Matric Symbols And What They Mean

Introduction To Matric Symbols

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Overview Of The South African Matriculation System

A South African student’s educational journey begins with the matriculation system in South Africa. It represents the culmination of their secondary education and serves as a gateway to higher education and career opportunities. 

Read over some of these points that briefly describe what Matric essentially is:

  • Matriculation is commonly referred to as Grade 12 in South Africa and is a significant milestone for learners.
  • In Grade 12, students undertake a comprehensive curriculum that covers various subjects and disciplines. 
  • The matriculation system evaluates their knowledge and skills through examinations and assessments conducted at the end of the academic year. 
  • The results of these assessments are represented by Matric symbols, which provide valuable information about a student’s performance and achievements.

Importance Of Matric Symbols

The South African education system relies heavily on using Matric symbols. These symbols serve as indicators of a student’s academic prowess and provide valuable information to universities, employers, and other educational institutions. 

These symbols offer a standardised way to assess and compare students’ abilities and potential. Take a look at some essential features Matric symbols possess: 

  • The Matric symbols not only reflect a student’s overall performance but also play a vital role in determining their eligibility for higher education institutions and employment opportunities. 
  • They serve as a measure of a student’s dedication, hard work, and commitment to their studies. 
  • Understanding the meaning and significance of these symbols is essential for Grade 12 learners as they embark on their journey towards higher education and future career paths.

Understanding The Matriculation System

South Africa recognises the importance of matriculation, encouraging students to pass their final year of high school with the highest grade possible. To understand the importance of Matric, students need to understand how matriculation works

In this section, questions about how the grading systems work and the levels of achievement as a result of the student’s grades will be addressed:

Grading System In South Africa

The grading system used in the South African matriculation system follows a comprehensive structure to assess students’ academic performance. It employs a range of symbols that represent different levels of achievement. These symbols provide a standardised way to evaluate and compare students’ results across different subjects:

Levels Of Achievement

The levels of achievement in the matriculation system are represented by various symbols, including Distinction, Merit, Achieved, Not Achieved, and Ungraded. Each symbol corresponds to a specific level of performance and indicates the extent to which a student has met the requirements for a particular subject.

Observe how these symbols are associated with the final graded results:


The Distinction symbol is awarded to students who have demonstrated exceptional knowledge, understanding, and skills in a particular subject. It signifies outstanding academic achievement and represents the highest level of performance attainable. Receiving a Distinction is a significant accomplishment and is highly regarded by educational institutions and potential employers. 

Explanation Of The Distinction Symbol

The Distinction symbol is denoted by the letter “A” on a student’s matriculation certificate. It signifies that the student has excelled in the subject and has achieved results well above the minimum requirements. The Distinction symbol is a testament to the student’s dedication, hard work, and mastery of the subject.

Note how the distinction symbol is represented in percentages and APS scores:

  • Students obtain an “A” symbol if they receive a result between 80%-100%
  • An “A” symbol represents a seven (7) APS score

Take note that passing with distinction means that a student received an outstanding result in a subject. This does not necessarily mean that the student passes with a bachelor’s pass. 

Criteria For Receiving A Distinction

To receive a Distinction in a particular subject, students must achieve outstanding marks and demonstrate a deep understanding of the subject. They need to exhibit exceptional analytical skills, critical thinking abilities, and a comprehensive grasp of the curriculum. Consistency and excellence in assessments, projects, and examinations are crucial factors in earning a Distinction.


The Merit symbol acknowledges students who have performed exceptionally well in a subject but have not reached the level of achievement required for a Distinction. It represents a commendable level of proficiency and reflects a high standard of work.

Explanation Of The Merit Symbol

The Merit symbol is denoted by the letter “B” on a student’s matriculation certificate. It indicates that the student has achieved results exceeding the subject’s minimum requirements. While not reaching the level of a Distinction, the Merit symbol still recognises the student’s above-average performance and dedication to the subject.

