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Determinants of Malaysian and Singaporean Economics Undergraduates' Academic Performance


  • Chang Da Wan

    () (Universiti Sains Malaysia)

  • Roland K. Cheo

    () (Shandong University)


This study examines the determinants of economics undergraduates' academic performance in the top national universities of Singapore and Malaysia: the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Malaya (UM). Using three basic components of economics as the dependent variable, i.e. basic microeconomics, basic macroeconomics and statistics/econometrics, it was found that students' pre-university grade is the most important determinant in undergraduates' performance. However, unlike in some previous studies which suggest that taking economics and mathematics before university does have a major impact on students' higher economics grades at undergraduate level, in this study, it was found that the type of subjects taken before university, including both economics and mathematics, has no significant impact on students' academic performance. The type of pre-university programme taken prior to admission, and ethnicity were found to be important determinants among UM students, but not NUS. This is a significant finding since Malaysia does practice a modified quota system based on ethnicity in one of the pre-university programmes. The study also found no significant distinction between male and female performance in economics controlling for other socioeconomic and attitudinal effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Chang Da Wan & Roland K. Cheo, 2012. "Determinants of Malaysian and Singaporean Economics Undergraduates' Academic Performance," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 11(2), pages 7-27.
  • Handle: RePEc:che:ireepp:v:11:y:2012:i:2:p:7-27

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Siegfried, John J & Fels, Rendigs, 1979. "Research on Teaching College Economics: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 923-969, September.
    2. Arulampalam, Wiji & Naylor, Robin A. & Smith, Jeremy, 2012. "Am I missing something? The effects of absence from class on student performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 363-375.
    3. Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2009. "Professor Qualities and Student Achievement," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 83-92, February.
    4. W. Lee Hansen, 2001. "Expected Proficiencies for Undergraduate Economics Majors," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(3), pages 231-242, January.
    5. Daniel R. Marburger, 2001. "Absenteeism and Undergraduate Exam Performance," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 99-109, January.
    6. Roberta Edgecombe Robb & A. Leslie Robb, 1999. "Gender and the Study of Economics: The Role of Gender of the Instructor," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(1), pages 3-19, January.
    7. Charles L. Ballard & Marianne F. Johnson, 2004. "Basic Math Skills and Performance in an Introductory Economics Class," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(1), pages 3-23, January.
    8. Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2009. "A Professor Like Me: The Influence of Instructor Gender on College Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(2).
    9. Jonathan D. Cohen, 2005. "The Vulcanization of the Human Brain: A Neural Perspective on Interactions Between Cognition and Emotion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 3-24, Fall.
    10. Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
    11. Mary O. Borg & Harriet A. Stranahan, 2002. "Personality Type and Student Performance in Upper-Level Economics Courses: The Importance of Race and Gender," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(1), pages 3-14, January.
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