New Working Paper available

6 May 2015 - 10:00

A CETAP working paper by Robert Prince and William Msemburi about the National Senior Certificate and grade inflation has been made available on our web site.

Title: Has there been score (grade) inflation in the South African National Senior Certificate from 2009 to 2013?


Ideally school leaving examination results signal to potential employers and higher education institutions the quality or ability of school leavers. This signal is particularly important in countries where unemployment is high and in situations such as when considering admissions into higher education where places are highly sought after. If the examination ranks students well and this is the main consideration then score inflation is less of a concern than it might be otherwise. In South Africa there is a national school leaving examination which is largely the basis on which higher education applicants are made offers of enrolment. Higher education dropout rates are also high which makes it important that the signal be both reliable and consistent so that admission decisions can be optimal. Grade inflation, whereby scores increase on an examination over time without an improvement in underlying ability, is one of the factors that makes it hard to interpret these examination scores for higher education admissions purposes. The purpose of this paper is to
1. Develop a methodology for determining score inflation in the South African National Senior Certificate examination;
2. To use the score inflation methodology to evaluate the evidence on whether there is score inflation in the South African national school leaving examinations;
3. Does score inflation vary across provinces.