Here is how the merit symbol is presented in percentage and its APS score:

  • Students obtain a “B” symbol if they receive a result between 70%-79%
  • A “B” symbol represents a six (6) APS score

Criteria For Receiving A Merit

To receive a Merit, students must demonstrate a strong grasp of the subject’s content and show excellent analytical and problem-solving skills. They need to consistently excel in tests, assignments, and examinations. A Merit is a testament to the student’s hard work, commitment, and proficiency in the subject.


The Achieved symbol represents the minimum level of achievement required to pass a subject in the matriculation system. It indicates that a student has met the requirements and demonstrated a satisfactory understanding of the subject.

Explanation Of The Achieved Symbol

This signifies that the student has achieved the minimum standards set for the subject and has successfully passed the assessments. While it may not indicate exceptional performance, it acknowledges the student’s ability to meet the basic requirements.

Note the levels of achievement that correspond to achieving the minimum requirements and slightly above the minimum requirements:

  • Substantial Achievement: The percentage required for this achievement is between 60%-69%, with an APS score of five (5) points. The achieved symbol will be represented as “C”. 
  • Adequate Achievement: The percentage required for this achievement is between 50%-59%, with an APS score of four (4) points. A “D” symbol will represent this level of achievement.
  • Moderate Achievement: What students will need to achieve in percentage is between 40%-49%, which correlates to an APS score of three (3). The symbol “E” will be noted regarding this achievement.

Criteria For Receiving An Achieved

To receive an achieved result in a subject, students must demonstrate a satisfactory understanding of the content and meet the minimum performance standards set by the curriculum. They need to attain results that meet or exceed the designated pass mark. While not outstanding, an Achieved grade reflects the student’s effort and competence in the subject.

Not Achieved

The Not Achieved symbol is given to students who have not met the minimum requirements to pass a subject. It indicates that the student’s performance fell below the necessary standards.

Explanation Of The Not Achieved Symbol

The Not Achieved symbol is denoted by the letter “FF” or “G” on a student’s matriculation certificate. It signifies that the student did not meet the minimum requirements to pass the subject. It is essential to address areas of improvement and take necessary steps to enhance performance in subsequent endeavours.

If a student received a Not Achieved symbol, the reason behind this is as follows:

  • The students received a percentage of 0%-29%, which has an APS score of one (1). A student will likely be faced with an “FF” or “G” symbol due to these results.

Implications Of Not Achieving A Pass

Receiving a Not Achieved grade has implications for a student’s educational and career prospects. It may limit opportunities for higher education, as many institutions require a minimum pass in specific subjects for admission. It is important to seek guidance and support to improve future performance and explore alternative paths.

Ungraded Symbol

The Ungraded symbol is assigned to students who have not received a formal grade for a subject. It represents an incomplete evaluation or circumstances that prevent the assessment of the student’s performance.

Explanation Of The Ungraded Symbol

It signifies that the student has not received a formal grade for the subject due to various reasons, such as incomplete assessments, missing coursework, or other circumstances that prevent the evaluation of their performance.

Reasons For Receiving An Ungraded

There can be several reasons for receiving an Ungraded designation. These may include, but are not limited to, missing coursework or assessments, unresolved issues related to the examination process, or exceptional circumstances that prevent the evaluation of the student’s performance.

Significance Of Matric Symbols

The symbols represent not only the percentage which the student received as a final result but also allocate the APS points. These symbols are looked at when students need to apply for further education and any career prospects. It is an acknowledgement of how hard the student worked. Therefore, students must do their best in their Matric year.

University Admission Requirements

Matric symbols play a crucial role in university admission processes in South Africa. Most universities and tertiary institutions have specific entry requirements based on matriculation symbols. These requirements vary depending on the field of study, the competitiveness of the program, and the institution itself.

When applying to universities, students need to meet certain minimum symbol requirements to be eligible for admission. For example, some programs may require a minimum of a Merit symbol in specific subjects, while others may require a Distinction symbol. Students need to familiarise themselves with the admission requirements of their desired institutions and ensure they meet the necessary criteria.

