Benchmark tests being used for selection purposes

2014-01-12 06:00

As a result of the poor quality of matriculants churned out by the South African education system, many universities are now using the National Benchmark Tests as an extra admission criterion.

These universities admit or turn down students based on their performance in these tests.

Institutions of higher learning that use the benchmark tests as extra admission criteria include the universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Pretoria.

The University of Witwatersrand uses the test for admission into health sciences only.

The universities of Johannesburg, Western Cape and Fort Hare do administer the tests but said they are not used for admission selection.

These universities use them for placement and course content planning purposes.

Rhodes University, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Durban Institute of Technology do not administer the benchmark tests at all.

But the University of KwaZulu-Natal says on its website that some faculties may require students to write the tests.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University administers its own internal tests which are used for selection purposes.

The tests, which were conceived by Higher Education SA in 2004 and were implemented in 2008, are aimed at identifying problems learners may have.

Dr Abbey Mathekga, the head of the higher education enrolment programme, said: “They are intended to identify learners who might have problems in certain subjects. They are also aimed at determining the level of competency of learners in certain learning areas.”

Mostly, the tests assess a student’s academic literacy, general knowledge and mathematics skills.

Ideally, he said, they should not be used as a tool for admission. “If you meet the requirements of the institution you should be good to go.

Ideally, they should be written once you have been admitted but some institutions require you to write them before.”

Mathekga acknowledged that some institutions do use the tests to determine admission. But he said there was nothing wrong as the Higher Education Act empowers universities to determine their minimum admission requirements.

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