National Benchmark Tests

The NBTs “National Benchmark Tests”

Apply to write the NBTs (opens on the 1 April 2017)

Costs: AQL Only – R80. AQL and MAT – R160. Remark – R250.

The NBT test locations and Test dates

Follow the link for a list of all NBT test venues and schedules in 2017.Follow this link to see  the dates you need to book and pay.

Download the NBT Brochure for all relevant information for 2017.

How to Prepare

MAT (Maths): The whole matric syllabus can be tested so make sure are you up to date and write the test as late in the year as possible. Focus on trigonometry (special angles and identities), sequences (arithmetic, geometric, quadratic) and revise long division and multiplication, because calculators are NOT allowed. The best way to prepare is to do a NBT preparation workshop or get a NBT text book.

AQL (Quantitative Literacy Component): This section of the paper is statistics and reading off data from graphs. Focus on percentages. You need to be able to calculate percentages and work out what the value of the percentage of a percentage is. This sounds confusing, but it is quite simple once you know the technique. Long division and multiplication is again important.

AQL (Academic literacy component): The questions in this section are theme-based. You will need to prove that you are able to read carefully and make meaning from texts that are typical of the kinds that you will encounter in your studies at university. You cannot study specific subject matter for this section, but model tests and answers will prepare you for the types of questions and practise your academic thinking skills. The best way to prepare is through utilizing academic and quantitative literacy workshops and studying from the right text books.

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What to expect

Maths: The paper is three hours long and consists of 60 multiple choice questions. There are 4 options to choose from and no negative marking, so if you don’t know an answer, always make an educated guess. You will get a formula sheet that is identical to the one you get in your Grade 12 Final Mathematics Paper. There will be some simpler questions and some hard and some seemingly impossible questions scattered randomly throughout the paper, so don’t get caught up on questions you don’t understand. Move on to the next question and only go back to the tricky ones at the end. Take your time.

Quantitative and Academic: These two papers are combined and are also multiple choice with no negative marking. There are about 17 sections and you will get a time limit to complete each section. Once the time is up you can’t turn back, so skim over each section before you write it, in order to get an idea of the time limit. The Quantitative sections will have many graphs and tables, and most people find that there is not quite enough time to complete each one comfortably, so do these ones quickly. The Academic Literacy sections will give you an extract that you will have to analyze, interpret and answer questions on. Vocabulary knowledge is tested, along with a number of other components of academic language.

General Information

The AQL test is written first, followed by a 2 hour break, followed by the maths test. If you are writing both, take some food and something to drink while you wait.

If you bomb out the first time you write NBT’s, don’t stress too much as you are allowed a second chance. Re-writes are possible, but you must register online again.

Finally, don’t get too stressed about NBT’s. They are only partly responsible for your university acceptance. Remember; try to write your NBT test/s as late in the year as possible. All the best!

Background Information

See our university pages for individual university policies on the NBTs as an admissions requirement.

The NBTs where established by the University of Cape Town. They were created to determine which of their applicants had the greatest chance of succeeding at university. The tests are designed to evaluate the true Mathematical and English levels of learners, as they focus on understanding rather than recall.

The tests are now used by most major Universities in South Africa and are required for some bursary applications. In conjunction with your school marks, the universities will also consider your NBT results when considering your application. Applicants applying to most SA universities need to write the AQL (Academic and Quantitative Literacy Test) test, but certain courses require that their applicants also write the mathematics test, MAT. If you are unsure as to which career you will follow, rather write both tests to be safe. If you want to study health science, engineering or a BSc; your chances of acceptance will dramatically improve if you own these tests. Hopefully this page will help you do that.



149 thoughts on “National Benchmark Tests”

  1. hello .i hve appiled for nbt the thing is the time i am gven to write at is too early due to distance i stay wat do i do..? n i hve registered a wrong university that is uj instead of up ..wat do i do?

  2. I wrote my NBT last week Friday, wheeeew! Academic Literacy is a walk in the park if you know English, the quantitative part.. Ok, thats another ball game. Know your graphs, practice on complex graphs. Be able to work out huge numbers manually.. Yes, millions and above. English question paper, comprehension – you will never go wrong there. Time is crucial, whenever you read an extract, bear in mind that there will be a section you will have to answer without referring. Gosh, good luck folks!!!

  3. I, I really need advise on i should practice math literacy past papers in preparation…i applied for medicine and the university feels i need to write again asap,i wrote in June and my marks were not good at all, my June average is good and this test might determine if im in or not…and i am really scared…..

