What Is The National Senior Certificate (NSC) In South Africa?

In South Africa, the National Senior Certificate (NSC) is a school-leaving qualification that signals the end of high school. It is commonly known as the matriculation (matric) certificate as it is obtained at grade 12 which is the matriculation grade.

The National Senior Certificate (NSC), previously known as the Further Education and Training Certificate (FETC), replaced the Senior Certificate (SC) as the school-leaving qualification in 2008. Unlike the SC, NSC subjects are not divided into higher grade and standard grade.

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NSC subject requirements

At NSC, students have to study at least seven subjects, including:

  • two compulsory official South African languages, with one being a "home language"
  • either Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
  • Life Orientation
  • and three elective subjects.

The subject requirements are structured in such a way that a student must take 4 fundamental subjects (compulsory) and at least 3 elective subjects (optionals). The range of elective subjects offered by varies by school, according to each school’s academic orientation. For example, agriculture schools will offer agriculture-oriented subjects whereas technical schools will offer practical and mechanical-oriented subjects.

Fundamental subjects

The four compulsory subjects a student must take include:

  1. Two official South African languages, with one being at the home language level and these include:
    • Afrikaans
    • English
    • Ndebele
    • Northern Sotho
    • Southern Sotho
    • Swazi
    • Tsonga
    • Tswana
    • Venda
    • Xhosa
    • Zulu
  2. Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, or Technical Mathematics
  3. Life Orientation

Elective subjects

On top of the 4 fundamental subjects, a student must also select at least 3 subjects from the following:

  • Accounting
  • Agricultural Management Practices
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Agricultural Technology
  • Business Studies
  • Civil Technology
  • Computer Applications Technology
  • Consumer Studies
  • Dance Studies
  • Design
  • Dramatic Arts
  • Economics
  • Electrical Technology
  • Engineering Graphics & Design
  • Geography
  • History
  • Hospitality Studies
  • Information Technology
  • Life Sciences
  • Mechanical Technology
  • Music
  • Physical Science
  • Religion Studies
  • Second Additional Language
  • Third Additional Language
  • Tourism
  • Visual Arts

Life Orientation learning areas

Life orientation (LO) is taught in the 12th year of high school (grade 12). However it is technically not included in the National Senior Certificate examinations as it is graded by the school. The Life Orientation learning areas include the essential non-academic skills required in life, such as:

  • World of Work – include career guidance and readies the students for the workplace environment.
  • Health Education – teaches students about real life health issues such as HIV/AIDS, sex education, pregnancy, and so on.
  • Physical Education – teaches students about physical exercise and training.
  • Religious Education – focuses on religious education and the religious aspects of life. The schools decide which religion to follow. Students can be excused from these classes.
  • Citizenship and Responsibility – teaches students about their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

NSC percentage grading scale

The percentage grading scale at NSC is divided into seven levels:

  • 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 – failed

The minimum passing grade varies with the subject and is

  • 40% for home language, two elective subjects, and life orientation
  • 30% for first additional language, mathematics or mathematical literacy, and the third elective subject.

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.


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