Entry-level students' reading abilities and what these abilities might mean for academic readiness

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Language Matters

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Language Matters


University of Cape Town

he National Benchmark Tests Project (NBTP) was commissioned by Higher Education South Africa and became operational in 2009. One of the main aims of the NBTP is to assess the extent to which entry-level students might be said to be ready to cope with the conventional demands of academic study in three key areas: academic literacy; quantitative literacy; and mathematics. This paper presents an analysis of the academic literacy readiness of a sample of registered students as reflected in their performance on the NBT in Academic Literacy, a standardised assessment developed in the context of the wider project. The paper presents a theoretical analysis of the construct of academic literacy as operationalised in the test. This is followed by a categorised empirical analysis of test-takers’ performance on the test, in which the levels of academic readiness of these test-takers are presented and discussed. The argument presented highlights the diverse range of academic literacy levels of entry-level students, as well as implying the teaching and learning interventions that might be necessary to improve readiness. Concluding comments argue that some groups of students may be unable to cope with conventional academic literacy demands in the absence of explicit intervention.