Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Blind Admission? The ability of NSC maths to signal competence in university commerce courses as compared to the former SC Higher Grade maths

Hunt, Karin and Rankin, Neil A. and Schöer, Volker and Nthuli, Miracle and Sebastiao, Claire (2009): Blind Admission? The ability of NSC maths to signal competence in university commerce courses as compared to the former SC Higher Grade maths.

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Abstract

Mathematics is an important signal used for admission into commerce courses in South African universities. In 2008 the new National Senior Certificate replaced the former Senior Certificate. This new exam no longer had different grades and thus created a structural break in the ability of the mathematics mark to signal preparedness for university. Although the Department of Education provided a “translation” key between the two Certificates, the University of the Witwatersrand (and other universities) admitted many more students in 2009 that met the entry requirements than previously. However, this cohort has lower average test and exam scores than previous years. This suggests that marks obtained for mathematics in the new National Senior Certificate are inflated when compared to the former Senior Certificate. This paper uses similar tests, for two commerce subjects, written by students in 2008 and 2009 to create a comparison between the mathematics marks under the two different certificates. The results suggest that marks in the range of 40-100% for Higher Grade mathematics for the Senior Certificate are now compressed into the 70-95% range for the new National Senior Certificate. This significantly weakens the ability of the school-leaving mathematics mark to signal the ability of students to cope with first year commerce courses.

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