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Ask us about the NBTs..

What is the NBT test?

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The NBT test is a set of tests used to assess a learner’s academic literacy, general knowledge, and mathematical skill in an effort to measure academic readiness for university.

The NBT test was implemented in 2008 and is a set of tests that assess learners’ academic literacy, general knowledge, and mathematical skill in an effort to measure academic readiness for university. The NBT tests are managed by the Alternative Admissions Research Project at the University of Cape Town. NBT results are used by many universities as an extra admission criterion for applicants to their institutions. They serve to complement and support, rather than replace or duplicate NSC results.

Dr Abbey Mathekga, the head of the higher education enrolment programme, said: “They [the NBTs] are intended to identify learners who might have problems in certain subjects. They are also aimed at determining the level of competency of learners in certain learning areas.” The NBT consists of two tests: the MAT and the AQL. The AQL (Academic Quantitative Literacy) is one multiple-choice test of three hours of writing time. The MAT (Core Maths) is also a multiple-choice test with three hours of writing time. Both papers are written on the same day.

What are the NBT tests like?

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The NBTs are multiple choice tests. Both the AQL and MAT test are 3 hours long. Answers are recorded on what is called a “bubble sheet”. The answer sheets are scanned and then transferred into scores using sophisticated computer software. The AQL is made up of 25 minute sections. You may not refer back or go forward but can only work in the specified 25 minute section. The MAT is not made up of sections in this way.

What does the NBT test entail?

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The NBT test assesses readiness for tertiary study. It is made up of two assessments: AQL and MAT.

The AQL (compulsory for all learners who are required to write the NBT) aims to test proficiency in language comprehension as well as logic-based numerical skills. It assesses knowledge learned in the senior high school phase. It aims to assess whether learners will be able to apply knowledge learnt in high school to the tertiary context. The AQL section comprises approximately 75 multiple-choice questions.
  • The Academic Literacy (AL) sections will require reading of various texts with multiple choice questions referring to the text. Some questions are general knowledge-based. Questions on grammar, punctuation, vocabulary are included. It predominantly assesses the ability to understand the meaning and application of various texts as well as understanding and applying the argument or main point of the author.
  • The Quantitative Literacy (QL) sections assess a student’s capacity to: understand basic numerical concepts, read and interpret graphs, reason logically and identify patterns and trends. It is largely based on the Grade 11 Maths Literacy syllabus.

The MAT paper is a separate three hour paper (only written by learners applying for certain degree programmes and who have done Core Maths at school) and assesses mostly Grade 11 Core Maths syllabus content although some Grade 12 work is included, depending on the time of year the assessment is written. It also takes a multiple-choice format. It tests proficiency in such areas as problem solving and modeling, functions, trigonometry, spatial perception, and probability.

Both the AQL and MAT are differentiated into cognitive levels, meaning there is a range in difficulty in each section – with the easier applications generally coming first.

How to prepare for the NBT?

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Trust us, we've been doing this for years.

Advantage Learn offers NBT Preparation courses in the form of workshops (book here) and online (book here).

Our course is recommended for all learners wanting to prepare and do well in their NBT test. With many years experience in preparing learners for the NBT test coupled with a world-class online learning environment and exceptional educators, we are well placed to give you peace of mind with this challenging test.

Since formally commencing NBT training in 2013, Advantage Learn has helped thousands of learners across South Africa to prepare for this test. Our carefully designed courses prepare learners for both papers of the National Benchmark Test (NBT) - the MAT and AQL. It is important that you do this course at the appropriate time for your NBT.

Our course includes the following: training of essential sections known to be tested regularly in the NBTs, test day best practices, how to go about answering multiple-choice questions, extensive practice examples and a full mock exam.

NBT preparation courses

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NBT Online or NBT Workshops - You choose!

NBT Online course

Made up of just over 20+ hours of tutorial videos led by our Maths and English experts, the course focuses on covering key concepts tested in the NBT as well as test day best practices. Learners have full access to the material from the purchase date for 12 months. Learners are able to work at their own pace, at any time of the day, in accordance with their NBT test date. There are teaching videos, practise questions, quizzes, downloadable notes, a mock NBT past paper for the MAT & QL and comments for asking questions directly to the teacher and other learners. The more you engage with the material you are watching the better you will do. Press pause, watch again, try the examples on your own and learn at your own pace. You can access the online courses at any time of the day or night - that is the beauty of online learning! Click for our Full Online course or just our AQL course.

