Validating the performance standards set for language assessments of academic readiness: The case of Stellenbosch University

Kabelo Sebolai


Twenty-five years into the post-apartheid period, South African universities still struggle to produce the number of graduates required for the country’s socio-economic development. The reason most often cited for this challenge is the mismatch that seems to exist between the knowledge that learners leave high school with, and the kind that academic education requires them to possess for success. This gap, also known as the “articulation gap”, has been attributed to, amongst others, the levels of academic language ability among arriving students. The school-leaving English examination, and a pre-university test of academic literacy are the commonly used measures to determine these levels. The aim of this article is to investigate whether predetermined standards of performance on these assessments relate positively with academic performance. In order to determine this, Pearson Correlations and an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) were carried out on the scores obtained for these assessments by a total of 836 first-year students enrolled at Stellenbosch University. The results show that the performance standards set for the standardised test of academic literacy associate positively with first-year academic performance, while the scores on the levels of performance set for the school-leaving English examination do not.


English, home language, English FAL, performance levels, validating, academic performance

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ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

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