Mastering Matric: Symbols, Levels, and Their Impact on South African Education

Matric symbols and levels in South Africa are an essential aspect of the education system. Matriculation, also known as the Grade 12 final exams, marks the end of secondary education in South Africa. It is a significant event for students as it determines their eligibility for further studies, both at tertiary level and in the job market.

The matriculation qualification is measured using symbols and levels. The symbols range from A to G, where A is the highest and G being the lowest. The levels range from 1 to 7, with 7 being the highest level of achievement. To qualify for a matriculation certificate, students must obtain at least a rating of 4 (50-59%) in four subjects, including two of the required subjects – English (home language or first additional language) and Life Orientation.

Besides the minimum requirements, universities and colleges set their own admission requirements. These vary according to the institution and the field of study. The higher the admission requirements, the more competitive the program is. Thus, obtaining higher symbols and levels is crucial for students who want to pursue higher education. For students who opt for vocational training, there are different requirements that must be met, such as obtaining a certain number of credits in particular subjects.

Grading System in South Africa

South African students receive an NSC (National Senior Certificate) upon completing their secondary education. The NSC is awarded to students who have completed the country’s nationally recognised school-leaving certificate. The certificate is based on their academic performance in their final year, as well as the marks received for their mid-year examinations (preliminary exams).

The NSC grading system is based on performance bands, with each band representing a specific percentage range. The bands are used to determine the level of achievement for each subject, as well as for the overall NSC.

The following table outlines the NSC grading system for South Africa:

Achievement LevelPercentage RangeDescription
780-100%Outstanding Achievement
670-79%Meritorious Achievement
560-69%Substantial Achievement
450-59%Adequate Achievement
340-49%Moderate Achievement
230-39%Elementary Achievement
10-29%Not Achieved

In order to pass the NSC, a student must achieve a minimum of 40% in their Home Language subject, as well as 30% in any two other subjects. Additionally, a minimum of 50% is required in three other subjects. This means that in total, a student must pass at least six subjects to obtain their NSC.

Overall, the NSC system provides a fair and transparent method of evaluating students’ academic achievements. The system ensures that students receive recognition for their hard work and dedication, while also requiring a certain level of proficiency in order to obtain the certificate.

What are Matric Symbols?

Matric symbols refer to the grades or scores achieved by learners in their final year of high school in South Africa. These symbols are awarded based on a learner’s performance in their seven matric subjects, with each symbol reflecting a specific level of achievement.

There are seven possible matric symbols, ranging from a level one (the lowest) to a level seven (the highest). The symbols and their associated levels are as follows:

  • Level 1 (30-39%)
  • Level 2 (40-49%)
  • Level 3 (50-59%)
  • Level 4 (60-69%)
  • Level 5 (70-79%)
  • Level 6 (80-89%)
  • Level 7 (90-100%)

Each symbol represents a different level of competency and denotes a different level of academic achievement. Achieving a higher level symbol is considered to be an indicator of higher performance and greater academic success.

These symbols also form the basis of matriculation endorsements. Graduating with a matriculation endorsement requires that a learner achieves at least a level four (60%) in four of the seven matric subjects. If a learner meets this requirement, they receive an endorsement on their matric certificate, allowing them to apply for admission to university.

In summary, matric symbols correspond to the grades or scores achieved by high school learners in South Africa. They are awarded based on a learner’s performance in their matric subjects and range from level one (the lowest) to level seven (the highest). These symbols serve as a measure of academic achievement and also form the basis for matriculation endorsements, which are required for admission to university.

Understanding Matric Levels

Matric exams in South Africa are marked on a scale of seven levels, ranging from level one (30-39%) to level seven (80-100%) with each level representing a range of marks. Understanding the levels is essential for students, parents, and educators alike. Here are some key points to help you understand matric levels in South Africa:

  • The minimum requirement for a pass is 40%.
  • A candidate will receive a National Senior Certificate (NSC) if they qualify to pass with a minimum of 40% in three of their subjects, one of which is an official language at Home Language level.
  • A university pass (also known as a bachelor’s pass) requires a candidate to achieve a minimum of 50% in four subjects, one of which must be an official language at Home Language level.
  • A candidate who scores above 80% will receive a distinction in that subject.
  • Level seven is the highest level and certifies outstanding achievement.

