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
  • Act
  • 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).