National Benchmark Test (NBT) – The Need-to-knows

Your school days are almost behind you. You intend to go to an institute for higher education in South Africa as the next step to a promising and fulfilling career. However, history has shown that the jump between school and higher education can sometimes be challenging. Many young school-leavers are not ready for higher academic education demands. The number of students failing in the first year was too high.

As a result, the National Benchmark Test was introduced in 2008 by Higher Education South Africa, now known as Universities South Africa. The NBT consists of two tests to help university authorities determine whether a student is ready to enrol for university-level courses and what courses will be best suited to them.

The tests are the Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) test and the Mathematics (MAT) test. The applicable faculty at the university you want to attend will have the final say as to which test(s) you must write to be considered for admission. Contact them to make sure. In general, though, If you want to study subjects that will require proficiency in mathematics, then you will have to take both tests. If not, you may skip the MAT test. The tests are three hours in length.

The NBT aims to evaluate your existing knowledge and skills.

To write the tests, you must register on the NBT website ( and make the payment upfront.

You do not need to prepare for the tests, but if you want to get an idea of what the two tests are all about and the differences between them, you can visit the NBT website. On this site, you can also look at some sample questions.

If you cannot reach a venue where you can take the tests, you can register through the email-address on the NBT-site as a remote writer. This usually is true for applicants who are overseas or in very remote areas. You will find a description of the process to follow on the site.

You only need to write the test once, even if you plan to apply to more than one university. The cost is R100 if you only write the AQL and R200 to write both the AQL and MAT tests.
Different Universities will use your test results differently. Some will use them solely as a tool to evaluate your readiness for academic study, and others to determine aspects such as whether you will need extra academic support after admission to the university. Also, keep in mind that universities have different policies and that requirements for admission can differ.

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