It’s important to note that universities may set their own requirements for admission which can include additional subjects, a minimum of 60% in certain subjects, or an overall average of 60% or higher. It’s always best to check with the specific university for their admission criteria.

In conclusion, understanding matric levels is key to understanding the requirements for various qualifications and certificates. The levels range from one to seven with each level representing a range of marks. A pass is achieved with a minimum of 40%, while a university pass requires a minimum of 50% in four subjects. Distinctions are awarded to candidates who score above 80% and level seven represents outstanding achievement.

Requirements for Matric Pass

In South Africa, obtaining a Matric or a Grade 12 Certificate is essential for those seeking admission into University or pursuing careers in certain fields. To obtain the Matric pass, one must meet certain requirements.


The first requirement for a Matric pass is that the student must take and pass seven subjects, which include four compulsory subjects and three additional subjects of the student’s choice. These additional subjects can vary based on the student’s interests and future career plans, but they must be chosen with guidance from a career counselor or teacher.

Minimum Marks

To pass Matric in South Africa, the student must achieve a minimum of 40% in three subjects and 30% in four subjects. These minimum marks are set by the Department of Basic Education and are designed to ensure that students have a basic understanding of each subject before moving on to further studies.


One of the four compulsory subjects that a student must take to pass Matric is their home language. They must also take, and pass, a second language. The Department of Basic Education offers a variety of languages for students to take, including English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, and many others.

Requirement for Diploma or Bachelor’s Degree Studies

If a student wishes to continue on to tertiary education such as a Bachelor’s Degree or Diploma, they must meet more stringent requirements. They must pass three subjects, including English and two other subjects required for the chosen field of study, with a minimum of 40% in each.

In conclusion, obtaining a Matric pass in South Africa requires taking and passing seven subjects, achieving minimum marks in each subject, and taking specific compulsory subjects, such as home language and a second language. Meeting these requirements is essential for those wishing to pursue higher education or specific careers in South Africa.

Difference Between NSC and Senior Certificate

The National Senior Certificate (NSC) and Senior Certificate are two qualifications in South Africa that are awarded to candidates after completing their secondary education. While they may have similarities, there are also key differences between the two.


The NSC is the current and more recent qualification introduced in 2008. This certificate is awarded to learners who have completed the National Senior Certificate Examination after completing 12 years of formal schooling. The NSC is the qualification required for admission to tertiary education institutions.

Senior Certificate

On the other hand, the Senior Certificate was a high school leaving certificate awarded before the introduction of the NSC. It was awarded to candidates who completed their examinations at the end of their final year of secondary education. The Senior Certificate was phased out in 2008 with the introduction of the NSC.

Key Differences

There are several key differences between the NSC and Senior Certificate:

  • The NSC is a more recent qualification introduced in 2008, while the Senior Certificate was awarded prior to the introduction of the NSC.
  • The NSC is the qualification required for admission to tertiary education institutions, while the Senior Certificate was not necessarily sufficient for admission.
  • The NSC has a more rigorous curriculum and assessment system than the Senior Certificate.
  • The NSC places a greater emphasis on continuous assessment and formal examinations.

In conclusion, while both the NSC and Senior Certificate are qualifications awarded to learners after completing their secondary school education, the NSC is the more recent, rigorous, and required qualification for tertiary education.
Conversion of Symbols to Points:

One of the most essential steps in understanding the matric results is to convert the symbols obtained in each subject to points. After the conversion, the points are added up to determine the total points achieved by a candidate. The points earned by students then become the basis for admission to tertiary institutions and employment opportunities.

Each symbol is allocated a specific number of points, based on the level of performance indicated. The table below shows the conversion of symbols to points for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) results for 2021.

SymbolNSC percentagePoints
A+90 – 1008
A80 – 897
B+70 – 796
B60 – 695
C+50 – 594
C40 – 493
D+30 – 392
D0 – 291
ENSC not achieved0

It is important to note that the points allocated for each symbol are based on the minimum requirements set by the Department of Basic Education for the NSC. Some universities and employers may have higher requirements for admission or employment, which means that students may need to achieve higher symbols to meet those requirements.

