Main menu

Benchmark levels

Performance on the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) places a candidate’s scores into one of three performance levels or benchmark categories. These are:

  • ‘Proficient’,
  • ‘Intermediate’, or
  • ‘Basic’.

Separate benchmarks have been determined for Degree study and Diploma and Higher Certificate study for the 2017 – 2019 higher education intake years. Benchmark categories are revised through a standard-setting exercise every three years.

Benchmark Levels for Degree Study

The scores on the three NBTs that place a candidate’s scores into the three Degree benchmark categories are given in Table 1 and the description of what these benchmark categories mean are given in Table 5.

Given that the Intermediate level comprises the majority of candidates, this level has been divided into Upper and Lower Intermediate bands as shown in Table 2. These bands were not set through the standards-setting workshops but the division of the Intermediate level has been found to be very effective in differentiating the levels of support that would be most appropriate for students with scores in this band and this is reflected in Table 6.

Table 1: Benchmark Levels for Degree Study

Benchmark Performance Levels AL QL MAT
Minimum Maximum Minimum Maximum Minimum Maximum
Proficient 68 100 70 100 69 100
Intermediate 39 67 40 69 35 68
Basic 0 38 0 39 0 34
  

Table 2: Degree study Intermediate Benchmark Levels split into Upper and Lower Bands 


Benchmark Performance Levels

Academic Literacy (AL)

Quantitative Literacy (QL)

Mathematics (MAT)

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Proficient

68

100

70

100

69

100

Intermediate Upper

54

67

55

69

52

68

Intermediate Lower

39

53

40

54

35

51

Basic

0

39

0

39

0

34

 

Benchmark levels for Diploma and Higher Certificate study

The scores on the three NBTs that currently place a candidate’s scores into the three Diploma and Higher Certificate benchmark categories are given in Table 3 and the description of what these benchmark categories mean are given in Table 5.

Here again the Intermediate band has been divided into Upper and Lower Intermediate as shown in Table 4. These bands were again not set through the standards-setting workshops but the division of the Intermediate band has been found to be very effective in differentiating the levels of support that would be most appropriate for students with scores in this band. This is reflected in Table 6.

Table 3: Benchmark levels for Diploma and Higher Certificate study

Benchmark Performance Levels AL QL MAT
Minimum Maximum Minimum Maximum Minimum Maximum
Proficient 61 100 66 100 67 100
Intermediate 33 60 34 65 38 66
Basic 0 32 0 33 0 37


Table 4: Diploma and Higher Certificate study Intermediate Benchmark Levels split into Upper and Lower Levels

Benchmark Performance Levels

AL

QL

MAT

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Minimum

Maximum

Proficient

61

100

66

100

67

100

Intermediate Upper

47

60

50

65

51

66

Intermediate Lower

33

46

34

49

35

50

Basic

0

32

0

33

0

34



Table 5: Description of Benchmark Levels

Benchmark Performance Levels

Description of Benchmark Performance Levels

Proficient

Test performance suggests that future academic performance will not be adversely affected (students may pass or fail at university, but this is highly unlikely to be attributable to strengths or weaknesses in the domains tested). If admitted, students may be placed into regular programmes of study.

Intermediate

The challenges identified are such that it is predicted that academic progress will be adversely affected. If admitted, students’ educational needs should be met as deemed appropriate by the institution (e.g. extended or augmented programmes, special skills provision).

Basic

Test performance reveals serious learning challenges: it is predicted that students will not cope with higher education study without extensive and long-term support, perhaps best provided through bridging programmes (i.e. non-credit preparatory courses, special skills provision) or Further Education and Training (FET) provision. Institutions admitting students performing at this level would need to provide such support themselves.

 

 Table 6: Description of Intermediate Benchmark Levels 

Intermediate performance band

Description of Intermediate Benchmark Performance Levels

Intermediate Upper

Students are likely to need complementary support (additional tutorials, workshops, augmented courses, language intensive work).

Intermediate Lower

Students need to be placed in an extended programme of study.