National Senior Certificate

National Senior Certificate

The National Senior Certificate or NSC is the equivalent of a high school diploma and is the school-leaving certificate in South Africa. This certificate is commonly known as the matriculant (matric) certificate, as grade 12 is known as the matriculation grade. The NSC, previously known as the Further Education and Training Certificate or FETC, replaced the Senior Certificate with effect from 2008 and was phased in starting with grade 10 in 2006. See High school: South Africa; Matriculation in South Africa.


Structure of the Senior Certificate

The school-leaving certificate presently awarded is the Senior Certificate (commonly known as the Matric Certificate). Pupils study at least six subjects, including two compulsory official South African languages - a first and second language - and four elected subjects. Also included as a seventh subject non-optional is Life Orientation.

Subjects are all taken on the same level - there is no higher or standard grade as in the past. The official pass grade is 40%. The mean mark in any subject is usually about 55. Only a small proportion of candidates score an 'A' in any subject (from as little as 2% to a maximum of about 10% in subjects taken by highly select groups.) A further 8 – 15% are likely to gain a 'B' and about 20 – 25% achieve a 'C' grade. The Senior Certificate is a group certificate and records an aggregate mark.

Grading system

  • A 80 – 100%
  • B 70 – 79%
  • C 60 – 69%
  • D 50 – 59%
  • E 40 - 49%
  • F 34 – 39%
  • FF 30 – 33%
  • G 20 - 29%
  • H 0 - 19%

The Department of Education has responsibility for general educational policy to be implemented by nine provincial education departments and private providers such as the Independent Examinations Board (IEB). There are nine provincial examination boards and three independent boards, of which the IEB is the biggest. The IEB operates on a national level catering primarily for independent schools.

Structure of the National Senior Certificate


Learners study at least 6 subjects - 3 compulsory and at least 3 electives. All subjects are written on one grade only and are no longer written on Higher or Standard Grade. Not all schools offer the full range of Elective subjects listed here. Each school may offer subjects specific to its academic orientation. For example, Agriculture Schools offer the agriculture-orientated subjects whereas technical Schools offer the practical and mechanical-orientated subjects.

Group A: Fundamentals (Compulsory)

  • Two official languages:
    • Home Language
    • First Additional Language
  • Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
  • Life Orientation (not examined externally)

Group B: Electives

At least 3 subjects from the following:

  • Accounting
  • Agricultural Management Practices
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Agricultural Technology
  • Business Studies
  • Civil Technology
  • Computer Applications Technology (previously Computer Studies Standard Grade - Literacy)
  • Consumer Studies
  • Dance Studies
  • Design
  • Dramatic Arts
  • Economics
  • Electrical Technology
  • Engineering Graphics & Design
  • Geography
  • History
  • Hospitality Studies (previously Home Economics)
  • Information Technology (previously Computer Studies Higher Grade - Programming)
  • Life Sciences (previously Biology)
  • Mathematics: "Paper 3" (geometry, probability); "Additional Mathematics" (calculus, further algebra, and one of: matrices, statistics, mathematical modelling)
  • Mechanical Technology
  • Music
  • Physical Science
  • Religion Studies
  • Second Additional Language
  • Third Additional Language
  • Tourism
  • Visual Arts

Pass Mark

The following levels must be met as a minimum requirement to proceed to the next grade.

  • Home Language: Level 3 (minimum 40%)
  • First Additional Language: Level 2 (minimum 30%)
  • Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy: Level 2 (minimum 30%)
  • Life Orientation: Level 3 (minimum 40%)
  • 2 Subjects (Electives): Level 3 (minimum 40%)
  • Remaining Subject (Elective): Level 2 (minimum 30%)

Life Orientation as Learning Area

Life Orientation (LO) has been introduced into the senior high school phase for the first time as an examination subject. LO is a broad-learning subject that covers non-academic skills needed in life.LO is examined, marked and moderated internally and comprises the following sections:

  • World of Work, helping learners find guidance in their choice of career and prepare them for the working world
  • Health Education, this sections includes sex education, HIV/Aids talks, pregnancy, etc.
  • Physical Education, involves physical exercise and training, it is done on a separate basis but eventually forms part of LO mark
  • Religious Education, each South African school decides which religion to adhere to (as according to the South African schools act), learners may be exempted from these classes. In practice this means that learners may be exempted from, example, the Bible Studies class, but are compelled to attend the Religious Studies class (which deals with all religions as a study).
  • Citizenship and Responsibility, this section teaches learners about their rights and their duties as citizens.


There are three types of subjects:

  • General Subjects
    • An end-of-year examination: 75% of the total mark
    • Portfolio (Continuous Assessment): 25% of the total mark
  • Practical Subjects
    • An end-of-year examination: 50% of the total mark
    • Portfolio (Continuous Assessment): 25% of the total mark
    • Practical component: 25% of the total mark
  • Language Subjects
    • An end-of-year examination: 50% of the total mark
    • Portfolio (Continuous Assessment): 25% of the total mark
    • Oral Examination: 25% of the total mark

Continuous Assessment (CASS) includes all the tests, examinations, tasks, activities, orals and projects done throughout the year. Matric results are usually out of 400 marks.

Level system (1 to 7)

  • Level 7: 80 - 100% (Outstanding achievement)
  • Level 6: 70 - 79% (Meritorious achievement)
  • Level 5: 60 - 69% (Substantial achievement)
  • Level 4: 50 - 59% (Moderate achievement)
  • Level 3: 40 - 49% (Adequate achievement)
  • Level 2: 30 - 39% (Elementary achievement)
  • Level 1: 0 - 29% (Not achieved - Fail)

University entrance

In addition to minimum grades required in each subject, universities either set their own entrance tests or use the National Benchmark Tests (NBT).[1]


  1. ^ About NBT Retrieved 21 March 2011

External links

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