  4. LoL… I remember writing my NBTs on the 12th of January, I was Clueless as to what’s to be there and I didn’t study. Wish I had seen this site before then… God had my back though, I passed them both, with intermediate upper for 2 and Proficient for 1… Its not difficult at all

  5. I wrote the AQL + MAT on the 12th and remember quite a number of questions. I am willing to help anyone who needs help to the best of my knowledge. I receive my results on the 4th of November. I am not really sure what to expect but hopefully everything went alright. Contrary to most, my maths paper had 2 trig questions and no calculus questions. The majority of questions were based on quite complex analytical geometry questions, properties of functions and deductive reasoning. I am a graduate of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and was at a bit of a disadvantage because the majority of our syllabus consists of complex Differential and Integral Calculus.

    RELAX! it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. Be comfortable with converting percentages to simple fractions and calculating percentages of percentages and you should be fine for the AQL. The comprehension is fairly challenging but not impossible. Know the South African NSC P1 and P2 like the back of your hand for the MATHS and you should be fine.


  6. Hello, is it possible to write the nbt test on a different date…for example i paid the fee already and have to write the 21st september, is it possible that i re-register for a seating on the 30th of november using the same payment, since i wont make it to the 21st date?…?

    1. Unfortunately not, you have to show up on time and on the date you specified when paying. If you miss this, you will have to re-register and pay again.

      If your date is not specified on your reciept, return to the place of payment to confirm.

    1. Hi Lenox, It depends on which degree you have been (provisionally?) admitted for. Look at the admission requirements: if it states that the NBTs are taken into consideration, then you will still need to write them.

  7. Hii! I have applied to write the NBT tests on the 23rd September. Any tips on what I should study? I’v seen the math notes on the site… if I go through them, is that sufficient to pass with an A??
    Looking forward to a response 🙂

    1. Hi Shabnam, as long as you fully understand the maths in our notes and will be able to apply those skills to maths problems you have never seen before, you should do just fine 🙂 Good luck!

      1. Iv read through most of the comments on your site, and have come to know that the NBT tests are multiple choice. would it be advisable for me to go through the NSC papers for revision purposes? As I believe there are no NBT past papers?

  8. Hey Just wondering I got accepted at Stellenbosch, and I did the nbts and didn’t study- keep in mind I haven’t done maths since 2011 so I went in guessing, haha I got 57,53 and 25 for maths.. surely I cant be unaccepted ?

    1. If they said that you are accepted then all you need to do is maintain your marks and you are in 🙂 What course have you been accepted for? In general your NBT marks are very important if you are applying for med or another highly competitive degree. If not you don’t need to worry to much about them.

    2. Hi Jay, check the fine print on your provisional acceptance or contact the admissions department, because those marks aren’t great and you may be required to rewrite the NBTs – just to be safe!

  9. I rewrote my AQL NBT’s for the second time. I did well for English however I fell 4 points short of the required score for QL to get into UCT bcomm. I do well in school. Is there a chance UCT will still accept me even if I haven’t met the requirement for one aspect?

    1. Hi Maia, there is still a chance – it all depends on the caliber of the other students who applied and how well you do in finals. Keep trying!

  10. hey,so i have a big problem. I’m in Namibia and i registered for the AQL and math tests on the 21st, but the problem is non of the payment outlets accept the nbt payments. They say its valid only in South Africa. And now further more my payment due date has past, what can i do?? (i have been to checkers, pick n pay, lewis and also i cant register on the easypay website thingy) pleeeeeaaaaase help. 🙁

    1. Hi Chanice, that is a big problem you’ve got there! We actually don’t know how to help you, sorry 🙁 But you really need to get in contact with the NBT people. Email them at

  11. I am writing tomorrow I hope everything goes well because Mechatronics Engineer is my dream career to obtain……Best of lucks to everyone tackling the NBT’s.

  12. I wrote my nbt in 20th of july and achieved 85 from math. This website helped me a lot for my NBT.
    It is basically all from matric math and all formulas that you need to know are given.
    What I recommand is going through trig because majority are trig questions.
    And don’t waste time if u don’t know one question, move to other immediately!

  13. Hi, what are my chances of being accepted to write the nbt test after only being provisionally accepted? I applied for Bcom Accounts.

  14. Hi there. Im a student studying the IB (international baccalaureate) Diploma and I have applied to take the NBTs as it is required for medicine at UCT. I am aware that the south african syllabus may be a little different. if you have any knowledge on the IB Diploma course, do you know if there is anything I should be worried about, particularly concerning the maths section.


