic achievement, and has more extractive and masculine interests."
Although the 291 colleges studied followed this pattern in general, some diverged widely. For the 81 students at Harvard who took the CPI, attainment of high grades appeared related to lack of capacity for status, lack of social presence, and lack of self-acceptance.
But academic success correlated positively with responsibility, socialization (i.e., participation in teacher-student activities), self-control, achievement under direction, and feminine interests ("passive" interests such as literature rather than "active" interests such as football). The SAT scores, both verbal and mathematical, did not have significant predictive value for Harvard students.
For Radcliffe, the only significant relations were between high grades and high SAT verbal scores, "psychological mindedness," and femininity.
Students intending to go into science dominated the sample. Of the boys, 699 named a scientific field as their chosen area, while 179 did not; of the girls, 178 named science, 149 did not.
Both the SAT and CPI failed as predictors for girls. While the study explained this by the small size of the female sample, the failure may indicate that the tests are effective for scientists, who formed most of the male sample, but not for non-scientists.
Results of the study are based exclusively on a high aptitude sample. Male SAT scores averaged 690; female SAT scores averaged 678.