Job Opportunities And Career Advancement

Matric symbols can also have an impact on job opportunities and career advancement. Many employers consider a candidate’s matriculation certificate when evaluating their qualifications and skills.  Here are some reasons why employers consider individuals with better results than those that received the minimum required results:

  • Higher symbols, such as Distinction and Merit, can enhance a candidate’s prospects in the job market.
  • Certain industries or professions may have specific requirements or preferences regarding Matric symbols. For example, a career in engineering may prioritise subjects such as Mathematics and Physical Science, while a career in the arts may focus more on subjects like Visual Arts or Dramatic Arts. 

Students should research the expectations of their chosen career paths and strive to achieve the symbols that align with their goals.

Recognition And Rewards

Receiving a Distinction or Merit symbol in the matriculation system often comes with recognition and rewards. Schools, communities, and organisations may acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of students who excel in their Matric exams.

Recognition can take various forms, including awards, certificates, scholarships, or invitations to special events. These acknowledgements not only provide a sense of accomplishment but also serve as motivation for students to strive for excellence.

Impact On Further Education And Training

Matric symbols can have a significant impact on further education and training opportunities. Some tertiary institutions, vocational colleges, or specialised training programs may have specific symbol requirements for admission.

For example, most universities prefer students to have passed with a bachelor’s pass. This means that students passed most of their subjects above the minimum requirements set. Programs such as internships or apprenticeships sometimes only require an excellent Matric pass to qualify as a prospective employee.

The impact on the turnout of applications for jobs or further education programmes highly depends on the student’s results. Entry-level jobs are available for Matric graduates, and some of the company’s or organisation’s requirements may be that candidates applying for these jobs need to have a bachelor’s pass or diploma pass in Matric.


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Recap Of Matric Symbols And Their Meanings

In conclusion, Matric symbols in South Africa carry significant meaning and importance in the educational system. They represent different levels of achievement and proficiency in specific subjects, These symbols range from the following:

  • Distinction
  • Merit 
  • Achieved
  • Not Achieved
  • And Ungraded

Each symbol has its implications and can affect university admission, job opportunities, and further education and training. Students should strive to achieve the best possible symbols based on their goals and aspirations.

Importance Of Matric Symbols In South Africa

Matric symbols are crucial in South Africa as they provide a standardised measure of academic achievement. They allow universities, employers, and educational institutions to assess an individual’s capabilities and qualifications. Matric symbols also serve as a source of recognition and reward for students who excel in their studies. 

Here is a short recap to remind students why aiming for a higher symbol is important:

  • Understanding the meanings and implications of Matric symbols is essential for students in Grade 12.
  • By working towards achieving higher symbols, students can enhance their educational and career prospects. 
  • Matric symbols play a vital role in shaping future opportunities for students in South Africa.

In summary, Matric symbols play a cardinal role in the South African education system. Understanding their meanings and implications can help students make informed decisions regarding university admission, career choices, and further education.

Recap Of Matric Symbols And Their Meanings

Take a moment to revise what was covered in this comprehensive guide: 

  • The world of Matric symbols used in South Africa had been covered. 
  • An overview provided information on the South African Matriculation System and highlighted the importance of Matric symbols in shaping students’ educational and career paths.
  • The grading system in South Africa was touched on, for understanding the levels of achievement and the specific symbols associated with them. 
  • From Distinction and Merit to Achieved, Not Achieved, and Ungraded, each symbol carries its significance and implications.
  • Each Matric symbol was approached in detail, explaining its meaning, and criteria for receiving the result. Common questions related to each symbol were also addressed. 
  • Clear explanations and examples were given to allow students to have a thorough understanding of the symbols and their implications. 
  • In specific sections of this guide, the significance of Matric symbols in different contexts was covered.
  • Some reasons why Matric symbols influence university admission requirements, job opportunities, career advancement, recognition, and rewards were given.
  •  Additionally, students could explore the impact of Matric symbols on further education and training opportunities, including vocational and technical training.

People Also Asked

How Do Matric Symbols Contribute To The Education System In South Africa?

