Fewer subjects’ results adjusted upwards


The council for quality assurance in general education and training (Umalusi) says the quality of 2023’s matric papers was even higher than previous years, even though a number of challenges arose during the exams. Umalusi is concerned about the number of mistakes in papers and candidates who cheated last year.

According to the council, the results of far fewer subjects were adjusted upwards last year compared to 2022. There were even improvements in the number of subjects’ marks which were adjusted downwards.

“This is an indication of a maturing system,” said Prof. Yunus Ballim, chairman of the Umalusi council, said.

The results will be approved by the minister of education on Thursday and will be passed on to matriculants on Friday. Umalusi, who approved the results on Monday, says there was a “noticeable improvement in the overall quality of papers”.

A total of 898,520 candidates took the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination last year.

The department submitted 66 subjects for standardization to Umalusi and all these subjects’ results were accepted.

From these subjects, the unprocessed marks of 49 subjects (74.2% of subjects) were accepted. A total of six subjects were adjusted upwards (9.1%) and 11 subjects downwards (16.7%).

Description 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019
Subjects submitted 66 66 67 65 67
Unprocessed points 49 47 35 48 47
Number of subjects adjusted upwards 6 16 28 9 13
Number of subjects adjusted downwards 11 3 4 8 7
Total 66 66 67 65 67

Ballim said these figures show an upward trend in the number of subjects for which unprocessed marks have been accepted over the past three years.

“What is particularly important is that the number of subjects for which marks were mainly adjusted upwards has decreased significantly, from 16 in 2022 to six last year.”

Department of basic education subjects Adjusted upwards Adjusted downwards
Afrikaans Second Additional Language
Agricultural management practices
Agricultural Science
Agricultural technology
business Studies
Civil Technology (Woodwork)
Dramatic Arts
IsiXhosa Home language
Mechanical Technology (Welding and Metalwork)
Sepedi First Additional Language
SiSwati First Additional Language
SiSwati Home Language
Tshivenda Home language
Xitsonga Home language

Far fewer candidates (15,186) wrote the Independent Examination Board’s (IEB) NSC examination.

The IEB submitted a total of 60 subjects to Umalusi for standardization, all of which were accepted.

A total of 48 subjects’ unprocessed marks were accepted, 12 subjects were adjusted upwards and no subjects were adjusted downwards.

Description 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019
Subjects submitted 60 61 65 66 64
Unprocessed points 48 47 44 46 52
Number of subjects adjusted upwards 12 10 14 8 4
Number of subjects adjusted downwards 0 4 7 12 8
Total 60 61 65 66 64

Ballim said it was an achievement in particular that no subjects were adjusted downward for the first time since 2019.

“It is also promising to see that the number of subjects for which unprocessed marks have been accepted has been systematically increasing since 2021.”

IEB subjects Adjusted upwards Adjusted downwards
Afrikaans Home language
Agricultural Science
Consumer studies
English Home Language
German Second Additional Language
Hindi Second Additional Language
Information technology
life Science
Portuguese Second Additional Language

Errors in papers ‘not systemic’

Dr. Mafu Rakometsi, chief executive of Umalusi, has expressed his concern over several problems that have surfaced in the Department of Basic Education’s papers.

In some cases, papers were printed badly, while in others errors crept in with the printing of papers – such as papers printed in black and white, which should have been in colour.

More serious errors, which could affect matriculants’ results, were also noted. According to Rakometsi, a caption on the formula of an organic compound was omitted in the Physical Science’s second paper.

Another printing error in the same question paper, which was distributed in the North-West, could cost learners six points.

The first Geography paper also contained bad translations from English to Afrikaans, which prevented many learners from answering two questions, which counted for a total of three marks.

“To help overcome the possible impact of these errors on the performance of the candidates, the relevant questions were excluded from the marking process and the marks were adjusted upwards with the help of conversion tables,” Rakometsi said.

According to Ballim, the irregularities identified in this and some other papers are not systemic, and therefore have not affected the overall credibility and integrity of the department’s examinations.

“However, Umalusi is concerned about the recurring cases of printing and packaging errors in papers,” he said.

“The department is now required to pay attention to the guidelines for compliance and make improvements in a plan that must be submitted by March 15, 2024.”

Rakometsi is also concerned about cases where groups of candidates apparently copied each other. A total of 945 candidates were involved in this type of offence.

Most cases (763) were recorded in KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Mpumalanga (164).

“According to the reports submitted, candidates wrote down the same kind of answers for questions and, in some cases, had the same wrong and right answers,” he said.

“However, these matters have not yet been resolved, because the numbers are still being verified.”

Ballim said that last year’s matric examination, however, generally went well.

“The examination system is large and complex,” he said.

“It is not an easy task to ensure that each of the more than 1,150 million candidates across the length and breadth of South Africa receives the correct question paper at the right time and in the right venue. These individual papers must then be collected and marked, marks verified and then transferred to the computer systems and submitted to Umalusi for standardization purposes.”