National Senior Certificate: Everything You Need To Know


The National Senior Certificate (NSC) is a diploma qualification gained after one has completed their 12 years of secondary schooling in South Africa. The high school diploma is also known as a matriculation certificate because Grade 12 is considered the matriculation grade. Before 2008 the NSC was known as Further Education and Training Certificate, which began phasing out in 2006.

Who qualifies

Those who are qualified to receive a National Senior Certificate have to register before the 15th of March of that year (often the secondary school of the student will apply for them), present Grade 12 learners and anyone that has obtained a School-based assessment validity within the expiration date as a part-time candidate for the end of year NSC examinations. Those that have taken time out of school may sit the exam if:

  • The mature student is 21 years or older and has achieved a Senior certificate even if it is incomplete,
  • The 21 years old or older has a School-Based Assessment that has expired and students that are between 18 and 21 that could not write the NSC exams for reasons they could not control.

The National Senior Certificate expects the matriculant to study at least seven subjects, with English and Life Orientation being compulsory and a selection between Mathematics (Core) or Mathematics (Literacy) as well as an official South African language. The student is then able to pick three electives, which include:

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

Subjects are often picked at the end of Grade 9 and commence at the beginning of Grade 10; however, one can change their electives if they find it unsuitable for them. When choosing certain subjects, the student should bear in mind that they influence the kind of tertiary institution and course they will be applicable for. It is best to research the institutions you may be interested in when selecting the combination of subjects. Learners can also get advice from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) under their Career Advice service which has established a helpline and guidance materials. The advisors are fully qualified and can be reached through various modes of contact such as through telephone (086 999 0123), SMS (send, PLEASE CALL ME to 072 204 5056), and email ([email protected]), Twitter ( and Facebook (

The subjects are graded according to 7 levels. Level 1 is from 0-29% (Not achieved – fail), level 2 is from 30 -39% (Elementary achievement), level 3 is from 40-49% (adequate achievement), level 4 is from 50-59% (Moderate achievement), level 5 is from 60-69% (Substantial achievement), level 6 is from 70-79% (Meritorious achievement) and level 7 is from 80-100% (Outstanding achievement). 40% is deemed the official pass mark, although there are certain exceptions for other subjects in order to gain your NSC. The minimum grade for a Home Language subject is 40% (level 3), for a first additional language, it is 30% (level 2), for Mathematics (Core) or Mathematics (Literacy), it is 30& (level 2), for Life Orientation it is 40% (level 3), for two electives it is 40% (level 3), and for the remaining elective, it is 30% (level 2).


The overall grade is marked using three types of assessments. General subjects have continuous assessments that count for 25% of the overall mark, while the examination counts for 75% of the overall mark. Practical subjects such as Visual arts or Drama have a practical component that exists as 25% of the total mark. The continuous assessment is 25% of the overall mark and the end of year examination is 50% of the overall mark. Language subjects consist of an Oral Examination weighing 25% of the overall mark, continuous assessments that are 25% of the overall mark and a final examination that is 50% of the total mark. Continuous assessments are all the tests, assessments, orals, tasks, and activities that have been marked by the teacher throughout Grade 12. The final examination will be conducted from October to December each year. Schools will be given timetables to give to students so that they can follow the subjects that apply to them.

The NSC offers three different passes based on the overall marks of the student. The higher certificate has the minimum admission requirements to gain entry to a higher certificate course. The diploma certificate is awarded to those who obtained moderate achievement in 4 recognised subjects and offers access to diploma courses in tertiary institutions. A bachelors pass has the highest academic requirement being an adequate achievement in 4 recognised subjects. The bachelor’s pass certificate affords the student the chance to gain a Bachelor’s degree.

How to Get your NSC Certificate

NSC certificates are offered at public schools, private schools, and public or private technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges that are accredited by Umalusi. When one is done with their NSC examinations, it is marked by a body of teachers for that specific subject. Unless otherwise stipulated, students should get their results in January of the next year. To get your results sent to you through your mobile phone, candidates have to use the USSD code *120*45856# and insert their exam number. The USSD will cost R1.50. The other alternative is sending an SMS to the number, 35685 where you will have to enter your ID and examination number. News websites will also be able to determine whether you have passed or failed; however, you will not be able to see all your marks. The Department of Education’s website will also allow you to view your results on their website ( You have to register on their website and then click on ‘NSC exam results’, which will then expect you to type in your examination number that will lead you to your results. All candidates have to obtain their statements of results from their school or college and verify whether their names and ID numbers are correct on the statement. To query any marks found on the statement, one has to submit an investigation within 30 days of receiving the results.