Purpose – The purpose of this study is to identify which of factors are associated with student performance in advanced accounting and auditing courses. Design/methodology/approach – Students enrolled in a highly diversified, commuter, public university located in one of the largest cities in the USA provided responses to 12 questions used as independent variables. Findings – Of the three variables used as proxies for motivation, the grade the student would like to make in the course was found to be significantly associated with student performance, but intention to take the CPA exam or attend graduate school were not. Additionally, the grade in intermediate accounting II and grade point average (used as proxies for actual ability) were found to be strong predictors of student performance. Self-perceived reading and listening abilities had moderate to strong associations with student performance, but self-perceived writing and math abilities did not. Finally, holding non-accounting-related jobs, working high numbers of hours per week, and taking on higher course loads during the semester are factors which were, surprisingly, not significantly correlated with student performance. Originality/value – No prior study that we are aware of has considered the associations between motivation, actual ability, self-perceived ability, and distraction factors and student performance in advanced level undergraduate accounting courses.