Placement tests

All new first-year students at NWU Potchefstroom and NWU Vanderbijlpark must write a compulsory placement test in academic literacy (called TALL) when they arrive at the university.  The aim of the test is to determine if students possess the necessary broad academic skills in order to complete their studies successfully. These include not only language skills, but other academic skills as well. If the test result indicates that a student runs the risk of not being successful, he or she must follow an additional semester module in Academic Literacy. This module instructs students in the necessary academic skills that they require at university. It is offered in the first as well as the second semester.

The test assesses the following skills: 

  • academic vocabulary;
  • comprehension of relations between different parts of a text;
  • interpretation of visual information;
  • difference between main points and supporting details, cause and result and facts and opinions;
  • the function of text types;
  • simple numerical computations;
  • relations between different parts of a text;
  • ability to argue and define, and comprehension of texts.

The test as well as the additional module in Academic Literacy is offered in the interests of our students. The module is not a repetition of a language course taken at school or a university language course, but consists of practice in general academic skills.

Frequently asked questions

I have already taken the test/module somewhere else. Should I do it again?

No. Simply submit proof of completion of the other course to the Academic Literacy Office. They will provide you with a letter exempting you from the test or course.

Can I prepare for the test?

No, you cannot prepare for the test. It is a challenging test, so you are advised to get enough sleep the night before the test.
Follow this link to a sample test:

What is tested?

The test measures the following skills which are also focused on in the compulsory modules:

  • Is your academic vocabulary good enough?
  • Can you see how metaphors, for example, are used to describe issues?
  • Can you see how a text is compiled and linked together?
  • How comfortable are you with different types of language or text (scientific language makes use of a wide range of descriptions, diagrams, instructions, tables, arguments, etc.)?
  • Can you interpret graphic information and understand a diagram?
  • Can you distinguish between the main idea and supplementary detail, cause and effect or fact and opinion?
  • How easily do you complete simple calculations without the help of a calculator?
  • Can you classify issues and compare them?
  • Do you know how to make deductions from information and then apply them to other case studies?
  • Can you define an issue, argue a case and present evidence?
  • Can you see what the greater meaning of something is that you have learnt?

I obtained distinctions at school; why should I take the subject?

There is not necessarily a correlation between the results of the test and your matric results in your language (or other) subjects. The test of academic literacy tests if you can cope with the language requirements of an academic situation. Language subjects at school have a different objective.
Research indicates that students who have read a lot since their primary school years are generally more competent in Academic Literacy than non-readers.

Find out more 

Direct enquiries can be directed to Me. Leischa Lazenby
Office: Room 108a, L.J. du Plessis Building (F4)
Telephone number: 018-299-1045