The NBTs “National Benchmark Tests”
Costs: AQL Only – R110. AQL and MAT – R195. Remark – R250.
NBT Test Locations and Times
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.
How to Prepare
MAT (Maths): The whole matric syllabus can be tested so make sure 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. If you are not writing at the very end of the year, we recommend that you read our article “NBT Preparation with YouCanDoMaths.co.za” and sign up with them to make sure that you are ready for anything.
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): For this section it is important not to over-think your answers. The test is set to test your natural intelligence and your first instinct is normally the best option to choose. You cannot learn or revise a syllabus for this section.
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. Synonyms and antonyms are important. Most people find that too much time is given for these sections, so relax and don’t make stupid mistakes here.
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!