Your ticket to university? Here is how to ace your NBTs and get to university the clever way

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"NBTs are there to assess the entry-level academic skills of candidates in academic literacy, quantitative literacy, and mathematics." Photo: Supplied/Advantage Learn.
"NBTs are there to assess the entry-level academic skills of candidates in academic literacy, quantitative literacy, and mathematics." Photo: Supplied/Advantage Learn.

Part of the preparation when intending to study science, law and engineering at a tertiary level includes taking the National Benchmark Test (NBT).

The National Benchmark Tests Project (NBTP) was commissioned in 2005 by Higher Education South Africa (HESA), now called Universities South Africa (USAf).

The NBTs were created to assess the entry-level academic skills of candidates in academic literacy, quantitative literacy, and mathematics to complement the National Senior Certificate.

They provide an independent and objective assessment against which students' performance on the National Senior Certificate can be compared and calibrated.

Students take NBTs while they're doing their matric year, a stressful time that can cause many matriculants to take these tests without preparing thoroughly for them.

Tracey Young-Thompson, manager at education provider Advantage Learn explains why preparation for the NBTs during matric is so crucial and how you can ace your NBTs. 

Read: Planning your future while in Matric? Here are the important dates to note for the 2022 academic year 

Young-Thompson explains that NBTs are standardised tests that give universities a good sense of a pupil's skill set and readiness for higher education, and most degrees require pupils to write NBTs.

NBTs are different from what pupils are accustomed to at school, says Young-Thompson, explaining that their format is multiple choice, and mathematical problems are solved without using calculators.

The two tests are:

  • Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL)
  • Academic literacy

Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL)

According to Young-Thompson, Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) is a multiple choice-based assessment and is made up of two components.

This type of test contains questions that focus on grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and numerical application. It allows pupils to demonstrate their ability to read, understand and communicate meaning from a body of text.

The quantitative aspect of this test looks at numerical calculations similar to Mathematical Literacy, and no calculators are allowed.

Academic Literacy (MAT)

Academic Literacy or MAT is a form of testing, according to Young-Thompson, related to Core Mathematics as it tests pupils' ability to apply their knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts, and it is also in a multiple choice format. No calculators are allowed to solve them either. 

Also read: Looking for a college? Browse these 50 top TVET colleges in South Africa

Young-Thompson says that AQL is compulsory if you write the NBTs, but MAT is only for specific programmes such as Sciences, Engineering, Health Science, etc.

NBTs are valid for three years once a pupil has written the test, and learners are encouraged to write these tests in their matric year. This is encouraged to allow pupils to take their gap years or take their time to decide on what they want to study at university freely without worrying about their NBT expiring.

Young-Thompson notes that unpreparedness causes many to fail NBTs, especially with the questions that require pupils to solve the problems without calculators.

She also observed that pupils who are used to getting marks for process rather than just a correct answer could maneuver in the NBTs.

She stresses that preparation is key to passing these tests. Young-Thompson says proper preparation for the NBTs also dramatically affects a pupil's math scores at school because different skills are taught during the NBT preparation workshops.

Young-Thompson says that acing the NBTs is more important than ever because there is a growing competition to get into tertiary institutions.

For more preparation for NBTs, Advantage Learn provides a full range of AQL and MAT test preparation in live-online workshops, in-person workshops and online courses in English and Afrikaans.

Find out more information about these workshops by visiting their website here.


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