Matric: Everything You Need To Know To Succeed

Chapter 1: Introduction

Definition Of Matric In South Africa

In South Africa, Matric refers to the final year of secondary education, also known as Grade 12. It is an important event for students as it marks the end of their high school journey and serves as a gateway to higher education or various career paths.

Matriculation is a term used to describe the successful completion of Grade 12 and obtaining a
National Senior Certificate (NSC), which is the qualification awarded to students who pass their Matric exams.


Importance And Significance Of Matric In The South African Education System

Matric holds immense importance in the South African education system. It is an individual achievement and a vital component of the country’s educational framework. 

A Matric certificate is widely recognised as a requirement for admission into universities, colleges, and other tertiary institutions. It serves as evidence of a student’s academic abilities, providing opportunities for further education and career advancement.


Overview Of The Article’s Structure And Content

This article aims to provide Grade 12 students in South Africa with a complete understanding of Matric and equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed. 

The following chapters will dive into the history of Matric, the Matric examination system, matriculation requirements, trends in Matric pass rates, relevant governing bodies, available support programs, and resources, as well as alternative pathways beyond Matric.

By exploring these topics in detail, this article aims to empower students with the information they need to navigate their Matric journey effectively.

Chapter 2: Historical Background of Matric in South Africa

Origins And Development Of Matric In South Africa

The origins of Matric in South Africa can be traced back to the influence of colonial education systems. During the colonial era, education was primarily tailored to serve the interests of the colonizers, with limited access and opportunities for the majority of the population. 

Over time, the education landscape evolved, and Matriculation emerged as a standardised assessment system to evaluate students’ readiness for higher education.


Influence Of Colonial Education Systems

The colonial education systems, heavily influenced by European models, aimed to produce a few educated individuals to assist in administrative and professional roles within the colonial system.

Matriculation, as a standardised examination, played a role in selecting candidates for further education.


Introduction Of Matriculation In South Africa

In the early 20th century, South Africa introduced its own Matriculation system, adapting it to suit the country’s specific needs.

The Matriculation examination became the benchmark for assessing students’ academic ability and determining their eligibility for higher education institutions.

Key Events And Reforms In Matric Education

The Matric education system in South Africa has undergone significant events and changes throughout its history. These changes aimed to address the inequalities and challenges present during different periods.

Here are some key events and reforms in matric education in South Africa:

  • 1925 – The introduction of the school-leaving certificate.
  • 1950 – The Junior Certificate was introduced, replacing the school-leaving certificate.
  • 1974 – The Higher Certificate came afterwards, replacing the Junior Certificate.
  • 1992 – The National Senior Certificate (NSC) was introduced, replacing the Higher Certificate.
  • 1996 – The NSC was revised, with a new curriculum and assessment system.
  • 2008 – The NSC was further revised, with a new focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • 2015 – The NSC was again revised, with a new focus on 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, and creativity.

Here are some of the key reforms that have been implemented in matric education over the years:

  • Curriculum reform
  • Assessment reform 
  • Teacher training
  • School infrastructure

Curriculum Reform

The curriculum has been revised several times over the years. With a focus on making it more relevant to the needs of the 21st-century workforce.

Assessment Reform

The assessment system has also been revised, with a focus on making it more fair and reliable.

Teacher Training

Teacher training programs have been revised to ensure that teachers are equipped to teach the new curriculum and assessment system.

School Infrastructure

School infrastructure has been upgraded to provide students with a more conducive learning environment. 

These reforms have been implemented to improve the quality of matric education in South Africa and to ensure that students are well-prepared for tertiary education and the world of work.

Here are some of the challenges that still need to be addressed in matric education in South Africa:

  • Inequality 
  • Quality
  • Funding


There is still a lot of inequality in matric education, with students from privileged backgrounds receiving better opportunities than students from underprivileged backgrounds.


There is still room for improvement in the quality of matric education, with some schools providing a higher level of education than others.


The government needs to provide more funding for matric education to ensure that all schools have the resources they need to provide quality education.

