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If you haven’t already heard about the NBTs then you’ve been out of the loop for how entrance to University has evolved in South Africa over the last 10 years.

In 2008 the National Benchmark Tests Project set up these tests, informed by the well known American SATs, to assess academic readiness for tertiary study and to help distinguish learners who are genuinely skilled in Academic, Quantitative and Mathematical literacy (and therefore best equipped to succeed at University) as a supplement to the National Senior Certificate.. The tests also serve to inform universities as to how to implement academic support programs to bridge the gap between university requirements and the NSC in order to support learners who are not well equipped for tertiary study.

Fast forwards 10 years to 2018 and now the majority of Higher Education providers (UCT, Stellenbosch, UJ etc.) all require students to sit an NBT as part of their application process to study at that University.

In America students begin preparing for the SATs years before they have to take them. The NBTs are a lot shorter and easier to prepare for and so do not require courses to be attended years before writing. You can, however, begin preparing for them from a younger age.

3 Things you can do right now to begin preparing for the NBTs

Here is a list of 3 simple things you can do to begin preparing for the NBTs before attending an NBT preparation course.

  1. Put the calculator down.
    In the NBT there is no calculator allowed. For modern day students a calculator is heavily relied upon to solve almost any question they face. The majority of these problems can be solved with a pencil and paper. If you get disciplined into doing it this way you will find the NBTs a lot easier than your neighbour who is lost without that calculator. Learners are expected to be able to also do multiplication, division, fractions etc (basic arithmetic) without a calculator so whenever you can, try not to use a calculator and to practice solving everything without it. This may be tedious and slow, at first, but it will drastically improve your mathematical abilities and you will get faster at it with time. The human mind can be faster than a calculator if you train it.
  2. Practice doing high-brain-intensity timed activities.
    Getting your brain to think quickly and solve problems quickly really helps develop your thinking for these types of examinations. In the Academic Literacy and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) test you only have roughly 1 minute 10 seconds per question, and in the Mathematics test (MAT) you get 3 minutes. What sort of activities can help you? Well, I am all for improving your brain in a fun way, so here are some great games which can help train your mind to think fast:
    • 30 Seconds (one for the family!)
    • Any Maths Game app (Just search “Math games” on the app store and you will find loads!)
    • Read the paper (Ok this isn’t a game, but if you read interesting articles and think about the facts, opinions, phrases and reasons it’s written then it will put you in good stead for the Academic Literacy component of the AQL test, as well as keeping you informed on current affairs which is always advisable.)
  3. Focus in your Maths lessons and do every piece of extra work you can.
    If you dislike maths or your maths teacher then I am really sorry for this one. Unfortunately for you, your Mathematics ability at high school is going to determine your future career path. Simply put, the better it is then the more doors that open for your future career. If you want to be in Medicine or an Engineer then get your mind focussed to become the top of your class as these fields of education require the highest pass marks for the NBTs. Also remember that enjoyment is correlated to things that you are good at so if you work hard at improving your mathematics, it is likely that you will start to enjoy it more.

If you do these things now then not only will you find the NBTs easier than those who don’t, but you will find you also excel in your Core Maths and even set yourself up to be able to complete AP Maths, giving you the extra edge on your peers when it comes to University applications. With that in mind, Advantage Learn are specialists in Mathematical extension and we currently have two offerings which can help you enormously in extending your Mathematical abilities ahead of Grade 12:

  1. Advanced Programme Mathematics – This subject starts in Grade 10 and there are some people who maintain that studying this subject is the best way to to prepare for the NBT’s as it helps to ensure that your Mathematical foundations are solid and then the extension aspect of the subject helps to develop a more lateral approach to Maths problems which is invaluable in an NBT type assessment.
  2. Maths Online – Including Core Maths, Maths Literacy and AP Maths from Grade 10 – 12, our Maths Online platform really empowers you to close gaps in your knowledge and extend yourself independently.

Happy Learning!

This article was originally published on 19 Feb 2018

About the author
Adam Kinder

Online learning manager at I help manage our systems to provide the best online learning experience for our Students. Besides that I am a passionate Mathematician and enjoy solving students questions on our site.

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