Original Research

Relationship between personality traits and academic performance on a Master of Business Administration programme

Renata Schoeman, Willem F. Kotzee
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 53, No 1 | a2745 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v53i1.2745 | © 2022 Renata Schoeman, Willem F. Kotzee | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 June 2021 | Published: 08 December 2022

About the author(s)

Renata Schoeman, School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Willem F. Kotzee, School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Stellebnosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; and, South African Air Force, Cape Town, South Africa


Purpose: The main aim of this research was to investigate the relationship between the five-factor model (FFM) personality trait measurements and Master of Business Administration (MBA) academic performance in a triple-crown accredited university in order to assess the effectiveness of current admission systems for a globally accredited MBA degree.

Design/methodology/approach: A quantitative database analysis of the academic records and personality profile scores of MBA graduates was conducted. The sample consisted of 663 participants who successfully graduated from the programme during the period 2014–2019. Their final academic results for their MBA and their FFM personality traits (as measured by the Occupational Personality Questionnaire as part of their admission criteria) were analysed.

Findings/Results: In the correlation analysis, Openness to Experience and Agreeableness had the strongest correlation (positive and negative, respectively) with academic performance. In the regression analysis, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability were identified as the best predictors of performance.

Practical implications: Three per cent of the variance in academic performance was attributable to personality traits. This supports the necessity of further exploring the best predictors of academic performance. Academic institutions may consider re-evaluating their current practice and choice of tests used as part of the admission criteria, and rather focus on assessing and capacitating students in terms of resilience and motivation.

Originality/value: This study adds to the debate regarding the ideal selection criteria for MBA candidates, and indicates that the current selection criteria, also those considered more nuanced and culturally sensitive (e.g. personality assessments), may be flawed.


personality; traits; selection; criteria; performance; success; MBA; five-factor model


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