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FAQ

What are the NBTs?

What is in the tests?

There are two tests. The Academic Literacy and Quantitative Literacy domains (AQL) are combined into one multiple-choice test. Each section is timed, for a total of three hours of writing time.

The AQL test is written by applicants to all programmes. The second test is Mathematics (MAT), which is written by applicants to programmes for which mathematics is a requirement.

The MAT test is also multiple-choice and timed, with three hours allowed. These tests are described in more detail under ‘Test Content’.

Must I write both the AQL test and the MAT test?

The university and faculty where you apply will determine which tests you must write. The application requirements include closing dates and deadlines for receiving NBT results.

This will help you decide when to write. Please note that each university has different requirements and sometimes departments within the same faculty may require different tests or have different deadlines.

In general, the AQL test is written by applicants for all programmes while both tests are written by applicants to programmes for which mathematics is a requirement, such as Health Sciences, Engineering, Accounting, and most of the sciences. Please check with each Faculty before you register for the NBTs.

Please note that the MAT test cannot be written as a stand alone test.

How do I prepare for the test?

There are no special study materials for these tests. Keep in mind the usual common sense advice given to students who are about to take a test: Get adequate sleep the night before and avoid having to rush things at the last minute. Do what works best for you.

Are past tests available?

No. The tests are confidential and are not available to anyone.

Is Quantitative Literacy the same as Mathematical Literacy?

The Quantitative Literacy test is closely related to the intended outcomes of the NSC subject Mathematical Literacy. However, the NBTs assess a writer’s ability to apply that content within the context of higher education.

What if I have not written my Grade 12 exams yet?

Different institutional and faculty requirements determine the deadlines for learners to submit NBT results, which may be as early as June or July.

The time of writing should not be a cause for concern; available data suggests that learners writing the test late in the year have no advantage over those writing in earlier sessions.

However, learners who have not completed the curriculum, or who feel that they may benefit from further revision, may choose to write the tests later in the cycle, but must still meet posted institutional deadlines.  

You should write the NBTs when you feel ready. Learners in South Africa are expected to complete the secondary syllabus and write the mock matric exams beginning in September.

The NBTs are available from the end of May 2014 until the first Saturday in January 2015, if you feel that you should wait until you finish your syllabus. You must decide for yourself whether you want to write before or after your exams. 

When are the NBTs written?

Where can I write?

There are twelve NBT National writing sessions scheduled on Saturdays, three on Fridays and four on Sundays. This schedule will be updated as additional sites are confirmed for these dates.

The NBT Project reserves the right to cancel a session with three weeks’ notice.  Reasons for cancelling include low registration as well as structural problems with a venue.
 

When should I write?

You should write the NBTs when you feel ready. However, you must also meet the closing dates and deadlines for the institutions where you are applying. Remember also that you must allow time for your NBTs to be processed, scored and the results sent to institutions.  The dates on which results are available are shown in the test schedule.

Different institutional and faculty requirements determine the deadlines for learners to submit NBT results, which may be as early as June or July.

The time of writing should not be a cause for concern; available data suggests that learners writing the test late in the year have no advantage over those writing in earlier sessions.

However, learners who have not completed the curriculum, or who feel that they may benefit from further revision, may choose to write the tests later in the cycle, but must still meet posted institutional deadlines.
Click here to view the test schedule 

Do I write both tests on the same day?

Yes. The NBT Project does not allow a learner to write the AQL on one day and the MAT on another. If you wish write a second time, you still must write the AQL in the morning and the MAT in the afternoon.

What if there is no test site near where I live?

A goal of the NBT project is to schedule sites around South Africa. If you live in another country or an area where there are no tests nearby, please click here to send us an e-mail and we will attempt to schedule a special site for your test.

What if I can’t write on a Saturday?

As shown on the NBT test schedule, there are writing sessions scheduled on Fridays and Sundays.

What if I miss my scheduled test?

Registration for the NBT is specific to the date and the site you selected.  If you miss your scheduled date, or change your mind about the test session, you must register and pay again. 

Should there be an emergency, you must send an e-mail to nbt@uct.ac.za as soon as possible. NBT Project staff will contact you the following week to explore your options for a make-up test.

With documentation of a legitimate emergency, you may not be required to pay a second time. 

Legitimate situations that have occurred in the past include taxi accident on the way to the test site, hospitalization, broken collar bone, and family funeral.

