Mastering the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs): Your Ultimate Guide

The National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) are a crucial part of the South African university admission process. They assess your academic readiness for tertiary education, covering Academic Literacy (AL), Quantitative Literacy (QL), and Mathematics (MAT). Proper preparation for these tests can significantly impact your university application. Here’s how you can master the NBTs and enhance your chances of success.

Understanding the NBTs

The NBTs are divided into two main components:

  1. Academic and Quantitative Literacy (AQL): This test evaluates your ability to understand and interpret information in various formats and your quantitative reasoning skills.
  2. Mathematics (MAT): This test assesses your mathematical skills, focusing on problem-solving and application of knowledge in real-world contexts.

Why the NBTs Matter

Universities use NBT scores alongside your school-leaving results to make admission decisions. High performance in the NBTs can enhance your application, showing your readiness for university-level work.

Preparation Tips for the NBT’s

1. Know the Format

Understanding the structure of the tests is the first step in your preparation. The AQL test is multiple-choice and covers both academic and quantitative literacy in a combined format, while the MAT test focuses solely on mathematics.

2. Practice with Sample Questions

Familiarise yourself with the types of questions you’ll encounter by practising with sample questions. This helps you get used to the format and time constraints. You can find official practice materials on the NBT website or use other educational resources.

3. Develop Critical Reading Skills

For the AQL section, honing your reading comprehension and critical analysis skills is essential. Read a variety of texts - newspapers, academic articles and novels - and practice summarising key points and arguments.

4. Brush Up on Mathematics

For the MAT section, review core mathematics concepts from Grades 10 to 12. Focus on areas like algebra, geometry, statistics and trigonometry. Online tutorials and textbooks can be valuable resources but remember, the NBTs do not permit the use of a calculator, so make sure to practice without it.

5. Time Management

Each section of the NBT’s is timed, so practising under timed conditions is crucial. Develop strategies to manage your time effectively during the test to ensure you can complete all questions.

6. Focus on Weak Areas

Identify your weak areas by taking diagnostic tests. Spend extra time strengthening these areas, whether it’s vocabulary for the AQL or specific math topics for the MAT.

7. Use Online Resources

There are numerous online resources, including video tutorials and interactive exercises, to help you prepare. Websites like Seventh Star and the NBT’s official site offer valuable materials.

8. Join Study Groups

Studying with peers can provide motivation and different perspectives on challenging topics. Join or form study groups to share resources, discuss difficult questions and support each other.

Test Day Tips

1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Ensure you are well-rested before the test day. A good night’s sleep can significantly impact your cognitive function and performance.

2. Eat a Healthy Breakfast

A nutritious breakfast can provide the energy you need to concentrate and perform well during the tests.

3. Arrive Early

Plan to arrive at the test centre early to avoid any last-minute stress. Familiarise yourself with the location and the test day procedures.

4. Stay Calm and Focused

During the test, stay calm and focus on one question at a time. If you encounter a difficult question, move on and return to it later if time permits.

Mastering the NBT’s requires a combination of understanding the test format, targeted preparation and effective test-taking strategies. By following these tips and dedicating time to your studies, you can approach the NBT’s with confidence and improve your chances of success. Remember, thorough preparation is key to unlocking your potential and achieving your university admission goals.

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