Using a prospective design, this study sought first to investigate the role of attributional style in the development of depressive affect following a negative life event, and then to extend the inquiry by investigating whether depressive attributions produced poorer subsequent performance. At the beginning of the academic year, university students taking a course in behavioural statistics completed the Academic Attributional Style Questionnaire. Five months later they were asked their particular causal attributions for their grades on an examination and completed measures of self‐esteem and depressive affect Some time after the initial examination, some students took a reexamination. Depressive affect following receipt of the examination grade was determined by a stable and global attributional style and by the interaction of attributional, style with a satisfactory grade, thereby supporting the hopelessness model of depression. However, this relationship was not mediated by actual attribution. Furthermore, there was no relation between depressive attributions and performance on the re-examination.