National Benchmark Tests Project
The National Benchmark Tests Project (NBTP) is a key project of Universities South Africa (USAf) conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The NBTs are aligned to the National Senior Certificate (NSC) which replaced the replaced the differentiated Senior Certificate with effect from 2008.
The National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) commissioned by Higher Education South Africa (HESA) when the NSC replaced the differentiated Senior Certificate in 2008 with the overarching objectives of:
- Assessing entry level academic and quantitative literacy and mathematics proficiency of students;
- Assessing the relationship between higher education entry and school-level exit outcomes;
- Assisting higher education institutions with the placement of students in appropriate curricular routes; and
- Assisting with curriculum development, particularly in relation to foundation courses.
The NBT project is supported by a Project Steering committee that is convened by USAf. The mandate of this committee includes providing specialised information and advice to the Board on the strategic direction of the NBTP and the implementation of the project. The members of the Project Steering Committee are:
- Professor Chrissie Boughey – Rhodes University (Chairperson)
- Prof Yunus Ballim – Sol Plaatje University,
- Dr Nothemba Mrwetyana – Central University of Technology,
- Prof Cheryl Foxcroft – Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
- Dr Dan Mokoena – Vaal University of Technology, who represents the Admissions Committee
- Ms Mandiswa Cakwe – DHET
- Dr Rufus Poliah – DBE
In a recent survey conducted by USAf in 2016 with universities, it is evident that various institutions are using their NBT data for more than just placement, such as to inform first year student support initiatives, curriculum transformation and staff development. The Project Steering Committee convenes annual consultative workshops with a wide range of stakeholders in the sector, to share institutional perspectives, learning and new initiatives regarding the use of the NBTs.
Some of the NBT workshop participants in May 2017
The most recent workshop was held on 29 May 2017, and was well-supported by universities, representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training, UMALUSI, The Department of Basic Education, and the Independent Examinations Board (IEB). Participating institutions had the opportunity share how the data are being used. Of particular interest were presentations by the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits, and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Wits presented on research being done in the Faculty of Health Sciences to explore the predictive capacity for academic performance in 2011 cohort who completed their course in minimum time. The results showed that the Academic Literacy Test (AL) was a constant predictor of performance across the three years investigated (1st, 2nd and 6th years). CPUT presented on how data from the NBTs provides the opportunity for academics to identify and address particular difficulties students experience in ‘thinking and doing’ in particular higher education courses.
CHED is actively engaged in research on the NBTs and have published a number of papers. To obtain a list of their reports and prices thereof, contact: 021 6505462 OR
Lynia Fortuin. Click here to visit the NBT project site.