These challenges need to be addressed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in matric education.


Bantu Education Act And Its Impact On Matric

One crucial milestone was the implementation of the Bantu Education Act in 1953, which established a separate and unequal education system for Black students. This legislation significantly impacted matric education for black learners, perpetuating disparities and limiting opportunities for advancement.


Post-Apartheid Reforms And The NSC

After apartheid ended, South Africa embarked on extensive educational reforms. In 2008, the NSC replaced the Matriculation examination, introducing a standardized assessment system for all Grade 12 students. 

This reform aimed to promote fairness, equality, and improve the overall quality of Matric education.

Chapter 3: Matric Examination System in South Africa

Different Types of Matric Exams (NSC, IEB, GETC)

In South Africa, there are different types of Matric exams available to students. The most common is the National Senior Certificate (NSC), administered by the Department of Basic Education. 


Additionally, some private schools offer the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) examinations, known for their rigorous standards.


There is also the General Education and Training Certificate (GETC), an alternative qualification for students who have a grade 9 level of education.

The General Education and Training Certificate

The GETC is a qualification that is awarded to Grade 9 learners who exit the formal schooling system. It is a Level 1 qualification on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), and it is equivalent to the NSC at Grade 9.

The GETC is designed to provide learners with the basic skills and knowledge they need to participate in the world of work or to continue their education in
technical or vocational education and training (TVET) college.

This qualification is made up of four compulsory subjects:

  • Home Language
  • First Additional Language
  • Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
  • Life Orientation

Learners would also have the option to choose two elective subjects. The GETC is assessed through a combination of written exams and practical assessments.

The introduction of the GETC is still in the early stages of planning, and it has yet to be made clear when it will be implemented. However, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is considering it as a way to give learners more choice and flexibility in their education and to provide them with the skills they need to succeed within the workplace.

Here are some of the benefits of the GETC:

  • Flexibility – It would give learners more choice and flexibility in their education.
  • Skills are provided – It would provide learners with the skills they need to participate in the world of work.
  • Reduced drop-out rates – It would help to reduce the number of learners who drop out of school.

However, some challenges need to be addressed before the GETC can be implemented:

  • The DBE needs to ensure that there are enough TVET colleges and other institutions that can accommodate learners who exit the formal schooling system at Grade 9.
  • The DBE needs to ensure that the GETC is of high quality and that it meets the needs of employers.

Overall, the GETC is a potential-positive development for South Africa’s education system. However, it is important to address the challenges that need to be addressed before it can be implemented successfully.

Structure And Format Of The Matric Exams

The Matric exams follow a specific structure and format, designed to assess students’ knowledge, skills, and critical thinking abilities.


Written Examinations And Practical Assessments

The Matric exams include written examinations in various subjects, covering both theory and practical components. The written exams typically consist of essay questions, multiple-choice questions, and problem-solving tasks. 

Practical assessments evaluate students’ ability to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios, such as laboratory experiments or creative projects.


Oral And Performance-Based Assessments In Certain Subjects

In addition to written exams, some subjects require oral presentations or performance-based assessments. These assessments allow students to demonstrate their communication skills, practical abilities, and artistic talents. Examples include:

  • oral examinations in languages
  • musical performances
  • dramatic presentations

Subjects And Subject Choices For Matric Students

When you are in matric, you have to make some important decisions about your future. One of the most important decisions you will make is what subjects to choose. 

The subjects you choose will have a big impact on your career options and your chances of getting into tertiary education.


Core Subjects And Elective Subjects

There are core subjects that all Matric students must take, including:

  • Languages
  • Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
  • Life Orientation
  • Physical Sciences. 

Students also have the option to select elective subjects based on their preferences and career goals, such as history, geography, accounting, or visual arts.

Compulsory Subjects – Core Subjects

There are four compulsory subjects for matric students in South Africa:

  • Home language
  • First additional language
  • Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
  • Life Orientation

Home language

This is the language that you speak at home. It is important to choose a home language that you are familiar with because you will be using it for all of your other subjects.

