by Tia

The Matric Class of 2024 will be kicking into high gear at the start of Quarter 2, as their mid-year exams, often referred to as prelims, come sharply into focus. These exams are not merely academic hurdles, but pivotal milestones that play a crucial role in shaping the students’ futures, particularly concerning university entrance and scholarship opportunities, an education expert says.

“The mid-year exams serve multiple critical functions in the academic journey of a Matric student. Firstly, they offer a comprehensive assessment of the students’ understanding and mastery of the curriculum up to that point. This assessment is invaluable for identifying areas of strength and pinpointing subjects or topics where students may need additional support or revision,” says Dingaan Moropane, Acting Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning at The Independent Institute of Education’s Rosebank College.

“Moreover, the results of these exams provide a realistic projection of potential final Matric scores,” he says. 

Moropane notes that universities and private higher education institutions closely scrutinize mid-year marks when considering applications for admission. 

“Given the competitive nature of university entrance, particularly for prestigious programmes or institutions, the importance of securing strong mid-year exam results cannot be overstated. High marks in these exams can significantly enhance a student’s application, making them more attractive to admissions panels and increasing their chances of securing a spot in their desired course or program.”

Additionally, many scholarship and bursary programmes and financial aid opportunities also consider mid-year exam results as part of their selection criteria. 

“Achieving excellent marks can open doors to financial support, which can be instrumental in enabling students to pursue higher education, especially in cases where financial constraints might otherwise limit their options.

“For students aiming for university entrance, it’s crucial to understand that these mid-year exams are a key component of the admissions puzzle. Universities are looking for candidates who not only excel academically, but also demonstrate consistency and improvement in their academic record. Strong performance in mid-year exams signals to universities that the student is well-prepared, motivated, and capable of handling the rigours of tertiary education.”

Moropane notes that understanding the minimum requirements for further studies is crucial for students planning their academic future, and says students can view the breakdown of the requirements for Higher Certificate, Diploma, and Bachelor’s Degree programmes on the Department of Basic Education’s website. 

  • To qualify for Higher Certificate studies, students need to have obtained a National Senior Certificate. A key requirement is achieving a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching at the higher education institution, a standard certified by Umalusi, the Quality Assurance Council. It’s important to note that specific institutions and programmes may have additional requirements, including subject combinations and achievement levels.
  • For entry into Diploma programmes, the baseline requirement is also a National Senior Certificate. In addition to the minimum of 30% in the institution’s language of learning and teaching, students must secure an achievement rating of 3 (Moderate Achievement, 40%-49%) or higher in four recognised 20-credit subjects. As with Higher Certificate programmes, institutions may stipulate further requirements, including specific NSC subjects and performance levels, to meet both institutional and programme-specific needs.
  • To pursue a Bachelor’s Degree, students must hold a National Senior Certificate, achieving at least 30% in the language of learning and teaching as per the institution’s requirements, verified by Umalusi. Furthermore, an achievement rating of 4 (Adequate Achievement, 50%-59%) or higher in four recognised 20-credit subjects is necessary. Similar to other qualifications, universities may demand additional subject combinations and achievement standards to align with the specific requirements of their programs.

While the National Senior Certificate forms the foundation for further studies, the specific marks and subjects required can vary significantly depending on the level of study and the institution. 

“Students should carefully research the requirements of their desired programmes to ensure they meet all necessary criteria. Given the stakes, preparation for mid-year exams should be thorough and strategic,” says Moropane.

“This includes regular revision, effective time management, and seeking out additional resources or support when needed. Schools often offer extra classes, tutoring, or study groups to help students prepare, and taking advantage of these resources can make a significant difference in exam performance.”

The mid-year exams are a critical juncture in the Matric year, serving not just as an academic assessment but as a vital indicator of future success in university admissions and scholarship opportunities. 

“For Matric students aiming for higher education, excelling in these exams is paramount. Through diligent preparation, strategic study, and effective use of available resources, students can maximize their performance in these exams, setting a strong foundation for their future academic and career pursuits.” 

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