Higher education research

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Since 2007 the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) has funded the Student Aptitude Test for Tertiary Admission (SATTA) pilot program. SATTA involves the supply, management and evaluation of uniTEST, and the evaluation of the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT). This report documents the evaluation phase of the program, focusing in particular on various aspects of uniTEST. Seven recommendations are made. Significant policy change is planned for Australian higher education over the next few years, with both government and institutions seeking new ways to make the system larger, more inclusive and more productive. In this context, it is vital to develop new transparent mechanisms for helping each student understand her or his potential and access the system. This report details how aptitude testing can play an important role. The evaluation was conducted between late 2007 and early 2010. The evaluation involved background planning and review, data specification and collection, psychometric and statistical analysis, widescale consultation, and documentation and reporting. While many aspects of the data collection and analysis were difficult and complex, the project remained on schedule and has delivered a number of formative insights and findings on aptitude testing in Australian higher education. The academic aptitude test, uniTEST, was developed jointly by ACER and Cambridge Assessment in the UK. Within the context of university selection, the purpose of uniTEST is to enhance the effectiveness of admissions processes as they attempt to select students with the ability to undertake tertiary education, despite discouraging or ambiguous achievement scores at the end of high school. uniTEST is administered by individual universities in association with ACER. Evaluating the criterion validity of uniTEST was an important part of the national SATTA pilot. This has involved an analysis of concurrent validity – exploring how uniTEST relates to Year 12 achievement – and predictive validity, analysis of the extent to which test results predict future university performance. uniTEST is a high-stakes test that affects the future of test takers, therefore, its capacity to operate as an effective selection mechanism is critical. The criterion validity of the instrument provides an index of the extent to which this is the case.