  15. Hey..

    I wrote my nbt and I didn’t do amazing. I applied for medicine and I’m usually a B/A student. I got 78 for the AL, 56 for the AQ but 48 for the Maths!! Do you think this will detrimentally affect my acceptance? Considering medicine is so competitive. I kinda feel crappy

  16. Hey. Thanks a bunch for all the awesome tips! I’m sure I would’ve failed the MAT were it not for you! Just to help out anyone who is going to write soon, you should really practice a lot of trig identities. Functions and their graphs were also a really big favourite in my test, so learn those like the back of your hand! Apart from that, everyone else who has commented has been spot-on, so read the comments, and learn everything they tell you to. I started studying for the test way too late. Make sure you give yourselves plenty of study time!

  17. writing my NBTs tomorrow and i am super stressed out! I feel that i am not ready to go and write this test yet. I just wanna thank you guys for all the tips that you have given here I really appreciate them. Friends of mine who have written the NBT already told me to go through maths olympiad papers but they’re really impossible! I am getting almost every question wrong on the maths olympiad papers. Can anyone tell me if the NBT is on the same level as the olympiad or easir/harder? Really stressing out here I feel like my life is depending on these NBTs. Any additional last minute tips will also help. Thanks 🙂

  18. If I do badly does that mean I’m not going to varsity despite my marks(A for biology,B for maths and science)?

    1. Don’t worry Phillip, with those As and Bs you should definitely get into varsity as long as you are not failing your other subjects. If you are trying to get into medicine then you may want to consider rewriting to improve your marks.

  19. Wat if u’ve already been conditionally admitted, is it compalsury 2 write the test, if yes, is going 2 affect yr admission if u dnt do well in the test.

  20. currently studying medicine at UCT. I Wrote my matric last year and obtained 95% for maths and 88% for Advanced maths(international exam offered at crawford college). NBT’s were far more in depth and challenging than any maths i had written previously. Not intending to scare anyone however, work must be known in great depth to prevent confusion.

      1. Hi I want to studie at uj, ive submitted my application form already but have’nt written the nbt.would the university have access 2 my nbt results? I m writting on the 3rd of august

        1. Hi Thabani. Yes they will. The university will probable know your mark before you. Your results get sent straight to all the universities that you have applied to.

  21. I just wrote my nbt this morning, there’s not much to worry about in aql it’s very easy. The CAMP was very hard, there’s one compound interest question one arithmetic sequence question one geometric sequence question, log function graphs lots if calculus, angles reflected, lots if trig, and ratios. If you know al those you shouldn’t have a problem. Just in the aql they ask for percentage of a percentage. Hope this helps, it’s not too bad I promise, I’ve been teaching myself math since grade 8 because in homeschooled 🙂

  22. No doubt it will reduce your marks,, however rewriting it in the same year won’t help @ all because universities only look @ the the marks of the 1st time uu wrote it..

  23. No courses that you have already been provisionally accepted for should not be affected, however your chances of being accepted into a course that has not yet given you placement may be reduced. If you are worried it will be a good idea to rewrite.

  24. Hello, I am in an IEB school and I am writing the NBT on Saturday 29June. For anyone who has written it. Is there anything I need to focus on most that you know was very prominent in the MAT test? Also I am applying for medicine and I need to know, will the test be easier for an IEB syllabus student? Or of similar difficulty?
    Last question! How much time would I need to prepare for it to do well in it?

  25. Hmmm, I’m wondering how should i know if i done well? I checked my results and I think I did pretty decent in all the different topics asked. Could you give me something like a rating scale with the different precents that will allow me to know how I did say for example 80%-100% excellent/ 70%-79% not bad ect. Could you do this for all the different topics i.e maths, academic and quantitative litaracy. That would really help. Please and thank you

  26. Hey I am writing my nbt soon and I’m freaking out about maths… Does anyone know what coming out? I know that the test aren’t the same but I would really like to know what’s coming out…

  27. Hiii,
    Im an A student in Maths and i am reaaaaally freaking out coz im unsure what to truly expect of the nbt.. im scheduled to be writing this saturday and haven’t actually got down to studying (hoping on starting tomorrow!).
    Any tips?:)

  28. Hi im only writing the AQL test on the 29 of june i would like to know if it start at 7:30 what time wil i finish

    1. HI John
      This should be an advantage as the Cambridge curriculum goes into far more detail. The only problem is that you don’t cover sigma notation so you need to get help with that.

  29. HI i have already written nbt test but i ddnt pay, now i want 2 pay it. but i lost my reference number what cn i do

    1. Hey Samkelo I’m writing my NBT on the 17th of August 2013. I’m worried because apparently the last date of payment was 03 August 2013. Will I still be allowed to write? Would they still accept my late payment?

