How Many IGCSE Subjects Are Required in South Africa

How Many IGCSE Subjects Are Required in South Africa? A Clear Guide to Meeting the Minimum Requirements

In South Africa, students who plan to pursue higher education are required to meet specific academic requirements. One requirement is to complete International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) subjects. 

The number of IGCSE subjects required varies depending on the program or university a student plans to attend.

According to the ACESA (Association for the Certification of Education Specialists in Africa), students are required to complete a total of five different subjects, including three Ordinary Level / IGCSE subjects graded A to C (or 1 to 6), plus two passes at one of the following levels: 

Advanced Supplementary (grade E), Higher General Certificate of Secondary Education (HIGCSE) (graded 1-3), or a recognized equivalent. However, some universities may have additional subject requirements beyond the minimum set by ACESA.

Students must research the specific requirements of the universities they are interested in attending to ensure they meet all necessary academic criteria. 

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Additionally, students may consider taking more than the minimum required number of IGCSE subjects to increase their chances of acceptance into their desired program or university.

Understanding IGCSE in South Africa

The IGCSE, acknowledged worldwide, caters to students aged 14 to 16. Numerous private and international schools in South Africa provide this qualification.

To gain entry into a South African university, students must obtain an exemption certificate from the South African Matriculation Board. The IGCSE is one of the qualifications that can be used to obtain an exemption certificate.

To qualify for an AS Level with an exemption certificate, students must complete four AS-level subjects and one IGCSE-level subject. They should select one subject from groups 1, 2, and 3 at either AS or IGCSE level. The remaining two subjects, the fourth and fifth, can be chosen from any group and pursued at either AS or IGCSE level.

The following conversion table will guide students in applying for admission to Stellenbosch University:

Grading table: International conversion to South Africa % awarded by Stellenbosch University SA NSC HIGCSE/ NSSC HL IGCSE/GCE/NSSC OL – Grade 11 IGCSE/GCE/NSSC OL – Grade 12 AS-level A-level IB HL IB SL
A+ 90-100 9 9 8 7 6 6 7 7
A 80-89 8 8 7 6 5 5 6 6
B 70-79 7 7 6 5 4 4 5 5
C 60-69 6 6 5 4 3 3 4 4
D 50-59 5 5 4 3 2 2 3 3
E 40-49 4 4 3 2 1 1 2 2
F 30-39 3 3 2 1 0 0 1 1

Cambridge International and Universities South Africa have produced a joint publication that details the minimum requirements to gain exemption for entry to South African universities. The publication contains information about the recognition of Cambridge qualifications in South Africa.

As a private international school in Cape Town, the International School of Cape Town offers British-style education, specifically the IGCSE curriculum and international A levels. Cambridge IGCSE is the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 to 16-year-olds.
Overall, the IGCSE is a valuable qualification for students in South Africa who wish to pursue higher education.

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Required IGCSE Subjects

South African universities require students to meet specific requirements to be eligible for admission. One of these requirements is completing the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) program.

Students must take a minimum number of IGCSE subjects, including specific subjects, to meet the requirements for university admission.

To be eligible for university admission in South Africa, students must take a minimum of five IGCSE subjects, including Mathematics and English Language.

These two subjects are mandatory and must be passed with a minimum grade of C. In addition, students must take at least one subject from the following groups: Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Business Studies.

The following table shows the required IGCSE subjects for university admission in South Africa:

Subject Group Required Subjects
Mathematics Mathematics
English Language English Language
Science Biology, Physics, Chemistry
Humanities and Social Sciences History, Geography
Business Studies Business Studies

Opting for Computer Science as an IGCSE subject is advisable for aspiring Computer Science degree students. It’s worth noting that while this subject enhances candidacy, it’s not obligatory for university entry.

Meeting minimum admission criteria doesn’t ensure acceptance into a desired program or institution. Each university sets unique prerequisites, potentially involving more subjects or elevated grades.