First Additional Language 

The first additional language is another language that you can choose to study. This is a great opportunity to learn a new language and improve your communication skills.

Mathematics Or Mathematical Literacy

Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy is a compulsory subject for all matric students. Maths is a very important subject because it is used in many different fields, such as engineering, science, and business. 

Mathematical Literacy is a less demanding version of mathematics, and it is an option for students who prefer it over studying full mathematics.

Life Orientation

Life Orientation is a compulsory subject that teaches you about your physical, social, and emotional health. It also teaches you about decision-making, problem-solving, and coping with stress.

Elective Subjects

In addition to the compulsory subjects, you can choose three elective subjects. There are many different elective subjects to choose from, so you can choose subjects that you are interested in and that will help you achieve your career goals.

Some of the elective subjects that you can choose from include:

  • Accounting
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Business Studies
  • Dramatic Arts
  • Economics
  • Engineering Graphics and Design
  • Geography
  • History
  • Consumer Studies
  • Information Technology
  • Languages
  • Life Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physical Sciences
  • Religion Studies
  • Visual Arts

Language Requirements And Options

Language requirements differ, but most students take at least two languages—one as a home language and the other as a first additional language. English is a common choice as the main language, and other official languages of South Africa are also offered, such as

  • Afrikaans 
  • isiZulu
  • isiXhosa
  • Sepedi.

Factors To Consider When Making Subject Choices

Matric students have the opportunity to choose specific subjects based on their interests, future career aspirations, and university requirements.

There are many factors to consider when making your subject choices. The most crucial factors include:

  • Your interests and strengths
  • Your future career goals
  • The admission requirements for tertiary institutions
  • The availability of subject teachers at your school

Your interests and strengths are important factors to consider when making your subject choices. If you are interested in a particular subject, you are more likely to do well in it. 

You should also consider your strengths and weaknesses when making your choices. If you are good at maths, for example, you might want to choose subjects that involve maths.

Your future career goals are also important factors to consider when making your subject choices. If you know what you want to do after matric, you can choose subjects that will help you achieve your goals. 

For example, if you want to be a doctor, you will need to choose subjects like 

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

The admission requirements for tertiary institutions are another important factor to consider when making your subject choices. Different tertiary institutions have different entry requirements, so you need to check the requirements for the institutions you are interested in. 

For example, some institutions require that you have taken mathematics or mathematical literacy, while others are indifferent.

The availability of subject teachers at your school is another factor to consider when making your subject choices. If you want to take a particular subject, you need to make sure that there is a teacher available to teach it at your school.

Subject Choices – Conclusion

Making subject choices is an important decision, although it can end up being a simple one. By considering your interests and strengths, your future career goals, the admission requirements for tertiary institutions, and the availability of subject teachers at your school, you can make sure that you choose the right subjects for yourself. 


Tips For Choosing The Right Subjects For You

  • Talk to your teachers and guidance counsellor about your interests and strengths.
  • Do some research on different career paths and the subjects that are required for them.
  • Visit different tertiary institutions and talk to their admissions officers about their requirements.
  • Take some time to think about what you want to achieve after matric.
  • Asking for help from your teachers should be a priority, this also includes your friends and family.

The Importance Of Making Informed Subject Choices

The subjects you choose in matric will have a big impact on your future. By making informed subject choices, you can increase your chances of getting into tertiary education and achieving your career goals.

Grading System And Criteria for Matric Exams

The Matric exams in South Africa are graded based on specific criteria, allowing for fair and standardised assessment.


National Senior Certificate (NSC) Levels And Distinctions

The NSC uses a seven-point grading scale, ranging from 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest). A score of 4 is the minimum requirement to pass a subject, while a score of 5 or above is considered a higher pass. 

Students who excel in their exams may receive
distinctions, awarded to those who achieve scores of 80% or higher in a subject.