Writers who become sick during the NBTs are always offered the next available writing session. However, the entire test must be written at the make-up session as partial answer sheets are not scored.

Should I write AQL and MAT?

Which tests are required?

Institutions determine which tests are required. Please check with each faculty where you intend to apply before you register for the NBTs.

In general, the AQL test is written by applicants for all programmes while both tests are written by applicants to programmes for which mathematics is a requirement, such as Health Science, Engineering, Accounting, and most of the sciences.

What if I am applying to two institutions with different applications deadlines?

If you are applying to more than one institution or faculty then you need to register and write the NBTs to meet the earliest deadline, even if you are also applying to a university that will write the test during registration. 

You need only write the tests once, even when applying to more than one institution. All institutions to which you apply will be able to access your NBT results.

Are there any special requirements if I am applying to Health Sciences?

All applicants to programmes in the Health Science Faculties must write both the AQL test and the MAT test. Each institution sets its own deadlines to submit results and some deadlines are in June and July.

You must check with the faculties to which you are applying to ensure that your NBT results are received by the deadline. 

Health Science Faculties work with the NBT Project to ensure that sufficient writing sessions and seats are available that meet deadlines at all institutions.

In which language must I write?

The NBTs are available in English and Afrikaans, which are the common languages of instruction at the tertiary level in South Africa.

Remember that the NBTs are intended to assess your competence in the language of instruction at the tertiary level. The language policy where you intend to study will determine whether you write the NBTs in English or Afrikaans.

The undergraduate prospectus from the institution where you are applying will provide the language requirements.

I am a student with disabilities. How do I apply for a special session?

The best way is to contact the Office for Student Disabilities at the institution where you intend to apply. That office will know what support is available at that campus, the support that can be offered to enable you to write the NBTs, and how to arrange a session with that support.

There is a form to request a special session that must be completed in order to make final arrangements for the setting that best mitigates your disability. Click here to download the form.

Note that testing is NOT available on weekends for students requiring any modificiation to the standard test setting, including additional time.

If you have been receiving services in your secondary school, you may also ask your school to request required support by sending an e-mail to nbt@uct.ac.za. Any modifications to the standardized testing process must be arranged and approved at least three weeks prior to the date when you wish to write.

Approval will require medical documentation indicating the nature of the disability and the appropriate type of support. Requests without medical documentation will not be processed.

Please note that not all test venues have handicap access with ramps or elevators. If you have a physical disability that only requires access assistance, you still must contact us three weeks in advance to ensure that the venue where you are scheduled to write is accessible.

How do I get my NBT results?

How long does it take to get results?

It takes about two weeks to process tests, score answer sheets and post results. Results will be sent to institutions two weeks after each writing session as shown on the NBT Test Schedule. Results are uploaded for writers approximately three weeks after the writing session. This helps ensure that learners wishing to write a second time have a minimum of six weeks between writing sessions.

How do I get my results?

You can access your results by logging onto the NBT website with your ID or by sending a request to nbt@uct.ac.za three weeks after the session. Should you have difficulties accessing your results, you must send an e-mail to request your results.  NBT Project staff are not allowed to release your results over the phone.

How do institutions get my results?

When you apply to an institution, they will place you on their applicant list. As institutions and bursary awarders process applications, they send the NBT Project a request for scores that match the applicants on the list. Institutions and bursary awarders will only get your results when requested by them.

Before you submit your registration request to the NBT Project, you are asked to check a box giving permission for your results to be sent to requesting institutions and for use in research projects. Be sure to read and check this before hitting ‘Submit’.

Can I write twice to try for a better score?

The NBT Project allows an individual to write the tests two times. Note that you must pay the total fee both times. If you write the MAT test a second time, you must also write the AQL test a second time that morning. You must first check with the institutions where you are applying; not all will accept a second score.

How are the results reported?

The results of the NBTs are reported as three percentage scores: AL, QL and MAT that reflect actual performance, not ranking.  Results are categorized by ‘Benchmark Level’ for use by institutions as shown in the table below.

What is the pass mark?

There is no pass mark for the NBTs. Rather, each institution and programme uses the Benchmark Levels, along with other available information, when processing applications and determining placement.

Some programmes and some institutions will accept a wider range of scores, while others have set a higher target and more narrow range.

If you have any questions about how your result is used by an institution to which you have applied, you must contact the relevant Admissions Office.

The NBT Project does not determine nor create policy on the use of results.

What do the results mean?