  30. Hi, I live in Namibia and I have registered to write on 23.06.2013 here, but I haven’t paid yet. I do, however, feel that it is way too soon.Only problem is that I can’t edit my information in order to change the date to the 6.07.2013. I have emailed but I am still unable to edit my details. When I call the helpline, the call does not go through to an operator. What should I do??

  31. I am writing in about 2 weeks time. I understand that we are not allowed to use calculators, but how can we be expected to make use of the quadratic equation, financial math equations etc if we cannot use calculators?

    1. HI,
      Different universities have different requirements. The faculty hand books will have that info. I don’t think you will have to do maths however you will have to do the others.

  32. Sorry let me rephrase that, i see above that there are only 60 questions in the math section. Is that standard, or are there sometimes more? Why i’m asking is because i wrote a supposed practice NBT test that had 191 questions and three hrs is only enough time to go through about half of those.

  33. Hello guys may you please give me a few touch ups on Mathematics because at school I am doing mathematical literacy.In the NBT tests I applied for both AQL and MAT

  34. Hey. I’m an A student in Maths but I have to try really hard to achieve my marks. Will I find the nbt maths really challenging?

    1. I’m an average student in maths.If you’re going to find it hard what about me?I just hope to make it to the top.Good luck E,hope to meet you one day.

  35. Hey, would you say that the NBT test is easier or more difficult than the Mathematics end of year Grade 12 exam?

    1. Hi Dan, most matrics find the NBT maths more challenging than your final paper. This is because the NBTs require a deeper understanding and ability to apply what you have learnt.

    1. Hi Candice, Look at what the university and faculty you are applying to requires. If you are applying for a BSc, engineering, a medical degree or accounting, you will probably be required to do both. If not, you will probably only need to write the AQL.

  36. Hello,

    If you write the NBT in June, will you be assessed on work that has not yet been covered at school??

  37. As much as I want to be positive, I’m stressing because I applied for medicine and actuarial science and now I’m stressing because we haven’t completed the syllabus at my school. I’m writing on th 8th of June and I’m not entirely sure whether I’m prepared.

    Please help?

    1. Hi Keelyn, very few schools, if any, would have completed the syllabus by June. So do not stress, you will be fine with what you know. The maths paper tests understanding and your ability to apply relatively simple maths concepts to new scenarios. The AQL won’t be a problem at all. The best thing you can do for yourself is be calm and confident in your abilities. Go get ’em Doc!

  38. Hi, i know this has nothing to do regarding the topic, however id like to know when and where in Johannesburg are their Matric winter school’s being conducted. Thanks in advanced.

  39. Writting my NBT tomorrow and I can’t even control the nerves any longer!!

    How do we know what too know?
    Is it general knowledge? Should I have studied hard?
    I’m only doing the AQL thank goodness.
    This is scary!

    1. Hi Sinead 🙂 Don’t worry! It doesn’t test your general knowledge. You will do many different comprehensions, and then be asked to understand graphs. Just practice long multiplication and division, fractions, and working out percentages. It is much easier than the maths – you will be fine! Good luck 🙂

  40. Writing NBT’s Tomorrow 25 May :)< Good Luck to everyone, Make yourselves proud because you know you can do it 😀
    Thanks MaxMatric for your help and guidance, Much Appreciated 🙂

    1. Slmz! I write mine in 2 weeks…majorly freaking out! How was it? And are there any financial math questions?

      1. Wslms, the AQL was not bad, however the maths has alot of theory and yes you have to know your work, their were 2 financial maths questions, relatively easy, however, their some substantially hard mathematical questions, and know how to do calculations and work our percentages without a calculator. Quite a few of those questions, do go over 2D and 3D maths, ow to work out volume, base etc, Know how to solve simultaneous equations, quadratic formula. ALSO know your arithmetic, geometric and quadratic patterns!! especially those ones with the “X, they love manipulating those questions, Know your trig graphs, circle geometry and the rest of the maths stuff :), don’t stress, It’s not so bad, just be Positive 🙂
        Leme know if you need any help. You may email me 🙂

  41. Hi I feel like such an idiot because I have applied to write on Saturday and now seeing everything here I’m not sure that was such a great idea considering that I wanna study medicine, I don’t wanna screw up my chances of getting into varsity:(.

    1. Hi Thandeka 🙂 Don’t stress! You are allowed to write the NBTs twice, so consider this one your practice run and just do your best. You never know, you might do really really well the first time 🙂 Good luck!

    1. Hi Nhlamulo 🙂 If you managed to go through the whole booking process and register with the wrong ID, you are going to need to email the NBTs directly at to sort that one out! If you haven’t registered yet, then delete everything and try again.

