**A Survey of
Mathematics Diagnostic Testing on non-Specialist Mathematics Courses**

*Peter Edwards, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth*

The above Survey, for which this is an overview, was undertaken by the author for The Open Learning Foundation, London,UK. Tel: ++44 (0)171 636 4186

(*The Survey was distributed freely to all UK universities who were
members of the OLF. It is possible to purchase the survey directly from the OLF
for a nominal sum plus postage and packing.*)* *

** Overview**

It is argued that students joining undergraduate courses that have a mathematical content, do not seem to have as good a mathematical skills' base as students of even just five to ten years ago. If this is the case, then there are problems for universities. How should they cope with an influx of students whose capabilities do not match course requirements? One solution is to change course contents. This could be achieved, for example, by removing quantitative subject matter and replacing it with that of a more qualitative nature. Such a restructure, or replacement, could have repercussions with accrediting bodies. In doing this, the course would no longer be the same as it was and would possibly lose its accreditation, or require accreditation by a different institution. Rather than change the emphasis of courses or diluting their syllabuses, many universities try to accommodate the changing background of students by identifying those who need extra help and, in particular, areas in which this help should be given. One means by which this can be achieved is diagnostic testing.

Early in 1995, a meeting of the 'Mathematics for non-Specialist Mathematicians' Working Group of the Open Learning Foundation (OLF) discussed the difficulties in mathematics experienced by the current generation of university undergraduates. The general consensus of the meeting was that most members present used diagnostic testing in order to identify mathematically weak students and that most had devised their own tests. Such a duplication of effort seemed unnecessary and a proposal was made to conduct a survey into the extent and nature of diagnostic testing amongst OLF members (all, necessarily, being amongst the 'new' universities). Those present agreed that the report resulting from such a survey would form, amongst other things, a useful reference for those both experienced in, and those new to, mathematics diagnostic testing.