This paper describes a multi-national, multiinstitutional study that investigated introductory programming courses. Student participants were drawn from eleven institutions, mainly in Australasia, during the academic year of 2004. A number of diagnostic tasks were used to explore cognitive, behavioural, and attitudinal factors such as spatial visualisation and reasoning, the ability to articulate strategies for commonplace search and design tasks, and attitudes to studying. The results indicate that a deep approach to learning was positively correlated with mark for the course, while a surface approach was negatively correlated; spatial visualisation skills are correlated with success; a progression of map drawing styles identified in the literature has a significant correlation with marks; and increasing measures of richness of articulation of a search strategy are also associated with higher marks. Finally, a qualitative analysis of short interviews identified the qualities that students themselves regarded as important to success in programming.