Scaling And Moderation Processes

To ensure fairness and comparability, the Matric exams undergo a scaling and moderation process. Scaling adjusts the marks to account for the difficulty level of the exam, while moderation involves external examiners reviewing and verifying the assessment standards across different schools and provinces.

Matric Exams And The NSC

Certification Process And The Issuing Of NSC

Upon successful completion of the Matric exams, students receive a National Senior Certificate. The certification process involves the compilation of subject results, verification of compliance with examination regulations, and the issuing of the NSC by the Department of Basic Education.


Recognition And Acceptance Of NSC By Universities And Employers

The NSC is widely recognised and accepted by universities, colleges, and employers across South Africa. It serves as proof of academic achievement and eligibility for further studies or employment opportunities. 

Different institutions and employers may have specific entry requirements or subject prerequisites for particular courses or job positions.

Matriculation Exemption And University Admission Requirements

Minimum Requirements For University Entry

To gain university admission, Matric students must meet certain minimum requirements. These usually include receiving a National Senior Certificate (NSC) and achieving specific scores in designated subjects, such as mathematics or physical sciences.


Matriculation Endorsement And Subject Requirements

Some universities may require students to obtain a Matriculation endorsement in addition to meeting the minimum requirements. 

A Matriculation endorsement signifies that a student has met the subject-specific criteria and is eligible for admission into specific academic programs or faculties.

Chapter 4: Matric Pass Rates And Trends In South Africa

Analysis Of Recent Matric Pass Rates In South Africa

Overall Pass Rate Trends And Fluctuations

The NSC is the highest school-leaving qualification in South Africa. The pass rate for the NSC is the percentage of students who pass the exams with a minimum of 50% in each of the compulsory subjects.

The pass rate for the NSC has been increasing in recent years. In 2012, the pass rate was 71.2%. In 2022, the pass rate was 80.1%, the highest it has ever been.

Several factors have contributed to the increase in the NSC pass rate. These include:

  • Improvements in the quality of education
  • Changes to the curriculum
  • Increased focus on assessment 
  • Support for learners

Improvements In The Quality Of Education

The government has invested heavily in education in recent years, and this has led to improvements in the quality of education in many schools.

Changes To The Curriculum

The curriculum has been revised several times in recent years, and these revisions have made it more relevant to the needs of the 21st-century workforce.

Increased Focus On Assessment

The assessment system has been revised to make it more fair and reliable.

Support For Learners

There is now more support available for learners who are struggling to pass the NSC, such as additional tutoring and support groups.

Despite the increase in the pass rate, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed. These include:

  • Inequality 
  • Quality
  • Funding


There is still a lot of inequality in the NSC pass rate, with students from disadvantaged backgrounds often not having the same opportunities as students from more privileged backgrounds.


There is still room for improvement in the quality of education in some schools.


The government needs to provide more funding for education to ensure that all schools have the resources they need to provide quality education.

Overall, the trend in matric pass rates in South Africa is positive. However, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in matric education.


Disparities In Pass Rates Among Different Provinces And Schools

Pass rates can vary among different provinces and schools within South Africa. Factors such as access to resources, quality of teaching, socioeconomic conditions, and educational support services can contribute to these disparities. 

Examining the differences will shed light on the challenges faced by students in various regions. 

Here are some specific examples of the disparities in pass rates between different provinces and schools in South Africa:

  • In 2022, the pass rate for the NSC in the Western Cape was 89.9%, while the pass rate in Limpopo was 61.5%.
  • The average pass rate for private schools in South Africa is 93%, while the average pass rate for public schools is 78%.
  • Schools in urban areas tend to have higher pass rates than schools in rural areas.

These disparities are a major challenge to the South African education system. They make it difficult for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in matric education, and they limit their opportunities for further education and employment.

Factors Influencing Matric Pass Rates

Socioeconomic Factors And Access To Quality Education

Socioeconomic factors play a significant role in Matric pass rates. Students from underprivileged conditions could face challenges such as: 

  • limited access to quality education
  • inadequate infrastructure 
  • insufficient educational resources. 

