When it comes to academic success, it’s not just studying that makes a difference. A new study found that students with higher emotional intelligence tend to gain higher grades and achievement test scores.

In the report published by the American Psychological Association, researchers looked at data compiled on more than 160 studies, including over 42,000 students from 27 countries, published between 1998 and 2019. The students ranged in age from elementary school to college. So what did they find?

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The findings showed that regardless of age, students with higher emotional intelligence were more likely to earn higher grades and do better on achievement tests than those with lower emotional intelligence scores.

“Although we know that high intelligence and a conscientious personality are the most important psychological traits necessary for academic success, our research highlights a third factor, emotional intelligence, that may also help students succeed,” said Carolyn MacCann, PhD, of the University of Sydney and lead author of the study. “It’s not enough to be smart and hardworking. Students must also be able to understand and manage their emotions to succeed at school.”

So what is the reason emotional intelligence has such a big impact on academics? There are several factors, according to MacCann. “Students with higher emotional intelligence may be better able to manage negative emotions, such as anxiety, boredom and disappointment, that can negatively affect academic performance,” MacCann said. “Also, these students may be better able to manage the social world around them, forming better relationships with teachers, peers and family, all of which are important to academic success.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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