  42. i applied for the 25th of may but something came up recently and wont make it on the day, what do i do? i have already paid, and dont mind if i have to rebook and repay but is it ok if i just dont pitch on the day?

    1. Hi Zuna, you are going to need to email the NBTs at and explain why you can’t make it. They will decide whether or not to refund you, or allow you to change your test date. If you don’t inform them, then you will get zero for your first attempt (and you can only write twice). Let us know how it goes. We hope everything works out 🙂

  43. Hi
    Feel so crummy now because I see that you advise that we must write the test as late as possible in the year, in writing mine on the 25th of May and I had this saying in mind, “sooner I get it done the better”, we haven’t gotten that far in school, what do you suggest I do can I shift dated once I’ve paid?

    1. Hi Siya 🙂 You should definitely write the test on the 25th. The MAT test could contain questions that you haven’t covered yet, but you will not be disadvantaged for the other tests. Just study what maths you know and do your best! And if doesn’t go as well as you’ve hoped, you can always rewrite the NBTs later on. Best of luck!

  44. I applied for my NBT online and paid online but I see dat after u pay u must bring a reciept ?? In my case wat do I do ?

    1. Hi 🙂 You probably paid via EFT, so log onto your bank account and print out a proof of payment.

  45. Hey,I’d like to know if its possible to rewrite again if you’ve already written in the previous year

    1. Hi Mandisa 🙂 As long as you have only written it once, you can write the NBTs one more time this year (you have a maximum of two attempts in total).

    1. Hi Rufaro, you will not have to do the maths section if you have taken maths literacy in matric. This is because the only degrees that you can apply for will not have a maths component, and therefor not require that you take the MAT NBT. A degree in science, accounting, engineering and most of the health sciences are usually out of your reach when you take maths lit, because these degrees will require you to pass first year maths at university.

  46. Hi! Thank you a lot for these tips. Do you know if there is a choice for the essay? Do you know a link for the Grade 12 formula sheet for math? I looked for it but in vain. Thanks again

    1. Hi there 🙂 You won’t be asked to write an essay for the NBTs, because it is all multiple choice (you will just do a lot of comprehension based MCQs). With regards to maths, you are given a formula sheet that is identical to the one you will receive in finals.

  47. Well, I’m writing my NBT Exam on the 25th of May 2013. Mixed Emotions as to what to expect, but after reading this I gained confidence in myself. Thanks Guys for your motivational words. I will try and remember whatever i can!

    1. I’m also going to write on the 25th of May 2013. I didn’t know what to expect, but after reading this I’M confident that I’ll make it.

    2. i too am writing on May 25th, 2012.
      its mid May and i already feel stressed out.

      Anyway, All the best my fellow NBT’ers =)

  48. so iv written the nbt’s like last year already, now im starting varsity applications this year and they need my nbt records from back then. how do i source them(i.e student no. etc)?

    1. Hi Veronica, the universities should have access to your NBT results directly from the NBT website, even though you wrote them last year, so you will not need to add them to your application. You can access your NBT results from this link, your username will be your passport number (in your case) and your password will be the one you set last year, if you can still remember it! If not, you can contact the NBTs directly and they will be able to assist you, email to

    1. Hi Zuna 🙂 the NBT papers are randomly used over and over again, so they have never released any past papers. What we are trying to do help is ask matrics to remember one question from each NBT paper they have written and then send it to us, so that we can compile something for you guys to practice on. Sadly this wont be ready in time for you, but we would be stoked if you could help out and send us some questions you remember. For now, you can practice by looking at world population pie charts, and getting to grips with estimating percentages. Remember how to do long division and multiplication too, and practice number pattern formulas. The English section will be a comprehension, so you can’t really learn for it. Good luck!

      1. Hi there!
        I am aware that on the day of our nbt exams we need to present our IDs. Unfortunately my ID has been misplaced/stolen.
        I do however have a copy of my ID. What do you suggest I do?

        1. Hi Kelly, If the copy of your ID is certified, then you shouldn’t have a problem. However, if it is not, you can A) use your passport (if you have one), or B) go to your police station and sign a affidavit sating that you are you, or C) your best option is go to home affairs and get yourself a temporary ID, which should be given to you on the day you apply for it at your local Home Affairs. Good luck!

      2. I’m writin my test on the 25th of May. However,I’d like to cancel the Math test(which I have already paid for). What should I do?!

      1. Hi 🙂 There will probably be log and differentiation questions in your test. There are no NBT past papers, but the formula sheet will be the same as the one that you will get in the final exams for the NSC – follow this link and scroll down to the last page for the formula sheet.

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