NBT Workshops

Our NBT Workshops are a 9 - hour course where the teacher covers predominantly material tested in the MAT. Our learners will be referred to the Academic and Quantitive Literacy components in our online course for study. The NBT Workshops are run on the weekend (and some public holidays). Some Workshops are full day courses (9 hours) and others are split over Saturday and Sunday mornings (4.5 hours each). This was carefully thought out in an effort to accommodate sporting commitments as well as those learners who battle to concentrate for long stretches at a time. Advantage learn NBT course Included:
  • A printed NBT book
  • Access to online course training MAT, AL & QL from prior to the course day for 12months.
  • A mock NBT past paper - online
Click here to view our NBT workshops.

NBT courses for schools

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We offer our NBT preparation course solution to schools. If you would like to speak to one of our team about these packages then please Email us on info@advantagelearn.com.

NBT Course photos

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Take a look at some of our course pictures...

nbt test preparation nbt test course nbt test book NBT book

When should I prepare for the NBTs?

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It is important to attend an NBT workshop in your Grade 12 year. It does not matter when you attend an NBT workshop. The important thing is to make sure you utilise the online course in the 2 weeks leading up to the NBTs to make sure the content is fresh for when you write the test.

If you are a post Matric learner needing to sit the NBT then we highly recommend you re-study your Grade 11 Mathematics before attending a workshop. You can do so through our Maths Online Grade 11 Path.

To view our courses click here.

2020 NBT test dates

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The test dates are provided by National Benchmark Test project and are available on their website . You can only book your test from the 1st April, again through their website.

How to register for the NBTs

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To register you need to go to the NBT website. Watch the video below for a helpful walk-through.

What if I am applying to two institutions with different application deadlines?

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If you are applying to more than one institution or faculty then you need to register and write the NBTs to meet the earliest deadline. You are only required to write the test once, even when applying to more than one institution. All institutions to which you apply will be able to access your NBT results.

How is the style of the NBT assessment different to assessment styles learners are used to?

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Unlike the US and the UK and many other countries that model their education system around standardised assessments (eg. SATs, ACTs etc) our South African school system more commonly uses summative, continuous and formative styles of assessment (for an explanation of these styles read more here). The NBTs are a standardised assessment and thus this form of assessment is not common for many  South African learners.

So how does this form of standardised assessment differ from the usual forms of assessment employed?

Here are some examples:

  • They are multiple-choice based. This is unfamiliar answering territory for many learners and so needs practice before-hand in order to build confidence.
  • The questions are formed around right AND wrong answers and not just the correct answers like we are used to. In other words, you will be faced with a situation where you think to yourself, but BOTH A AND B could be right. This can be really scary. At a high school level, we are groomed to try to get the CORRECT answer hence questions are formed to lead learners to the correct answer.
  • There are no marks for working and hence the questions are formed to test absolute accuracy. This makes it critical to work efficiently and accurately!
  • The order of difficulty does not build through the assessment. The hardest question might be the first question and this often throws learners off from the get-go.
  • A one-time assessment! Most learners write this assessment once and the results are used for university applications. At school, we are used to building our results through many different methods.eg. continuous assessment, outcomes-based projects and portfolios of evidence etc.
  • You can’t use a calculator
  • You don’t know ahead of time what is going to be tested - in school you know at least what part of the syllabus is going to be tested.

We could go on for ages but I think you get the message, it is very different to what you are used to!

Other useful NBT information

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The NBTs are available in both Afrikaans and English. When you register, you will have the opportunity to indicate which of these two languages you prefer to write in.

NBT results are valid for three intake years. This means that it is worthwhile writing your NBT in your Matric year even if you are having a gap year. Your syllabus will never be more fresh in your mind as it is now.

If you cannot write the NBTs in the year before your studies (if, for example, you are overseas), you are allowed to write them in January before the start of the academic year. Bear in mind, however, that you do expose yourself to special risks and practical implications in terms of placement and selection if you write the tests at such a late stage. It is therefore strongly recommended that you write the NBTs in your Matric year.


For all and any other enquiries about the writing of your NBTs and release of NBT results contact: NBT Client Services Centre (University of Cape Town). Telephone: 021 650 3523. Website: www.nbt.ac.za.

Can I write the NBTs more than once?

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Some universities do allow their applicants to write the NBT more than once in an attempt to achieve a better result the second time around. However you need to check with the specific faculty and tertiary institution that you are applying to, to make sure that this is the case as not every university will accept the second result.

Note If you do choose to write a second time, you should give yourself at least 6 weeks between writing sessions.If you write the MAT test a second time, you must also write the AQL test a second time on the same morning.

How to book for the NBT

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NBT registration for the 2020 intake opens on 1st April 2019. Follow this link to book your test.