In conclusion, understanding the conversion of symbols to points is crucial for both students and institutions, determining admission and employment opportunities. By knowing how the points system works, students will have a clearer idea of where they stand and what they need to achieve to reach their goals.

How to Check Matric Results

After completing their final year of high school, learners in South Africa eagerly anticipate their matric results. Fortunately, the Department of Basic Education provides several ways to access these results. Here’s how learners can access their matric symbols and levels.


One of the easiest ways to access matric results is by going online. The Department of Basic Education releases the results on a few online platforms. Here is how to check matric results using different websites:

  • Department of Basic Education (DBE): The official website of the Department of Basic Education is the best place to check matric results. To access results, learners need to visit the official website, click on the “Circulars” tab, choose the “Exam Results” option, and search for their province, exam name, and year. Once learners provide their exam details, their results will pop up, and they can download and print them.
  • SABC Education: SABC Education is another platform that publishes the results. Learners can access their matric results by visiting the SABC Education website, clicking on the “Matric Results” tab, and entering their exam and personal details in the given slots.
  • News24: News24, the South African media house, updates matric results on its website soon after the official announcement. Using News24, learners can easily check their matric results by entering their personal, exam, and school details.


Learners who prefer SMSes can get their results via their mobile phones. They need to follow the below-given steps to get their matric results:

  • Write the letter “M” followed by your exam number
  • Send this message to 35658
  • Within a few seconds, you’ll receive an SMS with your matric results


The Department of Basic Education also provides learners with matric results through specific newspapers. Learners need to check the official department’s website in December to know which newspapers will be publishing the results.

In conclusion, checking matric symbols and levels is easy and accessible to learners in South Africa. By following the above methods, learners can quickly find their results and take the next step in their academic journey.
Matric Re-marking and Re-checking

For students who are unhappy with their matric results, there is an opportunity to have their papers remarked or rechecked. This process is overseen by the Department of Basic Education and can be a chance for students to improve their marks and ultimately their matric level.

Re-marking involves an independent marker re-evaluating the student’s paper to ensure that the original marker did not make any mistakes or errors in judgement. The marking is not a thorough re-evaluation but rather a double-check of the original marking.

Re-checking, on the other hand, involves the original marker taking a second look at the student’s paper to ensure that all sections have been marked and that the final mark was calculated correctly. It is important to note that re-checking can result in a mark being increased or decreased, depending on whether or not errors were made during the original marking.

It is important for students to note that there is a fee for both re-marking and re-checking, which is determined by the Department of Basic Education. Additionally, it is not guaranteed that the student’s mark will be changed after the re-marking or re-checking process.

According to data from the Department of Basic Education, in 2020, over 14,000 students applied for remarking and nearly 50,000 students applied for rechecking. Of those who applied for remarking, only 4.4% saw an increase in their final mark. For rechecking, 5.5% of applicants saw an increase in their mark.

It is important for students to carefully consider whether or not to apply for re-marking or rechecking, as well as to keep in mind the potential costs and uncertainty of the process. However, for those who feel that their mark does not reflect their performance, applying for either re-marking or rechecking can be an opportunity to improve their final matric level.

Matric Certificate Replacement

If a matric certificate has been lost, stolen, or damaged, it can be replaced. The process to obtain a replacement certificate must be initiated with the Department of Basic Education, and is only available to those who have written and passed their matric exams.

To request a matric certificate replacement, an application form must be completed and submitted to the Department of Basic Education. The application form can be downloaded from the Department of Basic Education’s website or obtained from a provincial education office. The form must be completed accurately with all the required information provided.

In addition, an affidavit or a police report, specifying the reason for the replacement, must also be submitted with the application. Applicants should also provide a certified copy of their ID document, which must be no older than three months.

The Department of Basic Education advises that the turnaround time for issuing a replacement certificate is up to six months. As a result, individuals who require their matric certificate urgently should request a