Purpose of National Benchmark Test NBT

Purpose of National Benchmark Test NBT

What are the National Benchmark Tests?

The National Benchmark Tests were first introduced in 2005 by Higher Education South Africa (HESA).

These tests have 3 purposes:

  • To assess entry-level academic literacy and mathematics skills.
  • To assess the relationship between entry-level skills and school-level exit results.
  • To provide institutions requiring additional information in the admission and placement of entry-level students.

There are two tests that potentially need to be taken, depending on what your teen will be studying. Academic and Quantitative Literacy Test

This test, also known as the AQL test, is multiple-choice and has a total of 3 hours of writing time. This particular test, a combination of academic literacy and quantitative literacy, needs to be taken by all applicants regardless of what they’re planning to study.

Mathematics Test

This test, also known as MAT, is written by applicants to programmes for which maths is a requirement. It is also multiple-choice and the student has 3 hours to complete it.

Results and benefits

Once your teen has registered with an institution and written the tests, it takes 2 weeks to get the full results. The institution will then receive the results. If the results aren’t what your teen was hoping for, the tests can be written a 2nd time at an additional cost and only if the institution agrees.

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Even if your child has applied to more than one institution, they only have to write the tests once as the results can be accessed by anyone who has permission to see them.

There are benefits to your teen getting good results. Like:

  1. The results of these tests will help institutions build courses around your teen’s level of learning.
  2. It could give your teen the edge they may need to get into selective institutions.
  3. Many bursary awardees use the NBT results to help them make their decisions.

There are no pass rate for the NBTs, rather high education institutions will use the Benchmark Levels and other available information when processing applications and determining placements.

To find out what the National Benchmark Test Levels mean, click here to download the PDF.


What are the National Benchmark Tests like?

Claire Mathieson, who studied at the University of Cape Town, had this to say about taking the NBTs. “The tests were not particularly challenging or scary but formatted differently and made you think a little more. Familiar concepts were mostly but set out in a university-style – meaning if you could handle a university exam, you could handle university. I was confused by the way certain questions were phrased, but I clearly worked it out.”

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When, where and how?

The tests, which can be taken in both English and Afrikaans, can only be written at certain times and at specific test stations.

The tests are written on either a Saturday or a Sunday and both tests are written at once. To find out more about when and where your teen can write, see the

test dates and sites section on the National Benchmark Tests website.

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