Matric symbols contribute to the education system in South Africa by providing a standardised assessment of student performance. They allow for fair and objective evaluation and enable universities and employers to identify individuals who have excelled academically.

Are Matric Symbols Recognised And Understood Outside Of South Africa?

While Matric symbols are primarily used within the South African education system, their significance and value can be understood by international educational institutions and employers. However, it is important to note that specific grading systems may vary across different countries, and it is advisable for students applying abroad to research and understand the requirements of their desired institutions.

Can Matric Symbols Influence International Study Opportunities?

Matric symbols can indeed influence international study opportunities. Some international universities may consider Matric symbols as part of their admission criteria or to assess an applicant’s academic preparedness. Students aiming for higher education abroad should research the entry requirements and determine if their Matric symbols meet the necessary criteria.

How Do Matric Symbols Affect Eligibility For Specific Courses Or Programs?

Matric symbols can determine eligibility for specific courses or programs. Higher symbols may be required for admission to competitive programs or those with limited available spaces. Students should research the admission requirements of their desired courses or programs and strive to achieve the necessary symbols.

Are There Any Additional Certifications Or Requirements Based On Matric Symbols?

In addition to Matric symbols, certain courses or programs may have additional certifications or requirements. These may include entrance exams, interviews, portfolios, or practical assessments. Students need to familiarise themselves with all the requirements to ensure a successful application.

Can Matric Symbols Impact Opportunities For Vocational Or Technical Training?

Yes, Matric symbols can impact opportunities for vocational or technical training. Some vocational colleges or training institutions may require specific symbols for admission into their programs. Students interested in vocational or technical training should research the requirements of their desired programs and work towards meeting the necessary symbols.

Why Might Someone Receive An Ungraded Designation In The Matriculation System?

An Ungraded designation may occur due to various circumstances, such as missing assessments, unresolved issues, or exceptional situations that prevent the proper evaluation of a student’s performance. It is essential to communicate with the relevant authorities or examination boards to resolve any issues and ensure a fair evaluation.

Does An Ungraded Affect Future Educational Or Career Opportunities?

The impact of an Ungraded designation on future opportunities may vary depending on the circumstances and the specific requirements of educational institutions or employers. It is important to address any outstanding issues and provide appropriate documentation or evidence to demonstrate a student’s abilities and qualifications

What Is The Significance Of Receiving A Distinction In The Matriculation System?

Receiving a Distinction holds great significance as it signifies exceptional academic achievement. It sets students apart from their peers and highlights their dedication and excellence in a specific subject.

How Does Achieving A Distinction Affect University Admission?

Achieving a Distinction can greatly enhance a student’s chances of gaining admission to prestigious universities and programs. Many institutions consider Distinction-level results as an important criterion for selection, scholarships, and specialised courses.

Are There Any Additional Benefits Associated With A Distinction?

Apart from academic recognition, a Distinction can open doors to various opportunities, such as research positions, internships, and academic scholarships. It can also boost a student’s self-confidence and provide a strong foundation for future academic and professional endeavours.

What Does It Mean To Receive A Merit In The Matriculation System?

Receiving a Merit signifies that a student has achieved results above the minimum requirements for a subject. It reflects a commendable level of proficiency and highlights the student’s dedication and commitment to their studies.

Can A Merit Be Used For University Admission?

Merits can positively impact a student’s university admission prospects, especially when applying to competitive programs or institutions. It showcases the student’s academic ability and can strengthen their application.

Are There Any Advantages To Having A Merit On Your Matriculation Certificate?

Having a Merit on the matriculation certificate demonstrates a higher level of achievement and can enhance a student’s chances of securing scholarships, bursaries, or specialised opportunities within their chosen field of study.

What Does It Signify To Achieve The Minimum Requirements In The Matriculation System?

Achieving the minimum requirements signifies that a student has demonstrated an adequate level of understanding and competence in the subject. It reflects their ability to meet the basic standards set by the curriculum.

Can An Achieved Grade Be Used For Further Education Or Job Applications?

