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Cognitive ability, academic achievement and academic self-concept: Extending the internal/external frame of reference model


Correspondence should be addressed to Fang-Ming Hwang, Department of Education, National Chiayi University, No. 85, Wenlong Village, Minxiong Township, Chiayi County 621, Taiwan, Republic of China (e-mail:


Background. Marsh's internal/external (I/E) frame of reference model depicts the relationship between achievement and self-concept in specific academic domains. Few efforts have been made to examine concurrent relationships among cognitive ability, achievement, and academic self-concept (ASC) within an I/E model framework.

Aim. To simultaneously examine the influences of domain-specific cognitive ability and grades on domain self-concept in an extended I/E model, including the indirect effect of domain-specific cognitive ability on domain self-concept via grades.

Sample. Tenth grade respondents (628 male, 452 female) to a national adolescent survey conducted in Taiwan.

Method. Respondents completed surveys designed to measure maths and verbal aptitudes. Data on Maths and Chinese class grades and self-concepts were also collected.

Results. Statistically significant and positive path coefficients were found between cognitive ability and self-concept in the same domain (direct effect) and between these two constructs via grades (indirect effect). The cross-domain effects of either ability or grades on ASC were negatively significant.

Conclusions. Taiwanese 10th graders tend to evaluate their ASCs based on a mix of ability and achievement, with achievement as a mediator exceeding ability as a predictor. In addition, the cross-domain effects suggest that Taiwanese students are likely to view Maths and verbal abilities and achievements as distinctly different.