What is the purpose of NBT for university?

The National Benchmark Tests were first introduced in 2005 by Universities South Africa (formerly HESA) and is an assessment to see how university-ready prospective first-year students are. These tests have 3 purposes: To assess entry-level academic literacy and mathematics skills

These tests have 3 purposes:

  • To assess entry-level academic literacy and mathematics skills.
  • To assess the relationship between entry-level skills and school-level exit results.
  • To provide institutions with additional information in the admission and placement of entry-level students.

There are two tests that potentially need to be taken, depending on what your teen will be studying.

1. Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) test

Also known as the AQL test, this is a multiple-choice test in a 3-hour morning session. A combination of academic literacy and quantitative literacy, it needs to be taken by all applicants regardless of what they’re planning to study.

The AQL test: R80.

2. Mathematics (MAT) test

This test, also known as MAT, is written by applicants to programmes for which maths is a requirement. It is also multiple-choice and the student has 3 hours to complete it.

AQL and MAT tests: R160


  • The results of these tests will help institutions build courses around your level of learning.
  • It could give you the edge they may need to get into selective institutions.
  • Many bursary awarders use the NBT results to help them make their decisions.

There is no pass mark for the NBTs, rather higher education institutions use the Benchmark levels or results in addition to other available information when processing applications and determining placements.

What is the difference between the NSC and the NBT?

The National Senior Certificate exams test how well you meet the Grade 12 curriculum expectations.

The National Benchmark Tests see how ready you are for tertiary studies.