Academic Literacy

Available on the Mahikeng, Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark Campuses

Academic literacy refers to the ability to successfully navigate, understand, interpret, and produce texts in the academic environment. Regardless of your field of study, you will be required to read and comprehend academic texts and to display your understanding by producing information in the form of essays, assignments, examination questions and reports in order to successfully complete a degree. Research has proven that a strong correlation exists between academic literacy abilities and overall academic performance. Unfortunately, most students are not fully prepared for what is expected at the level of tertiary education, and this often leads to poor student performance.

In order to support students in acquiring these academic literacy skills the NWU offers two Academic Literacy modules at first-year level. These modules focus on skills such as listening effectively during lectures, reading complex academic literature, responsibly and ethically citing information from relevant academic sources, avoiding plagiarism, and applying academic conventions when producing written texts. Regarding the latter, two French sociologists, Bourdieu and Passeron, claimed in 1994 that academic writing is nobody’s native language. If is for this reason that becoming academically literate is an important aspect of academic acculturation at universities worldwide. The Academic Literacy modules of the NWU offer an opportunity to bridge the gap between high school and university in terms of academic literacy requirements and will put you on the right track towards academic and professional success.

Why is academic literacy so important?

  • Academic literacy is essential for survival in the academic realm.
  • Academic literacy abilities are vital to achieving academic excellence and directly influence your academic performance.
  • Being academically literate will prepare you for postgraduate studies, which require mastery of academic literacy abilities.
  • Being academically literate contributes to your employability and success in the professional sphere.
  • Academic literacy develops complex higher-order thinking abilities such as critical analysis and reflection.
  • Academic literacy boosts your academic confidence and helps you develop your own academic voice.

Course information 

At the beginning of their first academic year students write either the Test for Academic Literacy Levels (TALL – English) or Toets vir Akademiese Geletterdheidsvlakke (TAG – Afrikaans). Depending on their results (level of risk) students are required to register for either Basic Skills in Academic Literacy (ALDE/ALDA 111) and Advanced Skills in Academic Literacy (ALDE/ALDA 122) modules, or for the ALDE/ALDA 122 module only. The introductory Academic Literacy module, ALDE/A 111, addresses basic academic literacy skills in a fragmented way and focuses on skills such as effective listening, reading a text with understanding and text production (paraphrasing, referencing, essay structure). The advanced module, ALDE/A 112/122, builds on the abilities taught in the introductory module and focuses specifically on academic writing. The ALDE/ALDA 122 module is compulsory for all students, and successful completion is a requirement to obtain a degree.

Currently these modules are offered only in English at the Mahikeng Campus, and both English and Afrikaans versions are offered at the Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark campuses. Both these support modules are approached in a discipline-specific way in order to ensure learning that is relevant to the content and conventions students are likely to encounter in their field of study.

ALDE 111

ALDE 111 is an introductory module for the development of academic literacy skills in a university context. This module is only offered in the first semester. Please note that ALDE 111 is a prerequisite for ALDE 112/122. To pass ALDE 111 a student needs to obtain a module mark of at least 50%.

 After completion of this unit, a student should:

  • demonstrate basic knowledge of learning strategies, academic vocabulary and register as well as the reading and writing of academic texts in order to function effectively in the academic environment; 
  • be able to communicate orally and in writing in an effective and in appropriate manner in an academic environment; 
  • understand, interpret, and evaluate basic academic texts and write appropriate academic genres in a coherent manner by making use of accurate and appropriate academic conventions; 
  • listen, speak, read and write accurately, fluently and appropriately in an ethical framework.

Note that ALDE 111 is compulsory for students in the faculties of Law and Natural Sciences, as it forms part of their curriculum. The students enrolled in the following programmes are, however, exempted from ALDE 111 if they have received the required code for the TALL: Quantitative Risk Management, Financial Mathematics, Data Mining, Acturial Sciences, Information Technology, Urban and Regional Planning.

ALDE 112 / 122

ALDE 112 or ALDE 122 is the advanced module in academic literacy skills and is compulsory for all students (both campus and distance-based) in order to complete their degree successfully. ALDE 112 is offered in the first semester and ALDE 122 in the second. Your TALL-result and/or faculty requirements will determine in which semester you will take this module. 

