What is an assessor

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    Des Squire

    I often receive enquiries from people who are qualified as assessors but who do not have any idea about assessment. What shocks me most is that many do not understand that qualifying as an assessor does not give them the right to operate as an assessor. 

    They have not been advised during their training that they must register with one of the SETA’s as a constituent assessor. For this reason I am posting an article I wrote some time ago in the hope it might assist in clarifying some misunderstandings. 

    Understanding assessment and the role of the assessor

    Assessment is the process of making judgments about an individual’s competence through matching evidence collected to the appropriate outcomes related to a specific unit standard, a series of unit standards, or a full qualification that have been registered by the south African Qualifications Authority.

    Candidates who are deemed not yet competent on a summative assessment (following training) will normally not be allowed to be re-assessed on more than two occasions.

    When learners have to undergo re-assessment, the following conditions will apply


    • Specific feedback will be given so that candidates can concentrate only on those areas in which they were assessed as not yet competent

    • Re-assessment will take place in the same situation or context and under the same conditions as the original assessment

    • Only the specific outcomes that were not achieved will be re-assessed

    Candidates who are repeatedly unsuccessful should be given guidance on other possible and more suitable learning avenues.

    A candidate for assessment has the right appeal against assessment decisions or practices they regard as unfair on the basis of

    • Unfair assessment
    • Invalid assessment

    • Unreliable assessment

    • Unethical practices

    • Inadequate expertise and experience of the assessor

    In order to ensure assessments are fair and reliable there are various principles that must be adhered to. These are 

    • Appropriate: The method of assessment is suited to the outcome being assessed
    • Fair: The method of assessment is fair in relation to the subject matter and outcomes to be assessed.
    • Manageable: The methods used allow for ease of arrangements, are cost-effective and do not interfere with learning or assessment process
    • Integrated: Evidence collection is integrated into the work or learning process where this is appropriate and feasible
    • Valid: The evidence focuses on the requirements laid down in the relevant unit standards and match the evidence requirements of the specific outcomes
    • Current: The evidence is up to date and does not refer to old or outdated information and knowledge.
    • Authentic: The assessor is satisfied that the evidence is attributable to the person being assessed
    • Sufficient: The evidence collected is sufficient to establish all criteria, as set out in the specific assessment criteria have been met
    • Systematic: The overall process ensures assessment is fair, effective, repeatable and manageable
    • Transparent: The process is transparent i.e. candidates understand the entire process and the criteria that apply and can contribute to the planning and accumulation of evidence
    • Reliable and Consistent: The same assessor or another assessor would make the same judgment in similar circumstances

    Qualities of an assessor

    Assessors need to have certain skills and expertise in order to be competent. Generally assessors need expertise in the following areas

    Interpersonal skills

    It is important for the assessor to have good interpersonal skills and to be able to communicate effectively with learners. The assessor needs to establish a trusting relationship with learners – not only so that they can perform optimally during an assessment, but also can trust the assessor has their interests at heart. The candidate should feel

    • The assessment is fair
    • The assessor acts with integrity
    • The assessor maintains confidentiality
    • The assessment is conducted according to the principles of a good assessment

    Subject matter experts

    Assessors must be proficient in the subject matter of the learning area in which they are assessing. They should be experts in their field of knowledge with a thorough understanding of the unit standard requirements or qualifications for which they are registered to assess.

    In addition, the assessor’s subject matter knowledge should be at least one level higher than that of the unit standard being assessed.

    Assessment expertise

    All assessors must have completed the relevant assessor training and should have been assessed as competent following the submission of a portfolio of evidence.

    He or she should have been awarded a certificate of competence by the ETDP SETA.

    In addition the qualified assessor should be registered as a constituent assessor with the relevant SETA and should have a certificate indicating what unit standards and/or qualifications he or she is registered to assess.