Language Requirements

South African universities have specific language requirements for students seeking admission. Students must meet the minimum requirements for language proficiency to be considered for admission. The language requirements vary depending on the institution, but most universities require proficiency in English or Afrikaans.

English is the most commonly used language in South African universities, and students are required to demonstrate proficiency. 

Students can fulfill the English language requirement by completing an English proficiency test like IELTS or TOEFL. Alternatively, they can demonstrate their English skills by submitting a certificate from an accredited institution.

Afrikaans is another language commonly used in South African universities, particularly in the Western Cape. Students who wish to study in Afrikaans must demonstrate proficiency in the language. This can be done by passing an Afrikaans language test or providing a certificate from a recognized institution.

Some universities might also accept other languages like French, Portuguese, German, Spanish, and the student’s native language. 

However, language requirements differ across institutions. Students should inquire with their desired university to clarify the specific language requirements for admission.

Additional Subject Options

In addition to the standard IGCSE subject requirements for South African students, several additional subject options are available. 

These options provide students with a more well-rounded education and prepare them for future studies or careers in specific fields.

An appealing choice among subjects is Art & Design, enabling students to nurture creativity and master diverse art forms like drawing, painting, sculpture, and digital art. It’s particularly beneficial for those aspiring to careers in arts or design.

Another subject option is Economics. This subject teaches students about the principles of economics, including supply and demand, market structures, and international trade. It can be an excellent option for students interested in pursuing careers in business or finance.

Accounting offers students interested in finance or accounting careers a valuable subject choice. It covers financial statements, bookkeeping, and accounting principles.

Religious Studies is also an option for students who want to learn more about different religions and their impact on society. This subject can benefit students interested in social work or counseling careers.

Finally, Physical Science offers a path for students aspiring to careers in science or engineering. It imparts knowledge about physics and chemistry principles, encompassing mechanics, thermodynamics, and atomic structure.

Understanding Grading System

In South Africa, the grading system used for IGCSE subjects is based on grades A-G, with A being the highest and G being the lowest. The grades are awarded based on the student’s performance in the subject, with A being awarded for the highest performance and G for the lowest.

To be eligible for an exemption certificate, students must pass at least four subjects at grade C or above for IGCSE subjects. All Group V subjects at Cambridge International AS Level are only recognized for grouping purposes if the candidate has passed IGCSE or O Level Mathematics with a minimum grade of C.

The grading system used in secondary schools until 2008 was based on percentages. However, under the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) system implemented in 2008, the grading system was changed to levels of achievement. 

The percentages are still used to calibrate grades in universities such as the University of Cape Town and the University of South Africa (UNISA).

A grade C symbol (50-59%) is required for IGCSE subjects to pass the subject. For AS-level subjects, a grade D symbol (40-49%) is required to pass, and for A-level subjects, a grade E symbol (30-39%) is required to pass.

Students must understand the grading system and the requirements for passing each subject. This will help them plan their studies and ensure they meet the requirements to obtain an exemption certificate.

University Admission and IGCSE

For students looking to gain admission to universities in South Africa, it is crucial to understand the role of IGCSE qualifications. Many universities in South Africa require a combination of Cambridge International A Level and IGCSE qualifications to meet their entry requirements.

As per the Admission Requirements for South African Public Universities, students aiming to enroll in a university in South Africa must possess a Senior Certificate with Matriculation Endorsement. 

Nevertheless, Cambridge International AS and A Level holders can receive Exemption Certificates from Universities in South Africa, provided they fulfill designated criteria and subject group prerequisites.

Please note that Group V subjects in Cambridge International AS Level are eligible for grouping only if the candidate has attained a minimum Grade C in IGCSE or O Level Mathematics. For detailed prerequisites, kindly visit the official university website or contact the admissions office.

MIT, one of the top universities in the world, also recognizes IGCSE qualifications. According to their website, students who have completed IGCSEs and A Levels may be considered for admission to MIT. However, admission is highly competitive, and students are encouraged to have excellent grades and extracurricular achievements.

