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South African National Benchmark Tests

The National Benchmark Tests (NBTs), started in 2005 by Higher Education South Africa (HESA) to evaluate entry-level mathematics and literacy skills of the pupils. It measures the academic readiness of entry-level higher education students in addition to the high school reports on education and knowledge attained in content specific courses. 

The National Benchmark Tests evaluate the student’s ability in the following competency areas:
  • Academic Literacy (AL)
  • Quantitative Literacy (QL) 
  • Mathematics (MAT) 
The Academic Literacy and Quantitative Literacy are combined and referred to as AQL test and lasts for 3 hours, while the Mathematics (MAT) is of 3 hours afternoon session. 

The University decides on which tests the students must appear for. The AQL is written for all the courses/programmes. Both the tests-AQL as well as MAT is required for all the programmes whose prerequisite is mathematics, such as Accounting, Health Sciences, and Engineering.  Contact the University to know about the NBT tests they accept. 

Structure of NBT in South Africa

The National Benchmark test comprises of two tests- AQL and MAT.

Academic and Quantitative Literacy Test

  • Type of Questions: Multiple-choice
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Session: Morning

Academic Literacy

An academic text is given and the candidates are required to understand the meaning and lexicon linked to the given text. Finding the assertion made in the texts, assess evidence used to support the writers’ assertions, deduce conclusions and inferences from text, find out the key idea of the text, understand and interpret information that is given visually in a tabular or chart form and fundamental numerical concepts used in the text. It's purpose is to understand handling academic language competence in university studies.

Quantitative Literacy

This part requires a candidate to select and make use of several quantitative terms, apply quantitative methods and formulae’s in various cases, interpret tables, graphs, charts and text and assimilate information from different sources, perform calculations that comprises of multiple steps correctly, and understand and explain quantitative information presented symbolically, graphically, and verbally.

Mathematics Test

The MAT test requires a candidate to understand and put in use the real number system properties, identify and use patterns as well as sequence and series, apply relationships, such as ratios and percentages in a diversity of situations, perform algebraic calculations and manipulations, use surds, exponents, logarithms in different algebraic and numerical conditions, understand and use functions and its attributes, recognise relationships between graphs and their equations, apply trigonometric concepts in solving problems, understand properties and interpret representations of two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms, make use of the theories of analytic geometry, and use logical skills in making conclusion and inferences and ascertaining the rationality of given assertions.
  • Type of Questions: Multiple-choice
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Session: Afternoon

NBT Test Locations

The National Benchmark Tests are conducted at several locations in South Africa. To find out about the NBT Test Sites, Click here 

Eligibility & Usage of NBTs

Students interested in pursuing Undergraduate Studies in South Africa are required to sit for National Benchmark tests.  The National Benchmark Tests is used by many of the Universities in South Africa for admissions and also used for bursary applications. 

The National Benchmark Tests is also used for the following purposes-
  • Placement in development courses
  • Extended or Advanced programmes 
  • Other additional academic support
To find out the Universities in South Africa that accepts NBT, click here 

Registration and Fees

To register for National Benchmark Tests (NBT), click here . Fill out your personal information, Contact Information, and Test/Venue Selection.

Also, to register you need the following things-
  • Official South African ID, or if you’re not a South African national then you need to have a valid passport
  • Note down your username and EasyPay number: The Username and EasyPay number is used to finish the application procedure, or to change the test date or venue.
To change the test date/site or modify the application, click here  Enter your username and password and make the changes as you want. 

The NBT fees vary so contact the official NBT Website. You can pay the test fees at any EasyPay point and it is non-refundable.
To find out the test dates, click here.

Scoring and Results

The National Benchmark test results are described on a scale of 10-99 and by Benchmarks.

Benchmark Levels for Degree Studies-


  1. Performance Levels
  2. Academic Literacy
  3. Quantitative Literacy
  4. Mathematics
  • Maximum
  • Minimum
  • Maximum
  • Minimum
  • Maximum
  • Minimum
  • Proficient
  • 100
  • 64
  • 100
  • 70
  • 100
  • 68
  • Intermediate
  • 63
  • 38
  • 69
  • 38
  • 67
  • 35
  • Basic
  • 37
  • 0
  • 37
  • 0
  • 34
  • 0

Benchmarks Levels are divided into Upper and Lower Boundaries


  1. Intermediate Levels
  2. Academic Literacy
  3. Quantitative Literacy
  4. Mathematics
  • Maximum
  • Minimum
  • Maximum
  • Minimum
  • Maximum
  • Minimum
  • Intermediate Upper
  • 63
  • 51
  • 69
  • 54
  • 67
  • 52
  • Intermediate Lower
  • 50
  • 38
  • 53
  • 38
  • 51
  • 35


To get the results of the tests, visit NBT Results 

Special Arrangements

Students with disabilities can get special accommodation. You’re required to contact the NBT Call centre- 021-6503523 or can even fill and submit the accommodation request form. To get the Special Arrangement/Accommodation form, click here. The form should be handed over 3 weeks before the selected test date. 

Test Day Essentials

Take the following things-
  • Valid ID or passport
  • NBT Registration letter along with the fee receipt
  • 2 HB pencils and an eraser 
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