This study examined the direct relationship of goal orientation – and the interaction of goal orientation and cognitive ability -- with self-efficacy, performance, and knowledge in a learning context. The current paper argues that whether a particular type of goal orientation is adaptive or not adaptive depends on individuals' cognitive ability. Results indicated that the direct associations of learning and performance orientations were consistent with previous research. Learning orientation was positively related to self-efficacy, performance, and knowledge, while performance orientation was negatively related to only one outcome, performance. The interactions between goal orientation and ability also supported several hypotheses. As expected, learning orientation was generally adaptive for high ability individuals, but had no effect for low ability individuals. In contrast, the effects of performance orientation were contingent on both individuals' level of cognitive ability and the outcome examined. The implications of these results for future research on goal orientation are discussed.