THE NATIONAL BENCHMARK TESTS LEVELS:

Assessment of required institutional response

Description of benchmark category

ACADEMIC LITERACY

QUANTITATIVE LITERACY

MATHEMATICS

Performance in domain areas suggests that academic performance will not be adversely affected. If admitted, students may be placed into regular programmes of study.

Writers performing at the Proficient Level should be able to: Select and use a complex range of vocabulary; understand and interpret non-literal language; understand and critically evaluate the structure and organisation of texts and ideas within these texts; evaluate and use a complex range of different text genres; develop academic arguments; evaluate and interpret the evidence for claims.

Writers performing at the Proficient Level should be able to: Select and use a range of quantitative terms and phrases; apply quantitative procedures in various situations; formulate and apply complex formulae; read and interpret complex tables, graphs, charts and text and integrate information from different sources; do advanced calculations involving multiple steps accurately; identify trends/ patterns in various situations; reason logically & competently interpret quantitative information.

Writers performing at the Proficient Level should be able to: Demonstrate insight, and integrate knowledge and skills to solve non-routine problems and make competent use of logical skills (conjecture, deduction). Tasks typically require competence in multi-step procedures, represented in the framework outlined below: Modelling, financial contexts, multiple representations of functions (including trigonometric), trigonometric and geometric problems (2D and 3D), measurement, representation and interpretation of statistical data.

The challenges in domain areas are such that it is predicted that academic progress will be affected. If admitted, students’ educational needs should be met as deemed appropriate by the institution (e.g. extended or augmented programmes, special skills provision).

Writers performing at the Intermediate level should be able to: Derive word-meanings from context; recognise non-literal language; recognise the fundamental structural and organisational characteristics of texts; recognise and be able to use a specific range of text genres; understand difference between academic and everyday arguments; make conclusions on the basis of evidence given for claims.

Writers performing at the Intermediate level should be able to: Select and use many quantitative terms and phrases; apply known quantitative procedures in familiar situations; formulate and apply simple formulae; read and interpret moderately simple tables, graphs, charts and text; do routine calculations accurately most of the time; identify trends/patterns in familiar situations; reason moderately in simple situations.

Writers performing at the Intermediate level should be able to: Integrate knowledge and skills to solve routine problems with tasks that involve multi-step procedures and require some information processing and decision-making skills, within the framework below: Estimation, calculation, pattern recognition and comparison (in numerical algebraic and financial contexts); solution of equations; use and interpretation of relevant functions represented algebraically or graphically; geometric properties (2D and 3D); geometric and trigonometric problems (2D); calculation and application of statistical measures; representation and interpretation of statistical data.

Serious learning challenges identified: it is predicted that students will not succeed without extensive and long-term support. Institutions admitting students performing at this level would need to provide this support through bridging programmes (e.g. FET provision or non-credit preparatory courses).

Writers performing at the Basic level should be able to: Cope with a limited range of vocabulary; summarise key ideas related to the organisational structure of texts; recognise that texts have different purposes; understand the fundamental syntactical features of English language; interpret textually explicit information

Writers performing at the Basic level should be able to: Select and use some basic quantitative terms and phrases; apply some known quantitative procedures partially correctly in familiar situations; formulate or apply simple formulae; interpret simple tables, graphs, charts and text; sometimes do simple calculations correctly; identify trends/patterns in familiar situations.

Writers performing at the Basic level should be able to: Carry out mathematical computations that require direct application of simple concepts and procedures in familiar situations. Tasks involve single-step problems requiring recall and reproduction of basic knowledge or procedures, within the real numbers system; simple algebraic contexts; single representations of relevant functions and recognition of their graphs; identification of objects (2D and 3D); simple geometric and trigonometric calculations; identification and use of some statistical measures; simple representation of statistical data.

In what languages can I write the NBTs?

In what languages are the tests available?

The NBTs are available in English and Afrikaans – the common languages of instruction used at Institutions of Higher Education in South Africa. When registering, you will be asked to indicate the language in which you wish to write.

Note that you can only choose one language; there is no option to write one test in English and the other in Afrikaans.

For students with disabilities, the AQL test has also been translated into Braille.

In what language should I write?

The NBTs are designed to assess readiness for tertiary study in the language of instruction where you plan to attend classes.

The institution to which you apply will have established and posted a language policy or language guidelines on its website. For example, UCT policy states that English is the language of instruction and assessment, while University of Free State and Stellenbosch University maintains a policy that the language of assessment is student preference.

