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National Senior Certificate in South Africa

The National Senior Certificate or NSC is a high school diploma and is the school-leaving certificate in South Africa. It is also known as the matriculation certificate (matric), as grade twelfth is the matriculation grade in South Africa. The first examination of NSC was conducted in 1858, under the University of the Cape of Good Hope. This makes it over century and half old exam and NSC has since then been an indicator of state of health of the education system in South Africa.

Structure of National Senior Certificate

Students are required to study a minimum of seven subjects, which includes four compulsory subjects- two official South African languages, Life Orientation, Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy, and 3 elective subjects.

Group A: Fundamentals

The Group A subjects are Compulsory

  • Two official languages:
    • Home Language
    • First Additional Language
  • Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
  • Life Orientation

Group B: Electives

At least 3 subjects from the following:
  • Accounting
  • Agricultural Management Practices
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Agricultural Technology
  • Art
  • Business Studies
  • Civil Technology
  • Computer Applications Technology 
  • Consumer Studies
  • Dance Studies
  • Design
  • Dramatic Arts
  • Economics
  • Electrical Technology
  • Engineering Graphics & Design
  • English Literature 
  • Geography
  • History
  • Hospitality Studies 
  • Information Technology 
  • Life Sciences 
  • Mathematics: Paper 3 that includes geometry and probability
  • Advanced Programme Mathematics: Includes calculus, further algebra, and one of either matrices, or statistics, or mathematical modelling
  • Mechanical Technology
  • Music
  • Physical Science
  • Religion Studies
  • Second Additional Language
  • Third Additional Language
  • Tourism
  • Visual Arts

Life Orientation as Learning Areas

The Life Orientation (LO) comprises of the non-academic skills required in life. It consists of the following parts-
  • World of Work: This part prepares the pupils for the workplace 
  • Health Education: This part covers HIV/AIDS talks, sex education, pregnancy, and so on.
  • Physical Education: This part includes involves physical exercise and training
  • Religious Education: This part focuses on religious education.  The schools in South Africa decide which religion to follow. Students are excused from these classes. 
  • Citizenship and Responsibility: This part makes students aware about their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

Scoring and Results

The official pass grade is 40%. The mean mark in any subject is around 55. The National Senior Certificate is a group certificate and records an aggregate mark.

Level System-

There are 7 levels, starting from 1 to 7.

  1. Levels
  2. Percentages/Marks
  3. Description
  • 7
  • 80-100%
  • OutstandingAchievement
  • 6
  • 70-79%
  • MeritoriousAchievement
  • 5
  • 60-69%
  • SubstantialAchievement
  • 4
  • 50-59%
  • ModerateAchievement
  • 3
  • 40-49%
  • AdequateAchievement
  • 2
  • 30-39%
  • ElementaryAchievement
  • 1
  • 0-29%
  • Fail- Not Achieved

In all subjects- General, Practical, and Language Subjects, three components are assessed-
  • Portfolio of Evidence: A portfolio contributes to the 25% of the total marks and includes all the tests, tasks and activities, oral exams and projects completed throughout the year.
  • Final examination or End-of-year Examination: It contributes to 75% of the total marks. 
  • Practical /Performance Assessment: Contribute to 25% of the total marks 
Life Orientation: LO is evaluated through a combination of a portfolio of evidence and subject specific practical assessment.
Language Compensation: Language compensation contributes to the 5% of the total marks and is added to the final marks. The language compensation is the marks attained by the student in non-language subjects. It is for students whose first language is not Afrikaans or English. 

NSC Passing Percentage/Score Requirements

For National Senior Certificate

In order to obtain a National Senior Certificate, students must score the following marks:
  • Level 3 must be achieved in 3 subjects- 40% or more. One of the 3 subjects must be an official language
  • Level 2 must be achieved- 30% or more in 3 other subjects

For Higher Certificate Level Studies

For admittance into further study at the Higher Certificate level, students must get-

Pass the National Senior Certificate:
  • Language Requirements- Must pass either English or Afrikaans at level 2 or above

For Diploma Level Studies

In order to be eligible for admission into further study at the Diploma level, students must:

Pass the National Senior Certificate as follows:
  • One official language at home language level at level 3 with 40%
  • 3 other subjects at level 3 with  40%
  • 2 subjects at level 2 with. 30%
  • Language Requirements- Must pass either English or Afrikaans at level 2 or above

For Bachelor Degree Level Studies

In order to be eligible for admissions into further study at the Bachelor Degree level, students must
Pass the National Senior Certificate as follows:
  • One official language at home language level at level 3 or above with 40% or more
  • 4 subjects at level 4  with  50% or more
  • 2 subjects at level 2 with 30%
  • Language Requirements- Must pass either English or Afrikaans at level 2 or above
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