A research review from 2014 found that two personal qualities can predict academic success four times more than your IQ.
The study, carried out by Dr Arthur Poropat and published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences, found that these two qualities were:
Being open to experience
The study argues that people who are open to new experiences are more likely to be imaginative, sensitive and intellectually curious. Meanwhile, conscientious people are more likely to be disciplined, dutiful and good at planning.
Data from tens of thousands of students was included in the research, as their assessments of their own personalities appeared to be as good at predicting their exam performance as intelligence tests.
However, when a close friend assessed the subject's personality, they predicted their exam performance almost four times better than intelligence.
Dr Poropat said:
With respect to learning, personality is more useful than intelligence for guiding both students and teachers.
In practical terms, the amount of effort students are prepared to put in, and where that effort is focused, is at least as important as whether the students are smart.
And a student with the most helpful personality will score a full grade higher than an average student in this regard.
The impact of personality on study is genuinely surprising for educational researchers, and for anyone who thinks they did well at school because they are ‘smart’.
Personality does change, and some educators have trained aspects of students’ Conscientiousness and Openness, leading to greater learning capacity.
By contrast, there is little evidence that intelligence can be ‘taught’, despite the popularity of brain-training apps.