Senior Certificate

One of the biggest milestones in any person’s educational career is the completion of a senior certificate. A senior certificate commonly referred to as a Matric, allows people to apply to colleges and universities, or even get some jobs. It is a momentous achievement for any person in South Africa, and something to truly be proud of.

Despite the importance of a senior certificate, not many people know much about them, beyond that they are awarded for completing high school. That is why we decided to write this article to take a closer look at exactly what a senior certificate is.

National Qualifications Framework

Before we can take a look at the senior certificate we have to look at the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The NQF is the system developed by the South African government to formally record the credits assigned to each level of learning achievement. This ensures that the skills and knowledge learnt are recognised throughout the country. The principles and guidelines of the NQF are designed to achieve the following objectives:

  • Apply a single integrated national framework for learning achievements
  • To facilitate access, mobility and progression within education, training and career paths
  • To enhance the quality of education and training in South Africa
  • To accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.

Under the NQF every recognised qualification is assigned a different level based on the degree of learning that they require. These levels must be achieved sequentially, in other words, you cannot receive a certificate of NQF level 4 without having an NQF level 3 qualification.


Another important aspect to know about a senior certificate is Umalusi. The Umalusi Council sets and monitors the standards for general and further education and training in South Africa. They do so in accordance with the NQF and other legal mandates. They are responsible for the accreditation of educational institutions, issuing certificates and ensuring the quality of education in South Africa. 

Types of senior certificates

Now that we have an understanding of the NQF system and what Umalusi does we can take a look at the senior certificate. It may surprise you to learn that there are actually two types of senior certificates. Both of these carry an NQF level of 4, with the completion of Gr 9-11 being NQF levels 1-3, meaning Grade 11 is not a senior certificate. Both these certificates are issued by Umalusi as well. Though these qualifications carry the same NQF level and are issued by Umalusi there are some differences in how they are obtained.

National Senior Certificate

The first type of senior certificate is the National Senior Certificate (NSC). This is the standard certification students receive after completing high school and its results are based on a combination of School-Based Assessments and examinations. This certificate is also awarded to those who complete a matric upgrade which allows students to improve their final matric marks.

Senior Certificate

Next is the standard Senior Certificate also known as an amended senior certificate or adult matric. This is effectively the same qualification however the admission requirements for this qualification is you have to have completed only Grade 9 and you must be 21 or older. For this reason it is often known as the Adult Matric. Another major difference is that the final results on the Senior Certificate are based only on examination results which means there are no School-Based Assessments. If you are older than 21 you may also write the Senior Certificates examinations and combine the results with a National Senior Certificate. You cannot, however, write the National Senior Certificate and combine it with your Senior Certificate results that was obtained before 2008.

Requirements for a senior certificate

A National Senior Certificate is obtained through any education provider registered with an Umalusi accredited assessment body, like a traditional high school or Distance Education Provider like Elroi Academy. The admission requirements for any grade in the National Senior Certificate is a report issued by a registered education provider for the previous grade, which shows that the learner has met the requirements to progress to the next grade.

The Senior Certificate however has a number of ways for individuals to be admitted into it.

Learners who meet one of the following requirements can be considered for admission to the Senior Certificate:

  • Adult learners over the age of 21 and have the following qualifications:
  • A General Education and Training Certificate; or
  • A Grade 9 school report stating that they passed Grade 9; or
  • A recognised equivalent qualification obtained at NQF Level which requires two official languages
  • Adult learners who are 21 years and older with an incomplete Senior Certificate qualification
  • Adult learners who are 21 years and older with an incomplete National Senior Certificate
  • In exceptional cases out of school youths between the ages of 18-21 who could not complete their school education due to factors beyond their control. These cases must be verified by the Head of Department in the Provincial Education Department.

There are also allowances for adults who wish to improve the results of their matric qualification. Additionally, adults with an incomplete NSC can complete their NSC as part-time candidates or they can convert to the Senior Certificate. Should they convert to the Senior Certificate they cannot revert to the NSC.

Disadvantages of the Amended Senior Certificate

In general, the NSC pass rates tend to be higher than the ASC pass rates. For example, in 2020, the overall pass rate for the NSC was 76.2%, while the pass rate for the ASC was 62.9%. 

The higher pass rate for the NSC is could be due to the fact that learners who complete their secondary education have the advantage of having received formal education for a longer period of time than those who did not complete their secondary education. However, the major disadvantage to do an Amended Senior Certificate instead of the National Senior Certificate is the absence of the School Based Assessment, or continuous assessment. The SC exams are at the exact same standard and cover the same scope as the NSC which means the difficulty level is the same. NSC learners are prepared by doing a number of assessments throughout the year which all count towards the final grade so they force the learners to be up to date with the work. For the Amended Senior Certificates learners, who are mostly working adults, there is no external motivation to be consistently working through the content, which means most of them only start working close to the final examinations. It does not help that the examination is in the middle of the year, and the exam registrations start in August. Matric candidates start looking for education opportunities at the end or beginning of the year when the academic program for the ASC is already halfway. 

Though the ASC is an excellent and affordable option to obtain a Matric, there is a far better success-rate for candidates even older than 21 doing the National Senior Certificate. 


As you can see it is never too late to obtain your matric since a Senior Certificate offers the same qualification with a few differences in how it is obtained, however not without some challenges. We hope this article has shed some light on what the Senior Certificate is and who qualifies for it. It truly is a great way for those that missed their chance to get matric in high school to better their lives through education.

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