An increasing number of chemical, physical and biological tests are performed on manufactured nanomaterials for scientific and regulatory purposes. Existing test guidelines and measurement methods are not always directly applicable to or relevant for nanomaterials. Therefore, it is necessary to verify the use of the existing methods with nanomaterials, thereby identifying where modifications are needed, and where new methods need to be developed and validated. Efforts for verification, development and validation of methods as well as quality assurance of (routine) test results significantly benefit from the availability of suitable test and reference materials. This paper provides an overview of the existing types of reference materials and introduces a new class of test materials for which the term 'representative test material' is proposed. The three generic concepts of certified reference material, reference material (non-certified) and representative test material constitute a comprehensive system of benchmarks that can be used by all measurement and testing communities, regardless of their specific discipline. This paper illustrates this system with examples from the field of nanomaterials, including reference materials and representative test materials developed at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, in particular at the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM), and at the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP).