Understanding Matric Distinctions

For each Matric graduate, having even one distinction on their Matric certificate is a dream come true. Some people strive to obtain distinctions in all of their subjects. This is possible with dedication and effort. Distinctions will provide you with a wide range of possibilities when applying to colleges and universities.


What Is A Distinction In Matric?

A Matric distinction is earned when you pass a subject with an 80% or above. You may receive distinctions in more than one subject, this indicates that you performed very well in that subject.

Does A Distinction Mean I Have A Bachelor’s Pass?

It all depends. The standards for a bachelor’s pass differ from those for a distinction. For example, if you receive distinctions in all of your subjects, you will definitely receive a bachelor’s pass. However, if you only have a distinction in one subject and very low grades in the others, you will not be granted a bachelor’s pass.

To make things simpler, we will look at the requirements for a bachelor’s pass.

How Can I Get A Bachelor’s Pass?

You can obtain a bachelor’s pass in Matric if you meet the following criteria:

Matric Pass Symbol

Type Of Pass



Bachelor’s pass

  • Obtain 40% for your Home Language subject
  • Obtain 50% in four (4) subjects (Excluding Life Orientation)
  • Obtain 30% for two (2) other subjects
  • You are allowed to fail one subject


What Do Matric Pass Symbols Mean?

We have already covered what a bachelor’s pass (B) means. We will now look at the remaining three (3) types of Matric passes:

  • Diploma Pass
  • Higher Certificate Pass
  • National Senior Certificate Pass

Matric Pass Symbol

Type Of Pass



Diploma Pass

  • Obtain 40% for your Home Language subject
  • Obtain 40% in four (4) subjects 
  • Obtain 30% for two (2) other subjects
  • You are allowed to fail one subject


Higher Certificate Pass

  • Obtain 40% for your Home Language subject
  • Obtain 40% in two (2) subjects 
  • Obtain 30% for four (4) other subjects
  • You are allowed to fail one subject


National Senior Certificate Pass

  • Obtain 40% for your Home Language subject
  • Obtain 40% in two (2) subjects 
  • Obtain 30% for three (3) other subjects
  • You are allowed to fail one subject, this subject can even be your Home Language subject, but then you will have to obtain 30% or above for all of your other subjects


How Are Matric Points Calculated?

Your Matric points are calculated using the APS system.

What Is An APS?

An APS (Admission Point Score) is a number of points assigned to the percentage you obtained in each subject on your Matric certificate. For instance, if you get a 67% in Life Sciences, your APS point will be 5. Or, if you get 85% in History, you will get 7 points, which also counts as a distinction.

Each of your subjects will be assigned a number between one (1) and seven (7) by the APS system.  Universities and colleges use an APS to determine a student’s suitability for a course. Your APS must meet the course admission requirements, or you will be unable to participate in the chosen course.

How Do I Calculate My APS?

The table below shows how to calculate the APS for each of your subjects.

Matric Symbol


Type of Achievement



80% – 100%

Outstanding Achievement



70% – 79%

Meritorious Achievement



60% – 69%

Substantial Achievement



50% – 59%

Adequate Achievement



40% – 49%

Moderate Achievement



30% – 39%

Elementary Achievement



0% – 29%

Not Achieved: Fail


After you have calculated the APS for each of your subjects, add them all up to get your APS. Remember that Life Orientation does not contribute to your APS.

You can also receive your APS by using this online calculator

How Many Points Are Needed To Get A Bachelor’s Pass?

A total APS of 23 points is required to obtain a Bachelor’s pass. If your score is less than 23, you will be given one of the following passes:

  • Diploma Pass: 19 APS points
  • Higher Certificate Pass: 15 APS points
  • National Senior Certificate Pass: 14 APS points

How Many Points Is A Distinction?

A distinction is worth seven (7) APS points. This is possible if you get between 80% and 100% on a subject. This is also referred to as an “outstanding achievement.”


Are Distinctions Hard To Get?

A distinction is difficult to obtain, but it is not impossible. There is a reason why universities and colleges praise students with distinctions.

This is because they are aware that the student has worked hard to achieve excellent grades. Many students have received distinctions in all of their subjects; it simply requires a lot of hard work.

Why Are Matric Distinctions Important?

Matric distinctions are important since they provide you with numerous opportunities. For example, if you pass with distinctions, your chances of getting approved for the following positions will be significantly increased:

  • Internships
  • Apprenticeships
  • Bursaries
  • University Or College Admission

How Can I Pass With A Distinction?

To receive a distinction in one or more subjects, you must consider some of the following factors:

  • Work through past exam papers to help familiarise yourself with the structure of an exam and the way questions are asked
  • Be organised, know exactly which days you are studying what subject
  • Make sure you attend every class and always have your homework done for the lesson
  • If you do not understand a concept, ask the teacher to explain it or do research on the internet
  • Start studying for the exams as soon as possible; do not wait until the day before the exam to start studying
  • Take notes on all of the work that is being covered in class
  • Join a study group in which you can share questions and answers with other students


Author: Esmari Pool
Editor: Esmari Pool
Date Published: November 11, 2022