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

Listed author(s):
  • Hunt, Karin
  • Rankin, Neil A.
  • Schöer, Volker
  • Nthuli, Miracle
  • Sebastiao, Claire

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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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 18075.

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Date of creation: 22 Oct 2009
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:18075
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  1. Arkes, Jeremy, 1999. "What Do Educational Credentials Signal and Why Do Employers Value Credentials?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 133-141, February.
  2. Leonard Smith & Lawrence Edwards, 2007. "A Multivariate Evaluation Of Mainstream And Academic Development Courses In First-Year Microeconomics," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 75(1), pages 99-117, March.
  3. Bishop, John H. & Mane, Ferran, 2001. "The impacts of minimum competency exam graduation requirements on high school graduation, college attendance and early labor market success," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 203-222, May.
  4. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
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