Coping with matric results and planning your future

Jacobs, A and Govender, R (December, 2019) [i]



The National Senior Certificate (NCS) and Independent Examination Boards (IEB) matric finals, is viewed as the culmination of a significant period in young person’s life and is seen as achieving a milestone. Many learners will have waited in anticipation for the release of the newspaper or the delivery of that much awaited SMS. Whilst this will be a time filled with celebrations and well wishes for some; for others it may be a time that is filled with fear, embarrassment, isolation and self-loathing.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) report that approximately  9.5% of teen deaths are caused by suicide, with exam disappointment being a definite trigger (SADAG, n.d). Many learners experience stress and anxiety as they feel pressured by family and friends to achieve good results in order to be able to pursue their desired careers and gain university entracnce (Fengu, 2017). Moreover, a significant number of learners believe that their poorer results have brought shame to their families and suicide is their only option. Matriculants who do not do well in their final exams tend to struggle in coping with the results and end up taking their own lives (KZN Department of Health [KZN DoH], 2016).

The climate of matric finals places significant stress on learners, with added pressure to obtain specific results (Hyde, 2017). This climate often culminates, producing high levels of anxiety which may hinder one’s performance (SADAG, n.d). It is important to remember that your exams don’t define you, your matric examination results are not the only road to achieving success. Firstly, learners should acknowledge their emotions and the reality they are faced with. Experiencing a wide range of emotions from anger to disappointment and embarrassment are expected should be acknowledged (Hyde, 2017). Recognising these emotions and attempting to speak about them, however difficult this may seem, leads to a shift of eventual acceptance (Hyde, 2017). Remember you are not alone and reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness (see list of emergency helplines).

It is important to evaluate the situation and determine what you can learn from this (Hyde, 2017). Revaluate your exam preparations and motivation to study. This will assist you going forwards when exploring your options. According to Hyde (2017) it is important to keep perspective when it comes to one matric results. There are still options for you to explore.

One of your first options is to apply for a remark (complete re-assessment of your paper) or recheck (re-counting and calculating the marks). Once your results have been released you can proceed with registering either at your school or district office in your province. This option is particularly if you’re are not too far off the university requirements and you feel like you could have gotten a few more marks. There is an application deadline for this which is around the second or third week of January. You will also have to pay a fee of R105 for a remark or R25 for a recheck.

Similar to the above, if you only need a few more marks to gain university entrance you could also apply for a supplementary exam. In order to qualify for a supplementary exam you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Your subjects were registered in the previous November examination.
  • You want to improve your overall performance or performance in a specific subject.
  • If you require a maximum of 2 subjects to obtain the Senior Certificate you may redo those subjects, provided they are the same two subjects taken in the previous end-of-year examination.
  • You were absent with a valid reason such as being medically unfit, experienced a death in the immediate family or any other special reasons (must provide proof).
  • If you qualify for a higher education institute or for an occupation but falls short of entering without your Senior Certificate. You’re allowed to rewrite a maximum of two courses.

Remember you will need to submit documentation as proof for any absenteeism. Registration for Supplementary Exams closes on 31 January 2020. Supplementary exams can be written at no extra cost.  Support is available for individuals preparing for these examinations in the form of free face-to-face classes, multimedia broadcasting solutions, online course support that is available throughout the year, as well as printed resources that are available through the face-to-face classes or from District or DBE offices.

If you don’t qualify for a supplementary exam you could also consider the following:

  • Register at a school as a full-time repeater for the NSC qualification, but for this you must be younger than 21 years old. There is no shame in this!
  • Register at a Public Education Centre as a part-time repeater.
  • If you are an adult or out-of-school learner, you can register for the Senior Certificate (SC) examination.
  • Also consider vocational education and training at a Further Education and Training (FET) college.

Your third option is to take a bridging course. A bridging course is a short course to improve your marks and potentially get a pre-degree/diploma foundation.

Such courses are offered at:

  • Damelin Correspondence
  • Intec College
  • Abbotts College
  • Oxbridge Academy
  • Taal-Net Training Institute
  • Brainline

Another option is to apply for an extended degree. Universities and institutions would require you to complete your qualification over an extended period of time. Consider your situation and time frame, different universities and institutions have their own specific entrance requirements and duration of programs. Or to apply for another qualification, it may not be your first choice, but it could be a step in the right direction. For this option you could do a career assessment which would give you a clearer picture of the career fields which may be better suited to your personality, values and skills. Career assessments can be done at universities and by psychologists.

There are many other ways you could make the most of your time and explore options before you reapply. For one, you could take a gap year to travel or you could start working which would help you gain some work experience. You should discuss how you are feeling and your plan of action with a parent, friend or guardian. In times like these, it might be difficult for a parent to know the best way to help (Hyde, 2017), as they may seem just as unsure about a plan of action as you are.  In situations like these you can contact various organisations who are available to support and educate such as Lifeline, SADAG or you nearest department of education, university or higher institution.

Emergency Crisis Helplines


The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG):

  • National helpline (24 hours): 0800 12 13 14
  • Suicide Crisis Line 0800 567 567
  • Website:

Some useful websites:

Reference List:

Department of Health: Province of KwaZulu-Natal. (2016). Matrics who fail need support – not criticism or judgement – in order to avoid suicide, says KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Retrieved from: (accessed on, 11 December 2019).

Fengu, M. (2017). Suicide Watch- The anxious wait for matric results. Retrieved from: (accessed on, 6 December 2019).

Hyde, C. (2017). 5 Ways to cope with disappointing Year 12 results. Retrieved from: (accessed on, 7 December 2019).

South African Depression and Anxiety Group (n.d.). No Exam is Worth Your Life. Retrieved from: (accessed on, 8 December 2019).

[i] Authors write in their capacity as members of the Society for Educational Psychology of South Africa and the Student Division of PsySSA (Psychological Society of South Africa).

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