A cross-sectional study was undertaken with Social Work students. Achievement goals formed the theoretical basis of the study which examined the extent to which a problem-based (or experience-based) approach influenced students' motivation to learn and approach to studying. Thirty-six first-year Social Work students (96% of intake) and thirty-four fourth-year Social Work students (98% of intake) completed two questionnaires, one about their Social Work courses and an identical questionnaire about a compulsory Psychology course. The questionnaires focused on students' perception of the achievement goals encouraged by lecturers, reported study strategies, and attitude towards the course. Fourteen first-year and twelve fourth-year students also participated in interviews about their reaction to Social Work and Psychology courses. Analyses of the data showed that students perceived a stronger mastery achievement goal in the Social Work courses and a stronger performance goal in the Psychology course. Perception of a mastery goal was associated with reported use of effective study strategies and a positive approach to studying. The interview data supported the questionnaire data and provided additional information about motivational factors associated with PBL. The study concludes with a discussion of the relative contribution of long-term personality factors and situational cues to students' motivation to learn.