    The role of the assessor

    • Ensure the assessment is appropriate to the requirements of the unit standard and/or qualification to be assessed.
    • Inform the learner about the qualification or unit standard requirements
    • Support and guide the learner in the collection of evidence
    • Help the learner plan for the assessment
    • Inform the learner about the timing of the assessment
    • Conduct the assessment and give relevant and appropriate feedback

    In addition to being responsible for, and managing the assessment process, assessors will be required to

    • Conduct assessments according to the relevant ETQA/SETA principles and policies
    • In association with the training provider, complete the documentation and recording requirements, and forward the results to the SETA to ensure the candidate is registered on the National Learner Record Data Base (NLRD)
    • Regularly review and update knowledge on the assessment process and implement changes as and when required
    • Comply with all assessment and moderation requirements

    The assessor must manage the assessment process so as to ensure the following are part of the process

    • Familiarity with the standards being assessed
    • Knowledge of current practices associated with the role against which performance is being assessed
    • Communication with relevant parties
    • Assessment details are worked out, including learning outcomes/standards to be assessed, methods of assessment, time frames, technical details and understanding the process
    • Assessment is carried out in accordance with agreed procedures
    • Feedback and guidance are given
    • Evidence is evaluated
    • The assessment decision is made
    • Achievements are recorded
    • Appropriate people are advised of results
    • Candidates are advised of alternative options as appropriate
    • Reports are provided
    • Personal competence is maintained throughout the assessment process


    To this end all documentation as required by the relevant SETA and/or the training provider must be adhered to and completed

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    Hi Des

    Thank you for always doing this for the benefit of all.  I was recently approached by a provider who has won a tender to train over 40 people. They needed an assessor and moderator. However they had no idea of what an assessor or moderator would be doing or has to do? I went into to the trouble of explaining this to one of the staff and one of the directors. These two appreciated the free information provided and accepted what they didn’t know much of the requirements before that discussion.  When we had a meeting with the 2nd director the situation was unbelievable, he had no clue and refused to be educated about how the system works.  He was unaware that Cape Town in part of SA, that experience as an assessor is not confined to Johannesburg, that independent assessors are not employees of SETAs or obliged to work or have worked for SETAs. When I asked this director to maybe rephrase the question, to maybe how many SETAs are you accredited with, he became livid and said I should just answer him. When I could not make him accept to be educated of what he didn’t know, I took leave and told the provider I would not be able to work with them.

    I am aware of a provider who trained assessors and moderators, and because of wanting to protect their turf did not inform the qualifying trainees of the requirement to register with SETAs.  I agree with you not all providers advice their trainees of the requirement to register with one of the SETAs. Others do not even release the ETDP SETA SoRs to the trainees.

    Rumbi James

    Thanks Des for the informative and well summarised article. I think it is important for Assessors to keep networking with others in the industry. Nomatter how much experience one has got, you’ll always learn a thing or two. 


    Hi Des,

    Can possibly add time needed for experience? As in the specific case with the SASSETA, Firearm Assessors must with their submission – application, to be registered as constituent assessors, submit a CV, witness testimony, or letter from employer stating that the Candidate-Assessor, indeed has 2-3 years experience of learning delivery in that specific field.

    The new model, knowledge, skills, experience will bring new challenges against the current outcomes of unit standard 115753. As where the Assessor will also have to demonstrate competence against these three new components of which experience stands out from the rest, to be the probably the most challenging.

    Thanks for the post!


    I have registered a company whose core business is skills development, and have enlisted a series of training courses to facilitate. As a qualified SDF and Assessor, can I continue facilitating courses like e.g anger management, basic computing. etc. as a company should I be requested to do so by organisations

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One thought on “What is an assessor

  • Christopher Sharpe

    Thanks for an interesting post. However there is a strong cognitive element to behaviour modelling illustrated by Greg Smith in that he made a conscious decision not to align himself with a culture conflicting with his own.

    A typical conscious rationale of people is “if he/she does xyz why shouldn’t I?” This is especially so of authority relationships, but not exclusively. For example, I have heard people say “if taxi drivers get away with it I’ll drive the same way.” Get away with what, murder? Why on earth would any self respecting individual want to model their road behaviour on taxi driver? This does not bode well for their behaviours in other contexts!

    It seems the world’s problems stem from a crisis of leadership. Most people expect to be led, yet there seems to be a serious lack of real moral fibre in the individuals occupying leadership positions, be they in government, commerce or anywhere else. It takes courage to leave the tribe in the way that Greg Smith did, hats off to him.

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