The articulation gap and the NBTs

Prof. Jonathan Jansen’s article, “Dear Grade 12 pupil: Let’s talk about your matric pass“, addresses matriculants who will this year become first year university students. He criticises South African Basic Education and argues it is in dire straits, touches on what university applicants should expect when they start tertiary education, and instructs them on how to conduct themselves when they become students.

Included in the article is this passage, which could be used as a concise explanation for the use of the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) by South African universities. Jansen points out that while school has taught learners how to memorise and repeat facts, university requires critical thinking:

“The real test of how much and how well you know comes when you enter university. Here the rules are different. It will not help you in a good university to memorise and repeat facts. What will be tested is your ability to think critically, independently and thoughtfully. The smart scholars among you will, for the first time, experience difficulty in one or more university subjects.”

While the NSC examination is a school-leaving test, and tests whether a candidate has mastered the school curriculum, the NBTs are a university entrance exam, and test whether an applicant is ready for tertiary education. As Jansen points out, school and university are quite different environments. Success at school does not necessarily equate to success at university. The NBTs assess the ability to combine aspects of prior learning in competency areas that directly impact on success of first year university students.

There is a responsibility on the part of South African universities to address the problems of the “articulation gap” (discontinuity or discrepancy) between school and university, as well as the distressingly high university drop-out rates (almost 50% in 2015). The NBTs are one of the tools that can be used to help address these issues. By identifying academic strengths and weaknesses using their applicants’ NBT results, universities are able to make provision for academic assistance and support for these students. 



Is there still time to write the NBTs?

Many of you have asked whether there is still time to write the NBTs. This question can be answered in two ways:

1.Yes, there is still time to write the tests, because:

…there are five more national test dates for this cycle, which means we are offering five more chances for you to take the tests at a variety of venues all over the country. 

  • 25 November 2017
  • 2 December 2017
  • 3 December 2017
  • 5 January 2018
  • 6 January 2018

Find out where you can write the tests here.

2.No, there might not be time to write the NBTs for admission to university in 2018.

The closing date for applications to many universities has passed. View this list from EduConnect to find out whether applications are still open at the university to which you plan to apply. 

Some universities require you to have written the NBTs before you are admitted, while others only require you to write the tests during your first month at university. 

Contact the university to which you’re applying to find out whether they expect you to have written the NBTs.

If you’re planning on writing the NBTs in the next few months, register now by clicking here.



Why this blog?

This aim of this blog is to give NBT writers, their parents, and their educators some insight into the whys and hows of the NBTs. 

  • Why do you have to write the NBTs?
  • How should you go about finding more information about them?
  • What exactly is “Academic Literacy” and “Quantitative Literacy”? 

These and other questions will be answered here. You’ll also get the opportunity to ask us questions by posting a comment to any of our blog posts.

Spend a few minutes reading some of our posts, and you’ll be equipped to register for and write the NBTs in no time.

Happy reading!