Confidence key to success, study finds


Children who come top of the class at primary school are likely to do better than their peers at secondary school – not because they are smarter, but because they are more confident.

After studying the exam performances of more than two million pupils in England, academics from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics have concluded that this is because skills like “confidence, perseverance and resilience” have a significant effect on achievement.

Richard Murphy and Felix Weinhardt also conducted a survey of confidence among 15,000 youngsters, asking them to rate how good they thought they were at English, maths and science.

The duo found that early academic success made children more confident in their abilities. Having to compete against higher achieving peers, however, may knock the confidence of pupils who believe they are in the bottom half of the class. 

The research revealed that pupils’ rankings in primary school have far more impact on boys than on girls.

“Male confidence in a subject is five times more affected by their local rank compared to females,” they said.

“Accordingly we find that male students gain four times more in later test scores from being top of the class compared to comparable female students.”

The study found that the effect of confidence on exam results was specific to subjects. A child who achieved a high ranking in maths at primary school and was confident in the subject, for example, was more likely to get good results in it later on.

“Our findings go against the common assumption that having better peers is always the best for children,” said Dr Weinhardt, a post-doctoral research fellow in economics.

“Our study suggests that there are situations where your child will be better off from not going to the school with high-performing peers, especially boys.”

To read the paper, entitled The Importance of Rank Position, go to



Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Claim Free Subscription