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J Sports Sci. 1999 Apr;17(4):283-95.

Relationship between sport knowledge, sport performance and academic ability: empirical evidence from GCSE Physical Education. General Certificate of Secondary Education.

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  • 1Research and Evaluation Division, University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, UK.


The literature concerning links between sport knowledge, sport performance and academic ability is reviewed and related to empirical evidence obtained from a GCSE examination in Physical Education, together with GCSE Mathematics and GCSE English grades. For most sports examined, there was a small but significant positive correlation between sport performance and GCSE Mathematics and English grades, confirming the findings of most previous research. Using a multilevel multivariate model, average sport performance, academic ability and sex were important explanatory variables for sport knowledge, yet only academic ability was an important explanatory variable for the concept of physical education knowledge. Ability in game sports, rather than athletics, were related to sport knowledge. Males scored higher for sport knowledge than females, after taking into account sport performance and academic ability. The effects of sport performance and academic ability on sport knowledge were stable across schools, but there was some evidence that the effect of sex varied across schools. These findings support theories of a role for sport knowledge in sport performance; that such a role should be greater in game sports; that academic ability is important for gaining such knowledge; and they highlight differences in sport knowledge between the sexes.

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