SCORES of Eastern Cape pupils' literacy and numeracy skills will be put to the test next weekduring the Annual National Assessments (ANA).
Pupils in Grades 1 to 6 and 9 will be assessed to gauge their maths and language abilities from Tuesday until Friday.
For the past two years, the province's pupils have underperformed in the assessments.
Education expert Dr Ken Alston said: "It's either the standard of those exams is too high or the teaching is really bad.
"I would like to know what purpose these exams serve?"
Education Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani was, however, upbeat about the tests.
Pulumani said: "Full training has been given to all ANA coordinators ..."
Schools were provided with guidelines and exam papers would be delivered in time.
Papers from 188 schools would be assessed by an independent authority, he said.
"Those are the steps that the department has taken to ensure that ANA kicks off on the right note. All systems are in place to ensure the exams run smoothly," Pulumani said.
When contacted for comment, a number of schools said they expected to fare well in the exams.
East London principal Victor Schmidlin said question papers had arrived at his school, Aqua Vista Primary. This had been a problem in the past.
"We started preparing a while ago and we received old scripts, which pupils have been working with to ensure they know what to expect and how to answer questions," he said.
Duncan Village principal Nomonde Mda said: "The old exam papers allowed us to show the children how to work in an exam situation, where they have limited time to answer questions, which is important, especially for Grade 1s."
Parents were also roped in, the Nompumelelo Public School head said, and were tasked with ensuring their children studied at home. "We called a meeting with parents where we also explained how important it was for their children to attend school on [exam] days, because if they miss an exam they can't rewrite it."
Last year's results, which were released by the Basic Education Department, showed that pupils in Grade 5 had shown the least improvement in maths.
Also, only 12% of the province's pupils achieved a score of 50% and above in maths. Grade 2s got 55.2% in maths, compared with 58% in 2011.
The Eastern Cape's Grade 2s scored 52.8% in language tests.