An Achieved grade, while not as competitive as higher symbols like Distinction or Merit, can still be used for further education and some job applications. However, it may be beneficial for students to aim for higher symbols to enhance their prospects.

Are There Any Limitations To Having An Achieved Grade On Your Matriculation Certificate?

Having an Achieved grade indicates satisfactory performance, but it may not provide a competitive advantage in highly selective university programs or job applications. However, with additional qualifications or experiences, students can still pursue various opportunities.

What Happens If You Receive A Not Achieved Grade In The Matriculation System?

Receiving a Not Achieved grade means the student did not meet the minimum requirements to pass the subject. It may necessitate repeating the subject, seeking additional support, or exploring alternative educational pathways.

Can You Still Pursue Higher Education Or Career Opportunities With A Not Achieved Grade?

While a Not Achieved grade can pose challenges, it does not completely bar students from pursuing higher education or career opportunities. Exploring alternative paths, acquiring additional qualifications, or improving subsequent results can help overcome these challenges.

How Can You Improve Your Chances After Receiving A Not Achieved Grade?

To improve your chances after a Not Achieved grade, it is crucial to seek guidance from teachers, mentors, or academic advisors.  These individuals have competent knowledge and experience gained through life experience and further education:

  • They can provide strategies to address areas of weakness, offer remedial support, and help identify alternative pathways for future academic or career pursuits.
  • They can provide strategies to address areas of weakness, offer remedial support, and help identify alternative pathways for future academic or career pursuits. 

It is important to reflect on the reasons for not achieving a pass and identify areas that require improvement. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Seek feedback: Request feedback from your teachers or examiners to understand the specific areas where improvement is needed. This feedback can guide your study efforts and help you focus on the right areas.
  • Develop a study plan: This plan should be well-structured to include all subjects as well as dedicated time for each, prioritising those that require more attention. Break down the curriculum into manageable sections and allocate sufficient time for practice, revision, and seeking clarification on difficult concepts.
  • Identify resources: Gather relevant study materials, textbooks, past papers, and online resources that can aid your learning. Utilise these resources to gain a deeper understanding of the subject and practice answering exam-style questions.
  • Seek additional support: If you find certain topics challenging, consider seeking additional support. This can include attending extra classes, joining study groups, or enlisting the help of a tutor who specialises in the subject.
  • Practice past papers: Familiarise yourself with the format and types of questions asked in previous exams. Practice solving past papers under timed conditions to improve your time management skills and develop effective exam techniques.
  • Implement effective study techniques: Explore different study techniques that work best for you, such as summarising key points, creating mind maps, or teaching concepts to others. Experiment with different methods and identify the ones that help you grasp and retain information effectively.
  • Stay organised and manage time effectively: Maintain a well-organised study environment, keep track of deadlines and important dates, and allocate time wisely to each subject. Avoid procrastination and maintain a consistent study schedule to ensure thorough preparation.
  • Seek guidance and support: Do not hesitate to reach out to your teachers, mentors, or academic advisors for guidance and support. They can provide valuable insights, offer study tips, and help you navigate through any challenges you may face.

Remember, receiving a Not Achieved grade is not the end of your academic journey. With determination, perseverance, and the right support, you can improve your performance and open doors to future opportunities.

What Steps Can Be Taken To Resolve An Ungraded Designation?

To resolve an Ungraded designation, it is essential to communicate with the relevant authorities, such as your school, examination board, or educational institution. Please note that the specific grading symbols and their interpretations may vary depending on the educational system or country. 

When communicating with the respective people that will help you assess your ungraded result, ensure you do the following: 

  • Provide any necessary Documentation 
  • Address any outstanding issues 
  • Follow the prescribed procedures to ensure a fair evaluation of your performance

The information provided here offers a general understanding of the grading symbols and their implications in the context of a matriculation or examination system. It is always advisable to consult the official guidelines and regulations of your specific educational institution or examination board for accurate and detailed information.

Author: Jan Badenhorst
Editor: Lynnzelle Adams
Date Published: August 14, 2023

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