The purpose of the advanced module is to support students in the development of skills to read and write effectively, to do independent research, and to submit work that is academically correct.

After completion of this unit, a student should be able to:

  • demonstrate fundamental knowledge of appropriate computer programs, apply learning, listening, reading and writing strategies, use academic language register and read and write academic texts, in order to function effectively in the academic environment; 
  • demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills on an individual level and in a group in an ethically responsible and acceptable manner in an academic environment;
  • demonstrate the ability to find and collect scientific knowledge in a variety of study fields, analyse, interpret, and evaluate texts, and synthesise and propose solutions in appropriate academic genres on an individual level and in a group in a coherent manner by making use of linguistic conventions used in formal language registers.

Engineering students who received the required code will register for ALDE 112 in the first semester. Those students that did not receive the required code will register for ALDE 111 in the first semester and ALDE 122 in the second semester.

Placement tests

All new first-year NWU students must write a compulsory academic literacy placement test (called TALL) at their campus within the first weeks of January. The placement test serves as a guideline to determine for which academic literacy module(s) a student will be registered. The student may choose to write this test in either English or Afrikaans. The language in which the student writes the test will also be the language of the Academic Literacy module(s) for which the student will be registered, depending on the results of the placement test.

As part of the Faculty of Humanities, School of Languages, the subject group Academic Literacy is furthermore a partner of the Inter-Institutional Centre for Language Development and Assessment (ICELDA).  ICELDA is responsible for the development and distribution of the TAG and TALL tests all full-time first year students must write. The test as well as the modules in Academic Literacy are offered in the interest 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. These skills are crucial to a student’s academic success and future career.

What is tested? 

The test measures the basic academic literacy skills needed to function optimally within the academic environment, such as the ability to read an academic text with comprehension.

Can I prepare for the test?

No, a student cannot prepare for the test. However, it is a challenging test and students can practice their academic literacy skills by following this link to a sample test:

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

There is not necessarily a correlation between the results of the test and matric results in language (or other) subjects. The test of academic literacy tests whether a student can cope with the language requirements of an academic situation. Language subjects at school have the sole objective of developing language proficiency.

TALL results

You will need your student number to get your results.

During the tests, you received an information sheet with important information in a big grey square. This information sheet also explains what your result means, and which ALDE-module(s) will be compulsory for you. Be sure to read this information sheet thoroughly.

Potchefstroom Campus

If you did not write the TALL-test on the scheduled dates please contact the Academic Literacy administration office soon as possible.

Vanderbijlpark Campus​

If you did not write the TALL-test on the scheduled dates please contact the Academic Literacy administration office soon as possible.


Frequently asked questions about the TALL and ALDE modules

I have already completed the TALL / Academic Literacy module elsewhere; what should I do?

You have to submit proof thereof to the Academic Literacy admin office on your respective campus. They will provide you with a letter that will state that you do not have to write the test / take the module.

Am I allowed to complete RINL (Computer Skills) in the first semester even though I have ALDE 122 in the second semester?

Yes, you may complete RINL in the first semester. 

For any queries regarding RINL visit Room 315, Ferdinand Postma Library or contact 018 299 4144 /

May I complete ALDE 122 if I was registered for ALDE 111, but I did not pass the module?

No, ALDE 111 is a prerequisite for ALDE 122.

When can I cancel an ALDE-module?

The latest date at which you can cancel an ALDE-module is the day before the exams officially commence.

When will my participation mark become available?

Participation marks are made available approximately three days before the exam.

Contact details for more information

Direct enquiries can be directed to:

Mahikeng Campus

Ms. Daisy Motsaathebe




Tel: +27 18 389 2638

Potchefstroom Campus

Ms. Karien Seymore 

Senior Administrative Assistant


Tel: +27 18 299 1045 / +27 18 285 2612

Building: F4-108A,


Vanderbijlpark Campus

Ms. Tsebo Mothibedi




Tel: +27 16 910 3509

Building: 7-203


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