These factors can impact their academic performance and overall success in Matric exams.


Teacher Shortages And Educational Resources

The shortage of qualified teachers and educational resources can also impact Matric pass rates. Insufficient teaching staff and a lack of necessary materials and equipment can hinder the learning experience and preparation of students. 

Understanding these challenges is crucial for addressing and improving educational outcomes.

Challenges And Criticisms Of The Matric Pass Rate System

Grade Inflation And Lowered Standards

There have been concerns about grade inflation and the lowering of standards in Matric exams. Some argue that the pass rate system is an inaccurate reflection of the academic abilities of students, leading to inflated results and potentially devaluing the qualification.


Pressure On Students And High-Stakes Nature Of Exams

The high-stakes nature of Matric exams can create immense pressure on students. The significance placed on these exams for further education and career prospects can contribute to stress, anxiety, and mental health issues among students. 

It is important to acknowledge and address these challenges to support students’

Chapter 5: Matriculation Board And Bodies In South Africa

The Role Of The Department Of Basic Education In Matric Education

Curriculum Development And Policy Implementation

The Department of Basic Education plays a vital role in Matric education. They are responsible for developing the curriculum, setting educational policies, and ensuring the quality of education provided to Matric students.


Oversight And Quality Assurance

The department also has the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of Matric education, monitoring schools’ adherence to standards, and conducting quality assurance measures to maintain the integrity of the system.

Examination Bodies Responsible For Administering The Matric Exams

The Independent Examinations Board (IEB)

The IEB is an independent examination body that administers exams in private schools. They set their standards and offer examinations that are known for their academic accuracy and differentiation from the NSC exams.


Provincial Education Departments And Their Roles

The provincial education departments play a crucial role in the administration of Matric exams. They ensure that the exams are conducted smoothly, coordinate the marking process, and release the results to students.

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) And Its Role In Matriculation

Accreditation And Standardization Of Qualifications

The SAQA is responsible for accrediting qualifications in South Africa, including the Matric certificate. They ensure that qualifications meet national standards and are recognised both domestically and internationally.


Recognition Of Foreign Qualifications

The SAQA also plays a role in the recognition of foreign qualifications. They assess and compare qualifications obtained from other countries to determine their equal status in the South African education system.

Chapter 6: Matric Support Programs And Resources

Government Initiatives And Programmes To Support Matric Students

Matric Second Chance Programme

The Matric Second Chance Programme provides an opportunity for individuals who want to improve their matric exam results. It offers supplementary exams, additional support, and resources to help them succeed.


Extra Classes And Tutoring Support

The government also organises extra classes and provides tutoring support to Matric students. These initiatives aim to enhance their understanding of important subjects, improve their study skills, and prepare them for exams.

Private Organisations And NGOs Providing Matric Support

Scholarships And Bursaries For Matric Students

Private organisations and NGOs offer scholarships and bursaries to support Matric students financially. These opportunities help reduce the financial burden of education and enable students to pursue further studies.


Mentorship And Career Guidance Programs

Mentorship and career guidance programs assist Matric students in making informed decisions about their future paths. They guide subject choices, university applications, and career exploration, helping students navigate the transition beyond Matric.

Tutoring And Mentorship Programs For Matric Students

Peer Tutoring And Study Groups

Peer tutoring and study groups are effective ways for Matric students to support each other academically. Students can collaborate, share knowledge, and provide assistance in areas where they excel, fostering a sense of community and academic growth.


Online Resources And Digital Learning Platforms

Digital learning platforms and online resources offer additional support to Matric students. These platforms provide access to educational materials, practice exams, video tutorials, and interactive tools to enhance learning and revision.

Chapter 7: Matriculation Alternatives And Options

Vocational Education And Training Pathways After Matric

TVET Colleges

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges offer practical and skills-focused programs for students pursuing vocational careers. These colleges provide training in various fields such as engineering, hospitality, and business.

