Original Research

Academic preparedness of students – an exploratory study

Linda du Plessis, Daleen Gerber
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 8, No 1 | a7 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v8i1.7 | © 2012 Linda du Plessis, Daleen Gerber | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 February 2016 | Published: 31 July 2012

About the author(s)

Linda du Plessis, North-West University’s Vaal Campus, South Africa
Daleen Gerber, North-West University’s Vaal Campus, South Africa

Full Text:



The high level of student failure, accompanied by an increased drop-out rate, is problematic in higher education. It is especially a concern in programmes with the subjects of Mathematics, Accounting and Science. Over many years, models of student admission and selection have been widely researched both internationally and in South Africa. Research indicates that in the academic domain, underpreparedness results from a combination of a lack of English proficiency, mathematical ability and effective study skills. In view of the above, and government policy directives to broaden access in the scarce skills areas to increase student throughput, foundation provision was introduced for students of Commerce, Information Technology, Business, Mathematics and Informatics courses at the Vaal Triangle Campus (VTC) of North-West University (NWU) in 2010. The question at that time then arose as to what criteria should be used for placing students in the extended programme. The placement of first-year students in appropriate programmes should be done with sensitivity to enhance academic success but, at the same time, should not ‘label’ students as underprepared. This paper provides perspectives on the selection criteria available for predicting academic success/preparedness, and then reports on students’ own experiences. An action research study was conducted on the academic achievement of two cohorts of first-year students at the VTC of NWU. The quantitative results of the performance of first-year students in their core modules are compared to the results of predictive tests written after admission. The results provide valuable insight into the placement of students.

Keywords: Academic preparedness, extended programmes, national senior certificate, national benchmark test

Disciplines: Education management studies, higher education studies


Academic preparedness; extended programmes; national senior certificate; national benchmark test


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