National Benchmark Test

What is it?

 The National Benchmark Test (NBT) is an assessment written by learners who intend to enrol at South African higher learning institutions for specific programmes. When applying at a higher learning institution, some qualifications may require a learner to write NBT as one of the admission requirements. According to the NBT Project, the assessment aims to: 

  • assess entry-level academic and quantitative literacy and mathematics proficiency of students;

  • evaluate the relationship between higher education entry-level proficiencies and school-level exit outcomes;

  • provide a service to HE institutions requiring additional information to assist in the placement of students in appropriate curricular routes; and


In essence, the NBTs are designed to provide criterion-referenced information to supplement the NSC results and help institutions meet the educational needs of their incoming students as effectively as possible. When applying for a qualification at a higher learning institution, a learner needs to take note of the admission requirements before applying. If the qualification requires an NBT, a learner has to visit the NBT website to make a booking and check the dates and the closest writing venues where possible. From 2020, the NBT project introduced online assessments, where learners can complete the required tets digitally.

The following are required to book:

  • South African Identity Document or foreign passport

  • An email address

  • City and location 

  • Prospective Higher Learning Institution 

  • The ideal assessment date 

When making a booking for an NBT, a learner needs to take note that there are two different tests, and they vary, Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL) and Mathematics Test (MAT).

AQL is a multiple-choice test that combines academic and quantitative literacy. Quantitative literacy is a method that determines if a learner can interpret charts, graphs and tables.  The AQL assesses the learner’s capacity to engage successfully with the demands of academic study in the medium of instruction provided. The AQL also assesses the learner’s ability to manage situations or solve problems in a real context relevant to higher education, using basic quantitative information that may be presented verbally, graphically, in tabular or symbolic form.

MAT test targets a learner’s ability related to mathematical concepts formally regarded as part of the secondary school curriculum.  Both tests run for three hours each. Learners need to note that NBT price ranges from R125 to R250 depending on the selected assessment(s).


The NBT allows learners to re-write the assessment if they wish to do so. However, not every faculty and every higher learning institution in South Africa will accept the second result. Learners need to enquire with the institution if they can submit the second results. Learners need to note that there should be at least six weeks between multiple writing sessions.

The writing day.

Learners need to check-in at the writing centres from 7:30 am across all South African writing centres. Center doors close at 8:30 am, after which they allow no one inside the test rooms. The AQL test is written in the morning, and the MAT test is written in the afternoon. No learners are allowed to come mid-day to write just the MAT test. If learners are writing the MAT test, learners must write on the same day as writing the AQL test.

On the day that the learner is writing, they must bring: 

  • A South African ID or foreign passport or a birth certificate with an affidavit from the police, including a recent photograph.

  • A Pencils and an eraser

  • Water and lunch, if the learner is writing both AQL and MAT

  • If you require special assistance such as a magnifier or other adaptive device, a learner must send a written request to at least three weeks prior to the writing session. Special arrangements will be made for any learner with a disability.

Note that learners without an official ID will be turned away and not allowed to write (unless the learner provides the following documentation: a birth certificate with an affidavit from the police, including a recent photograph.)

For more information on the NBTs, visit or email: or call: 021 650 3523.