The development of the Chemistry Competence Test was prompted by the extensive curriculum changes in the South African school system after democracy was established in 1994. As chemists, we were concerned that there might be a lack of articulation between secondary and tertiary levels, since we anticipated that curriculum changes would have an impact on the knowledge base and skills development of prospective students. A diagnostic test developed initially to document proficiencies of first-time entering students to South African universities has proved to be a versatile instrument for multiple uses. Apart from monitoring levels of preparedness for tertiary chemistry during a period of systemic change, it has also been used to evaluate institutional placement policies, to identify specific conceptual problems and procedural deficiencies, and to measure conceptual gains over the course of the first year at university. In addition, its application for the prediction of risk of failure in first-year chemistry based on cognitive and non-cognitive variables was demonstrated. All these findings are valuable resources to inform lecturers who are concerned about minimizing the conceptual gap between secondary and tertiary chemistry.