TVET colleges offer a wide range of vocational education and training programmes after matric. These pathways can lead to a variety of occupations, including:

  • Engineering
  • Information technology 
  • Business studies 
  • Healthcare 
  • Trades


TVET colleges offer a variety of engineering programmes, such as civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as construction manager, electrical engineer, and mechanical engineer.

Information Technology

There are many Information technology programmes available, such as computer science, networking, and software development. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as software engineer, network administrator, and IT support specialist.

Business Studies

Business studies programmes are also available, such as accounting, marketing, and human resources management. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as accountant, marketer, and human resources manager.


Healthcare programmes are available for students who would like to enter the medical field, such as nursing, dental hygiene, and radiology. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as nurse, dental hygienist, and radiology technologist.


Trades have many programmes offered, such as plumbing, electrical work, and carpentry. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as plumber, electrician, and carpenter.

In addition to these general pathways, TVET colleges also offer many more specialised pathways, such as:

  • Automotive
  • Fashion
  • Tourism


TVET colleges offer programmes in automotive mechanics, bodywork, and paintwork. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as automotive mechanic, bodywork technician, and paint technician.


You can find fashion programmes available at TVET colleges, with programmes like fashion design, garment manufacture, and fashion marketing. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as fashion designer, garment manufacturer, and fashion marketer.


They have programmes in tourism management, hospitality, and event management. These programmes can lead to a range of occupations, such as tourism manager, hotel manager, and event planner.

They also offer a variety of benefits to students, including:

  • Hands-on learning
  • Work-integrated learning
  • Employment opportunities
  • Career Guidance

Hands-On Learning

TVET colleges focus on hands-on learning, which allows students to develop the skills they need to succeed in their chosen field.

Work-Integrated Learning

Many of these colleges offer work-integrated learning opportunities, which allow students to gain experience in their chosen field while they are still studying.

Employment Opportunities

They have strong links to the industry. This means that students are well-placed to find employment after they graduate.

Career Guidance

They offer career guidance services to help students choose the right pathway for them.

If you are interested in a vocational education and training pathway after matric, then TVET colleges are a great option. They offer a wide range of programmes that can lead to many careers, and they provide students with the skills and experience they need to succeed in the workplace.



They provide hands-on training and employment opportunities for Matric graduates. They combine on-the-job experience with theoretical learning, allowing individuals to develop skills in specific trades and professions.


Other Forms Of Vocational Training

Apart from TVET colleges and apprenticeships, there are alternative vocational training options available, such as short courses and certifications. These programs cater to specific industries and provide specialised skills for career advancement.

Further Education And University Pathways

University Entrance Requirements

For Matric students aspiring to pursue higher education, universities have specific entrance requirements. These requirements usually include a minimum pass in certain subjects and meeting the university’s academic requirements.


Matriculation Exemption And Subject Requirements

Matriculation exemption is a qualification that allows students to meet the university admission requirements. It is obtained by achieving specific subject combinations and meeting the minimum pass criteria set by the Department of Basic Education.

Gap Year And Alternative Paths

Taking a gap year after Matric is an option for students to explore different opportunities, gain work experience, or engage in volunteer work. It provides time for self-discovery and personal growth before making decisions about further education or career paths.

Lifelong Learning And Skills Development

Matriculation is not the end of one’s educational journey. Lifelong learning and skills development are essential for staying competitive in the ever-changing job market. 

Continuous education, professional development programs, and upskilling opportunities are available to individuals throughout their lives.


In conclusion, Matric is a critical milestone in the South African education system. It serves as a gateway to further education, employment, and personal growth. Understanding the significance of Matric, the examination system, support programs, and alternative pathways is essential for students, educators, and policy-makers. 

By providing comprehensive information and support, Matric students can be empowered to succeed and contribute meaningfully to their communities and the nation as a whole.

Remember, Matric is not just a certificate but a stepping stone towards a bright future. With dedication, hard work, and the right support, every student can overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

Author: Kamogelo Mkonto
Editor: Connor Bergsma
Date Published: July 11, 2023

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