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Dissertation: A preliminary standardisation of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test for Setswana-speaking university students

As part of my training as a Clinical Psychologist, I was required to complete a research project and write up a dissertation. With my love of numbers, psychological assessment and the brain, I jumped at the opportunity to take on a project investigating whether a well known international test of executive function, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, could be used in it’s current format and with the current normative standards with Setswana-speaking university students.


Psychological and neuropsychological assessment in South Africa currently faces various challenges, among which, the prominent need for tests standardised for the multi-cultural South African context. The absence of adequate standardisations and normative data currently hamper the confidence with which tests can be used in South Africa.

This research project aimed to construct a preliminary standardisation of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) for Setswana-speaking university students. Testing instructions were translated to Setswana and 93 participants were assessed using a computerised version of the WCST.

Hypothesis tests showed that some sub-scores significantly differed from the US norms and others did not. The distribution of WCST performance in the study population does, therefore, not follow the same distribution as the US distribution and a need was identified to construct new normative data.

Regression analysis indicated that not gender, age, or level of education influenced participants’ WCST scores for all sub-scores, with the exception of the Trials to complete first category score that was influenced by age. Preliminary normative tables were constructed based on this finding. Furthermore, the WCST displayed adequate internal consistency in the study population.

These norms and psychometric properties are, however, subject to certain limitations and it is thus recommended that a full standardisation of the WCST be constructed for the South African population. Various unanswered questions were, however, identified in how tests should be standardised for the extremely diverse South African context. It was concluded that a great deal of academic discourse is still required in order to make fair assessment available to every South African citizen.

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Although I am incredibly proud of this product of blood sweat and tears, my favourite two pages are the acknowledgement pages. This project taught me about the challenges psychological assessment in South Africa faces, but more importantly, it taught me about inter-dependence! I learnt that life’s challenges does not have to be faced alone.

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