Be aware that some institutions have different language policies at different campuses; certain programmes may even have their own unique language requirements. If you have any question about language requirements, contact the relevant faculty at the institution where you are applying to check the language of instruction before registering for the NBTs.

What if I am applying to two institutions with different language policies?

There are two very general guidelines we can offer. Either chose the language of the programme that is your first choice; or, use English as the default language. However, you are the only one who can make this final decision.

I am a foreign student. May I use an interpreter?

No. The NBTs are designed to assess your abilities and skills in the language of instruction; also, some programmes specifically require the AQL test as an assessment of proficiency in English.

What are the fees for the NBTs?

What does it cost to write the NBT?

Costs for the 2015 admission cycle are:

  • AQL only: R 85
  • AQL and MAT: R 170

Registered applicants that do not report for scheduled tests must again register and pay in order to re-schedule a missed test. Please note that you may not write only the MAT test.

Can I write the NBTs more than once?

The NBT Project allows you to write the tests a second time.  However, not every faculty and every institution in South Africa will accept the second result. 

Please check with the institution before registering again. 

If registering a second time, you will need to log in with your name and official ID number; do not start a new application. Follow the directions to select the date and test centre. 

Note that there should be at least six weeks between writing sessions.

How do I pay?

All NBT fees must be paid through EasyPay. Take your NBT registration letter with you to an EasyPay Paypoint near you to pay. You may also pay on the EasyPay website: www.easypay.co.za and then print out your receipt.

EasyPay Paypoints are found across South Africa at food stores including Pick N Pay, ShopRite, Checkers, and Spar, as well as many other merchant sites.

Note that stores continually open and close; this list is not an official EasyPay document and may not be current and comprehensive.

What if I get sick before or during the test? Do I have to pay again?

Results for the NBTs are only valid if you complete the test. Should you get sick during the test; the Chief Invigilator will collect your materials and contact information.

A staff member from the NBT Project will contact you the following week to schedule another writing session as soon as possible. There is no cost for this make-up test and the first answer sheet will be destroyed, not scored.

If you become sick or injured before the test, send an e-mail to nbt@uct.ac.za or call 021-650-3523. Upon receipt of adequate documentation such as a hospital or police report, you will be allowed a make-up test with no additional fees charged. 

How do I register for the NBTs?

Why do I have to register?

The NBT Project and the local sites guarantee space and materials only for learners registered to write at a specific site on a specific day.

  1. Test sites and rooms are reserved with a fixed number of seats. The number of writers at a site is limited to the number of seats available.  When registration reaches capacity, we work to increase available seats. When registration is very low at a site, the testing session may be cancelled.
  2. Registration information allows the NBT Project to contact writers if a test is moved to a different location, delayed or cancelled due to emergencies such as strikes, weather conditions, or power outages.
  3. A few days before the test date, NBT materials are sent to sites based on registration. Immediately following a test session, all NBT materials are returned – including unused tests and answer sheets.  Adherence to test security policies prevents the NBT Project from shipping surplus materials.
  4. Registration does not ‘roll-over’ to a later session if you miss the scheduled date. Each test session has a unique set of testing materials. Test materials are prepared with the name and ID number of registered writers for each test session.

What do I need in order to register for a NBT writing session?

You must have your official ID booklet or foreign passport. You are required to enter your ID number and your name exactly as it appears in your ID booklet. You also need to check the following before you select the date and test site:

  • Your school’s calendar for sporting and social events, holidays, and exams;
  • Closing dates and application deadlines at all institutions where you intend to apply;
  • The language of instruction where you are applying; and
  • Your transportation options to the test site.

How do I register?

You must register on the Internet. Click on the tab ‘Register to Write’ and then simply follow the prompts. A letter confirming your registration and with an EasyPay barcode will be available for you to download and print immediately after you click on ‘Submit’.

If you can access the Internet on your cell phone, you can go to the NBT website in the same way as you would “MXit” or “Facebook.” After entering your personal information, you can obtain your NBT registration letter and EasyPay barcode in one of two ways:

  1. Enter your email address and the letter will be sent for you to download and print later; or
  2. When you have access to a computer and printer, return to http://nbt.uct.ac.za, log-in with your ID, and then print the letter.

You must take this NBT registration letter to an EasyPay Paypoint near you to pay the testing fees. You may also pay on the EasyPay website: www.easypay.co.za and then print out your receipt.

What if I want to change my registration to a later date?

