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Background. The personal determinants of academic achievement and success have captured the attention of many scholars for the last decades. Among other factors, personality traits and self-efficacy beliefs have proved to be important predictors of academic achievement.

Aims. The present study examines the unique contribution and the pathways through which traits (i.e., openness and conscientiousness) and academic self-efficacy beliefs are conducive to academic achievement at the end of junior and senior high school.

Sample. Participants were 412 Italian students, 196 boys and 216 girls, ranging in age from 13 to 19 years.

Methods. The hypothesized relations among the variables were tested within the framework of structural equation model.

Results and conclusions. Openness and academic self-efficacy at the age of 13 contributed to junior high-school grades, after controlling for socio-economic status (SES). Junior high-school grades contribute to academic self-efficacy beliefs at the age of 16, which in turn contributed to high-school grades, over and above the effects of SES and prior academic achievement. In accordance with the posited hypothesis, academic self-efficacy beliefs partially mediated the contribution of traits to later academic achievement. In particular, conscientiousness at the age of 13 affected high-school grades indirectly, through its effect on academic self-efficacy beliefs at the age of 16. These findings have broad implications for interventions aimed to enhance children's academic pursuits. Whereas personality traits represent stable individual characteristics that mostly derive from individual genetic endowment, social cognitive theory provides guidelines for enhancing students’ efficacy to regulate their learning activities.