National Benchmark Test – Everything You Should Know

If you are looking to go to university next year, then you would have probably come across the National Benchmark Tests. These tests were introduced in 2005 as a means to determine how university-ready the up and coming first-year hopefuls were.

The main purposes of the test is to assess entry-level academic literacy and mathematics skills, to determine whether entry-level skills and school-level results correlated and to provide the tertiary institutions with extra information regarding their next intake of students.

Nothing has changed except the competition to get into university, so here is everything you need to know to get the best results.

The Tests You Can Take

There are two tests that you can take, but you only need to take the ones that are relevant to your field. The first tests are the Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) test which will cost R110.

If you want to supplement your test, you can opt to do the Mathematics (MAT) test as well. When you register for both, you will need to pay R220. Both of the tests make provision for learners with disabilities and they have also been translated into braille.

  • Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) test

As the name suggests, this is a test that will assess your academic literacy and quantitative literacy. Regardless of the field that you want to pursue, you will have to take this test. It is a 3-hour multiple-choice test and is completed during the morning session on your specific test date.

  • Mathematics (MAT) test

If the field that you wish to enter requires math as a prerequisite subject, then you have to take the MAT test. This is also a multiple-choice question paper for which you will have three hours to complete.

Benefits of Taking the NBTs

Although it is not a prerequisite to doing the benchmark tests, there are several benefits that you can reap if you decide to take the tests. The most obvious benefit is that the test could give you an edge over other prospective students as the selective institutions where you apply will be able to get a much better idea of your capabilities.

Not only do the institutions gather information in you, but the bursary awardees as well. They want to ensure that their money is well spent and the NBT serves as proof that you will be able to succeed in your studies.

The academic institutions also benefit from the tests as they will be able to see whether there are extra assistive measures that they have to put in place or whether they need to adjust their academic program.

There is no pass mark for the NBTs. Therefore, it is only an indicative test of your capabilities and on what standard you can operate.

When and where do I write the test?

The national benchmark tests can be written from 30 May 2020 to 9 Jan 2021. When you take your test will be determined by both your readiness and the academic institution for which you wish to apply. These institutions need the results of your test before a certain time and it typically takes around a month for your results to be made known.

That is why you should plan when you take your test and do your necessary preparations in due time. You should also take into account that if you are going to write both tests, that you will have to do them on the same day.

The testing venues are scattered all over the country and you can choose from several locations in each province. There are also selected international venues in Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. A list of all the available venues can be found on the NBT official website.

How to prepare for the test

The NBT tests are unprepared for the most part. They cover the full spectrum of the national curriculum, which means that you have to have worked through the entire Gr 12 curriculum before attempting to take the exam. There are no past exams available as these tests are confidential and not available to anyone.

There are no preparation classes that you can take and the organizers of the tests do not support any institution that advocates or advertises test preparation services. There are, however, sample questions that you can download from their website that will give you a fair idea of what you can expect on the day.

The best preparation that you can do for the test is to get enough sleep the day before the test and do the things that you usually do in preparation for a test. If you feel that you are not ready to take the test, you can opt to take it later the year, although you need to keep the institution deadline for marks into consideration.

If you did not do as well as what you would have liked, some institutions allow a prospective candidate to write the test a second time.

The results and what they mean

After you have written your tests, the results should be available after three weeks. These results will be sent to the relevant institutions and you can view your scores under your NBT account after four weeks. Your results for the tests are valid for three years which means that you don’t have to go and study the year after you matriculate.

There are three broad proficiency levels and adequate performance at each level will allow you to apply for certain degrees.


When you feel that you are ready to take the test, you need to register online. This can be done on the official website.

Before you register though, you need to ensure that you have your national ID card, the city where you intend to write your test as well as the NBT requirement from the institution where you plan to apply. You need to remember to allow for four weeks after you have written your test for your results to make their way to the institution.

We are here to provide you an overview of all the latest internships, bursaries, apprenticeships, graduate programmes, learnerships and jobs opportunities that are available for application in South Africa.

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