The study of achievement goals has illuminated basic motivational processes, though controversy surrounds their nature and impact. In 5 studies, including a longitudinal study in a difficult premed course, the authors show that the impact of learning and performance goals depends on how they are operationalized. Active learning goals predicted active coping, sustained motivation, and higher achievement in the face of challenge. Among performance goals, ability-linked goals predicted withdrawal and poorer performance in the face of challenge (but provided a "boost" to performance when students met with success); normative goals did not predict decrements in motivation or performance; and outcome goals (wanting a good grade) were in fact equally related to learning goals and ability goals. Ways in which the findings address discrepancies in the literature are discussed.