n South African Journal of Higher Education - When signals are lost in aggregation : a comparison of language marks and competencies of first-year university students

Volume 29, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



Although English Home Language (HL) and English First Additional Language (FAL) marks from the National Senior Certificate (NSC) are used for university admission in South Africa, no studies have explored their predictive value. This article sheds light on English language marks and English language competence through a comparative analysis of NSC marks and National Benchmark Test (NBT) Academic Literacy (AL) test results for a cohort of first-year education students at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, South Africa. To provide in-depth insight, the analysis includes fine-grained analysis of specific academic language competencies. The results of the analysis of this study showed that the same mark in English HL and FAL does not necessarily reflect the same level of English language academic competence as measured by the NBT AL test. On average, students who wrote the FAL papers scored between .5 and .9 of a standard deviation below students who wrote the HL papers.

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