Predicting Students Academic Performance using Artificial Neural Network: A Case Study of an Engineering Course



The observed poor quality of graduates of some Nigerian Universities in recent times has been partly traced to inadequacies of the National University Admission Examination System. In this study an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) model,
for predicting the likely performance of a candidate being considered for admission into the university was developed and tested. Various factors that may likely influence the performance of a student were identified. Such factors as ordinary level subjects’ scores and subjects’ combination, matriculation examination
scores, age on admission, parental background, types and location of secondary school attended and gender, among others, were then used as input variables for the ANN model. A model based on the Multilayer Perceptron Topology was
developed and trained using data spanning five generations of graduates from an Engineering Department of University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s first University.
Test data evaluation shows that the ANN model is able to correctly predict the performance of more than 70% of prospective students.


The main objective of the admission system is to determine candidates who would likely do well in the university. The quality of candidates admitted into any higher institution affects the level of research and training within the institution, and by
extension, has an overall effect on the development of the country itself, as these
candidates eventually become key players in the affairs of the country in all sectors of the economy.
Recently, however, there has been a noticeable slide in the quality of graduates of some Nigerian universities. The inadequacies of the present university admission system, among other factors, have been blamed for this decline. Due to the increasing gap between the numbers students seeking admission and the total available admission slots, there has been a corresponding increased pressure on the process. This pressure has lead to rampant cases of admission fraud and
related problems.
In Nigeria, students are required to enter secondary school after spending a minimum of six years of Primary Education and passing a prescribed National Common Entrance Examination. A student then spends a minimum period of six years in Secondary School at the end of which he or she takes the General
Certificate of Education Examination (GCE), also known as the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) or the Ordinary Level Exams. A maximum of nine and a minimum of seven subjects are registered for in the examination with Mathematics and English Language being compulsory. Nine possible grades are obtainable for each subject; these are A1, A2, A3 (distinctions grades) C4, C5, C6, (credit grades), P7, P8 (pass grades), and F9 (Failure).
Before a candidate can be admitted into any university, he/she is expected to pass, at credit level, some number of relevant subjects including Mathematics and English Language in the General Certificate Examinations (GCE) (JAMB,
2005). A second admission requirement is the Universities Matriculation Examination (UME), which was first conducted in 1978 by the National Admissions and Matriculation Board. The UME process involves the implementation of cut-off marks and certificate requirements. However it has been observed that desperate candidates are able to manipulate the system. It has become obvious that the present process is not adequate for selecting potentially good students. Hence there is the need to improve on the sophistication of the entire system in order to preserve the high integrity and quality for which Nigerian
Universities were noted for in the seventies and eighties.