Check the following before you book your NBT test!

You need to check the following before you book for the NBT:
  • Your school’s calendar for sporting and social events, holidays and exams
  • Closing dates and application deadlines at all institutions where you intend to apply
  • The language of instruction where you are applying

All this needs to be taken into consideration when you are deciding when the best time is to write your NBTs.

Registration for the NBTs is done online and takes about 5 minutes. NBT registration for the 2020 intake opens on 1st April 2019. Follow this link to book your test.

Note: you will need your official South African ID or foreign passport in order to complete the registration process.

Your registration is only valid for the specific date and location you select and must be done at least three weeks before you wish to write. It is your responsibility to register early enough to ensure a place on one of the national test days at your chosen venue. There is a full list of available test days and venues on the NBT website. If you do not have access to the internet or encounter problems during the registration process, you may either call 021-650-3523 or send an e-mail to nbt@uct.ac.za for assistance.

NBT Resources

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National Benchmark Test Project

Contact details
  • Email: nbt@uct.ac.za
  • Telephone: 021 650 3523
  • Website: www.nbt.ac.za
NBT Brochure click here for more info.
More about the NBTs click here.
Book your NBT test click here.
NBT 2020 Test Dates click here
NBT test sites click here for more info.
To request your NBT Test Scores Log into your NBT account here.

University info

University of Cape Town click here for more info.
Wits University Click here for more info.
Stellenbosch University click here for more info.
Rhodes University click here for more info.
University of Kwa-Zulu Natal click here for more info.
University of Pretoria click here for more info.
University of the Free State click here for more info.

How do I get my NBT test results?

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To access your NBT results you need to login to your profile on your NBT page. NBT results are only available four weeks after you have written your test. Click this link to go to the NBT results request page.

Do I have to send my results to the universities I am applying to?

The universities request your results from the NBT you do not send them to the university. The NBT charges the University to release the results to them and the 1 test will apply to all universities that require it.

Didn't get the results that you wanted?

We offer a few online courses that will help increase your results. Our NBT Preparation Online Course will help you improve your MAT and AQL results. Our NBT AQL Preparation Online Course will help you improve your AQL results.

How much does the NBT cost?

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AQL R110 // Full NBT R220

The costs for the NBT are:
  • AQL only R110.
  • AQL and MAT R220.
  • Re-mark R250

Why do I have to register? The NBT project and the local venues guarantee space and materials ONLY for students who have registered to write at a specific venue on a specific day.

What dates can I write the NBT?

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NBT registration for the 2020 intake opens on 1st April 2019. All test dates for the 2020 intake cycle (11 May - 5 January) will be available to book from 1st April. The tests will run on the weekend, every week or every second week from 11 May 2019 - 5 January 2020.

What is the full meaning of NBT?

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NBT stands for National Benchmark Test. This is a examination set up by the National Benchmark Test Project. The exam is designed to test students for University readiness.

What languages can I write the NBTs?

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The NBTs are available in English and Afrikaans. When you register you will be asked to indicate the language in which you wish to write. Note that you can only use one language i.e there is no option to write one test in English and the other in Afrikaans.

What NBT results do I need

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Degree Recommended Test Date MAT or AQL NBT result to aim for
Medicine Before 1st July Both 90% 70% 80%
Engineering & Built Environment Before 1st July Both 80% 65% 80%
Business Science Before August Both 75% 65% 60%
BCom Before August Both 60% 60% 50%
Health Science Before August Both 70% 70% 70%
BSc Before Trial exams Both 65% 65% 60%
BA Law Before Trial exams AQL - 60% 50%
*Each institution determines which tests are required i.e the university and faculty where you apply will determine which tests you must write (AQL or MAT, or both). Please check with each institution/faculty where you intend to apply, before you register for the NBTs with regards to their application requirements including closing dates and deadlines for receiving NBT results. Please note that each university has different requirements and each faculty may require different tests or have different deadlines.

What time are the NBT tests?

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Writers must be at the test venue by 07:30

The AQL is written in the morning (3 hours writing time), and writers must be at the test venue by 07:30. The MAT is written in the afternoon on the same day, with a short lunch break between the two tests. The MAT also has 3 hours writing time. No learner is allowed to arrive at mid-day to write just the MAT test. If you are writing the MAT test, you must write it on the same day as you write the AQL test.

What to bring to the NBT test?

