National Senior Certificate


The National Senior Certificate or NSC is a high school diploma and is the school-leaving certificate in South Africa. This certificate is commonly known as the matriculation (matric) certificate, as grade 12 is 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.


The school-leaving certificate presently awarded is the National Senior Certificate. Pupils study at least seven subjects, including two compulsory official South African languages, either Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy, Life Orientation and three elective subjects.


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 National Senior Certificate is a group certificate and records an aggregate mark.


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)


The Department of Basic 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.


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.