Registration for the NBTs is specific to the date and location you select. You are allowed to make changes to your registration online until the closing date posted on the test schedule. Once registration closes for that test date, you cannot make any changes.  Should you miss the test for which you are registered, you must register again and pay again in order to write the NBTs.

Remember that the test materials are unique for each test date; a new set of test materials must be prepared for you in order for you to write on a later date.

What if I get sick or have a family emergency?

Should there be an emergency, you must send an e-mail to nbt@uct.ac.za as soon as possible. NBT Project staff will contact you the following week to explore your options for a make-up test. With documentation of a legitimate emergency, you may not be required to pay a second time. 

Legitimate situations that have occurred in the past include taxi accident on the way to the test site, hospitalization, broken collar bone, and family funeral.

Writers that become sick during the NBTs are always offered the next available writing session. However, the entire test must be written at the make-up session as partial answer sheets are not scored.

Where can I write the NBTs?

What is NBT test day like?

What time do I have to be at the test centre?

Check-in at all sites in South Africa begins at 07:30. Door closes at 8:30, after which no one is allowed inside the test rooms. The AQL test is written in the morning and the MAT test is written in the afternoon.

No learner is allowed to come mid-day to write just the MAT test. If you are writing the MAT test, you must write it the same day as you write the AQL test.

What do I need to bring with me?

You must bring:

  • Your South African ID booklet or foreign passport
  • Pencils and eraser
  • Water and lunch, in case you are writing both AQL and MAT

Do not bring a calculator, ruler, dictionary or other learning aid. If you require special assistance such as a magnifier or other adaptive device, you must send a written request to nbt@uct.ac.za at least three weeks prior to the writing session. Special arrangements will be made for anyone with a disability.

Note that learners without an official ID will be turned away and not allowed to write.

How long are the tests?

The AQL test consists of seven sections. Each section is timed; some sections allow 25 minutes and some allow 30 minutes of writing time. The total writing time for the AQL is three hours and five minutes.

No one is allowed to leave once the AQL test begins. The MAT test is also timed, with three hours of writing time allowed.

How do I find my test room?

It can be difficult to locate the test room on a university campus or a town that is new to you. Please allow sufficient time so that you arrive at 7:30 to check-in. Should you have any concerns about the exact location of the test room, please send your concern to nbt@uct.ac.za at least three days before the writing session and we will send you a directions and a map.

What are the tests like?

The NBTs are multiple choice tests. Answers are recorded on what is called a ‘bubble sheet’.  The answer sheets are scanned and then translated into scores using sophisticated computer programs. You may download a sample answer sheet to review.

What if I did not register? Can I still ‘pitch up’ and write the NBTs?

NBT test materials are sent to each site based on the number of registered and paid writers.  The NBT Project is only responsible for providing seats and test materials for registered writers. 

NBT test materials are prepared for each learner that is registered. Materials prepared for learners that do not show up cannot be used again and must be destroyed.

Learners that register but do not show up are still responsible for the cost of these materials and the officials hired to administer the writing
session.

Learners intending to apply to universities must act responsibly. You must register, pay, and show up on time!

Where could I write the National Benchmark Tests if there are no venues close to me?

REMOTE WRITERS

A remote writer/student is someone who is unable to write at an institution that generally facilitates the national benchmark test sessions.

Usually it is a writer who is in another country or in an area too remote to be able to make a trip of a reasonable distance to the nearest testing centre.

Procedures

Please note that the test proctor/invigilator should be a person with credibility and not a friend or relative of the writer.

The responsibilities of the test proctor/invigilator are to:

  1. Serve as a receiver for mailed tests and not receive the tests directly from the writer/student;
  2. Maintain test security and confidentiality, and invigilate the test in a quiet environment;
  3. Ensure that the writer does not use any texts, notes or outside help;
  4. Personally mail the original written script(s) to the NBT Project
  5. Not photocopy or reproduce the tests or the student’s answers

The responsibilities of the writer/examinee are to:

  1. Make arrangements for testing with the test proctor/invigilator according to the test due date;
  2. Maintain test security and confidentiality;
  3. Carry out any reasonable and legitimate instructions given by the proctor/invigilator

PLEASE NOTE: The Writer/ Student is responsible for all payments such as proctor/invigilator, courier, venue and test.

When we receive the proctor’s/invigilator’s details we will communicate with him/her directly via the e-mail address provided.  It is the writer’s responsibility to stay in touch with the proctor/invigilator.