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You must bring:
  • Your ID Book, passport, or a certified receipt of application for South African ID
  • Your registration letter and EasyPay proof of payment (without this you will not be allowed to write the NBTs - the venue administrator will stamp the receipt and return it to you)
  • Two HB pencils, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener
  • Lunch and water, if you are writing both tests
  • DO NOT bring calculators, rulers, dictionaries, scrap paper, notebooks or ipads, tablets or phones
  • NOTE that learners without an official ID will be turned away and not allowed to write (except where the following documentation is provided - a birth certificate with an affidavit from the police including a recent photograph and a letter of application for ID from Home Affairs).

What to expect on the NBT test day?

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YOU MUST CHECK IN AT 7:30AM. The test venue door closes at 8:30 after which no one is allowed inside the test room.

  • At check-in, you will be given an answer sheet with your name and ID number printed on the back.
  • Once you are seated inside the test room, carefully check the printed name.
  • You will be given instructions by the Chief Invigilator how to make corrections.
  • You must show your official ID to an invigilator before the test begins.
  • Place your ID beside the answer sheet, along with your pencils and eraser. Everything else must be placed on the floor.
  • Note that bathroom breaks are not allowed. Plan ahead, and remember that the writing session is 3 hours long.

When can I write my NBT test?

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Each university and department will have different requirements for when you need to write your NBT test. Some might be as early as June or July. This is one of the reasons why the NBT is so confusing! Our top piece of advice is to choose a date that fits in with your application requirements AND is at a time when you can give it the attention it deserves (i.e. make sure to check your school calendar to ensure you don’t have other important school events in that week).

Available data by the NBT suggests that learners who write the tests later in the year have no advantage over those writing in earlier sessions. The test changes as the year progresses in order to maintain the validity of the test. From Advantage Learn’s experience and certainly our NBT expert and teacher, Mrs Pike, we recommend that learners should write this test as early as possible in the year and definitely before trials. The earlier a learner writes, the less content they have to learn for the test. Up until the end of June, the content tested is predominantly Grade 11 work and the first term of Grade 12 (Sequences and Grade 12 Trig). This makes the July holidays (4 term schools) ideal to give yourself enough time to prepare properly. Those applying for Medical and Health Science degrees have until the end of the first week in July to write their NBTs. If you are wanting to come to one of our preparation courses, then you should try to write your NBT test about a week later. Time must be given to working through the workbook and AQL modules before writing the NBT test.

Where can I write the NBT test?

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There are various centres across South Africa where you can write your NBT. Click on the following link for a list of all the venue sites across the country. Choose a venue that is convenient for you to get to with this link.

Which institutions will use my NBT results and how do they get them?

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Which institutions will use my NBT results and how do they get them? All the universities to which you apply can receive your NBT results. Many South African universities use the NBTs in conjunction with the National Senior Certificate (NSC) for access to their programmes. The NBTs help to interpret your NSC results and can be used by universities in different ways.

  • Some use them to help make decisions about your access/application to university. This means that your NBT results, in combination with your matric results, are used to determine whether you are ready for academic study.
  • Some universities use the results for placement within the institution. This means that your NBT results are used to decide whether you will need extra academic support after you have been accepted to university.
  • Some institutions use them to develop curricula within their university.

When you apply to an institution, they will place your name on their applicant list. As applications are processed, they send the NBT Project a request for scores that match the applicants on the list. Universities will only get your results when they request them.

Before you submit your registration to write the NBT, you are asked to check a box giving permission for your results to be sent to the requesting institutions and for your results to be used in research projects. Be sure to read this and check this box before hitting “submit”. Remember, it is your responsibility to check whether your NBT results have been loaded with your tertiary institution.

Why do I have to register for the NBT?

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Why do I have to register for the NBT? The NBT project and the local venues guarantee space and materials ONLY for learners who have registered to write at a specific venue on a specific day.

NBT Information disclaimer

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These National Benchmark Test knowledge base articles are provided for general information purposes only. While every effort has been used to ensure the accuracy and integrity of these articles using multiple online sources as well as our own information gained from experience, the use of any part of these articles are at your own risk. The provision of these articles does not constitute legal advice or opinions of any kind, or any advertising or solicitation. No lawyer-client, advisory, fiduciary or other relationship is created between Advantage Learning Technologies (Pty) Ltd and any person accessing or otherwise using these articles. Advantage Learning Technologies (Pty) Ltd and its affiliates (and any of their respective directors, officers, agents, contractors, interns, suppliers and employees) will not be liable for any damages, losses or causes of action of any nature arising from the use of these articles or the provision of these articles. These articles are the property of Advantage Learning Technologies (Pty) Ltd. Advantage Learning Technologies (Pty) Ltd in no way presents this on behalf of the official National Benchmark Tests Project and is not affiliated in any way whatsoever. © Advantage Learning Technologies (Pty) Ltd