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This study analyses information and feedback from matriculation-level continuous assessment in the South African education system in 2005. Continuous assessment (CASS) at the time carried a 25% weight in the final matriculation (Grade 12) mark, and it provided feedback that affected examination preparation and effort. Weak assessment in schools sends wrong signals to learners, which may have important consequences for the way in which they approach the final examination. Moreover, similarly wrong signals earlier in the learners’ school careers may also have affected their subject choice and career planning. This study compares CASS data to the externally assessed matric exam marks for a number of subjects. There are two signalling dimensions to inaccurate assessments: (i) inflated CASS marks can give learners a false sense of security and lead to diminished exam effort; and (ii) a weak correlation between CASS and exam marks could mean poor signalling in another dimension: relatively good learners may get relatively low CASS marks. Such low correlations indicate poor assessment reliability, as the examination and continuous assessment should both be testing mastery of the same national curriculum. The paper analyses the prevalence and magnitude of each of these dimensions of weak signalling in South African schools and draws disturbing conclusions for a large part of the school system.

Keywords: Economics of Education, assessment, asymmetric information, signalling, South Africa.

Shepherd, D.L. & Van der Berg, S. (2015). Continuous assessment and matriculation examination marks-an empirical examination. South African Journal of Childhood Education, 5(2), 78-94.