Instead of asking teachers and NBT invigilators about what to expect from the NBTs, Janine asked students who have written the tests about their experiences and advice.
With the first National Benchmark Test (NBT) session of the year coming up on the 20th of May, you may be stressing about what to expect from the tests and whether you’ll do well. While we can’t guarantee your outcome, we can help you by giving some insight into the experiences of others.
Some first year university students kindly (after some bribing with cold drinks and snacks!) agreed to chat to us about how they experienced the NBTs and what you should look out for.
How did they find the registration process?
All three students found the registration process fairly simple, but Student 3 said she didn’t understand why she had to answer questions about her background.
Here’s why: At the end of the online registration process, you are asked you to fill in a survey about your home and schooling background. We ask these questions to find out if NBT writers are finding it difficult to get to our venues. Another reason is to gather data on the kind of learners who are writing the NBTs.
What was test day like?
Having heard that the tests were “chilled”, Student 3 was horrified to discover that they were challenging. “I realised I should have studied for the MAT test. AQL was chilled, but MAT was not.”
Student 2 found the Quantitative Literacy (QL) part of the AQL test difficult. Having switched from Core Maths to Maths Literacy in February, she felt that she wasn’t prepared for the way of thinking that the QL section demanded.
The AQL test consists of seven timed sections, which means you will have to complete a section within 25-30 minutes and then move on to the next section. While Student 2 felt under pressure because of this, Student 1 said she liked being timed, because she could tell that she was on track.
Student 1 said she felt mentally exhausted by the test: “It calls for a different way of thinking and questions are asked in a different way to what I am used to. The multiple choice answers are so similar that you have to think very carefully about which one is right.”
What do you now know about the NBTs that you wish you knew then?
Student 1: “It’s tricky. Teachers tell you all the time to read the question carefully, but for the NBTs you REALLY have to read the question and carefully consider every single option, because the difference between them is so minuscule that you can get ‘tricked’. I didn’t have experience with multiple choice questions to this degree. We all think multiple choice questions are easy, but the NBTs take it to another level. I think the teachers should tell us more.”
Student 2: “Pay careful attention to the content and the question. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just skip it, and carry on with the rest. Because sometimes I found myself stuck on one question for a long time and then my time was wasted. Rather come back to it if there’s time.”
Student 3: “For AQL, try to find a way to pace yourself, because you have very limited time to do each question. Work as fast as you can and then you can go back at the end if you have time.”
NBT 2 cents:
- Chat to friends who have written the tests to find out what to watch out for. Chat to your teachers to find out whether they can help you sign up for the tests or if they have any advice.
- Go to our website to register and to read about the NBTs.
- Check out our “What to expect” page to find out how long the tests are, what will happen on test day, and what to bring with you.
- Have a look at some sample questions for the AQL and the MAT test to get a feel for the test questions.