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A lower proportion of women than men obtain first class degrees at British universities (the so-called gender gap). At Oxford University, this difference is not seen in all degree subjects but is found both in some Arts and in some Science subjects. We have used a questionnaire administered under supervision to undergraduates 2 to 3 months before their final examination to assess factors which might be expected to affect examination performance. These included measures of verbal and non-verbal reasoning (Alice Heim AH6 test), self-esteem, motivation, responses to stresses of examinations and of personal relationships, happiness, risk-taking and working patterns. We have also obtained a detailed breakdown of the marks the students were given in the examination. Women scored higher on negative emotions while men scored higher on self-esteem, their perception of their own academic efficacy and on risk-taking strategies, but none of these factors predicted outcome. Verbal reasoning ability did predict outcome but there was no gender difference. Hence, it is concluded that the gender gap is not due to any of these individual differences and is more likely to be related to the nature of the academic assessment system.


Journal article


Br J Psychol

Publication Date



91 ( Pt 3)


377 - 390


Affect, Competitive Behavior, Educational Status, Female, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Motivation, Pilot Projects, Reproducibility of Results, Self Concept, Sex Factors, Surveys and Questionnaires