Cambridge Qualifications in South Africa

Cambridge International is a well-known provider of international qualifications and assessments for students aged 5 to 19. These qualifications are recognized in many countries, including South Africa.

In South Africa, Cambridge International qualifications are recognized and accepted by Universities South Africa (USAf), a membership organization representing the country’s public universities. 

To study for a Bachelor’s degree at a South African university, a student with Cambridge International AS & A Levels must qualify for a certificate of complete or conditional exemption issued by USAf.

Cambridge International offers various qualifications in South Africa, including Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge International AS Level, and Cambridge International A Level. Cambridge IGCSE is a popular qualification in South Africa, with over 50 subjects available for students.

To gain admission to a South African university, a Cambridge International AS & A Levels student must meet specific requirements. For example, a student will need to have passed at least five subjects, including three Ordinary Level / IGCSE subjects graded A to C (or 1 to 6), plus two passes at one of the following levels: 

Advanced Supplementary (grade E), Higher General Certificate of 

Secondary Education (HIGCSE) (graded 1-3), or recognized equivalent.

It is important to note that all Group V subjects at Cambridge International AS Level are only recognized for grouping purposes if the candidate has passed IGCSE or O Level Mathematics with a minimum of grade C. For detailed requirements, students can refer to the USAf website.

Further Study Options After IGCSE

Once students finish their International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), various further study paths become available in South Africa. 

These include popular options like A-levels, AS-levels, Senior Certificates, National Senior Certificates, Matriculation Board, and Nursing.

A-levels and AS-levels are internationally recognized qualifications equivalent to the South African Senior Certificate. Cambridge International Examinations offer these qualifications and can be taken in various subjects. 

A-levels are typically taken over two years and consist of the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced (A2) levels. AS-levels can also be taken as standalone qualifications.

The South African Senior Certificate is conferred upon Grade 12 graduates and acknowledged by universities and employers. Its updated counterpart, the National Senior Certificate, is granted to those who finish Grade 12 under the new National Curriculum.

The Matriculation Board is responsible for administering the Matriculation Examination, which is required for admission to a South African university. The examination is based on the South African Senior Certificate. 

It consists of six subjects, including two languages and three subjects from the following groups: Mathematics, Physical Science, Life Science, Geography, and Accounting.

After finishing their IGCSE, students can pursue nursing in South Africa through various programs, including diplomas and degrees. These programs usually mandate a Senior Certificate or National Senior Certificate for admission.

Understanding Exemption Certificates

South African universities require students to meet specific minimum requirements to gain admission. However, Cambridge International AS and A Level students may be eligible for exemption certificates if they meet particular criteria and subject group requirements.

According to Universities South Africa, students must have a total of five different subjects, including three Ordinary Level/IGCSE subjects graded A to C (or 1 to 6), plus two passes at one of the following levels: 

Advanced Supplementary (grade E), Higher General Certificate of Secondary Education (HIGCSE) (graded 1-3), or recognized equivalent.

Students aiming for an AS Level with an exemption certificate should complete four AS-level subjects and one IGCSE-level subject. 

The selection should include one subject from groups 1, 2, and 3 at AS or IGCSE. The remaining two subjects can be chosen from any group and pursued at AS or IGCSE.

Alternatively, students may opt for three A-level subjects and one IGCSE subject (four subjects total). At least one subject from groups I, II, and III on either A or IG level is required. 

The fourth subject from any group can be on either A or IG level. The minimum grade necessary for A-level is E (40-49%), and IGCSE is C (60-69%).

It is important to note that Universities in South Africa grant exemption certificates, not Cambridge Assessment International Education. The certifications prove a student meets the minimum requirements for admission to South African public universities.

Resources for Parents and Students

Parents and students interested in Cambridge IGCSE subjects in South Africa can find a wealth of resources to help them make informed decisions. 

The Cambridge International website provides detailed information about each subject, including syllabus content, assessment details, and sample papers. This information can help parents and students understand what to expect from each subject and determine which subjects suit their needs.

Schools that offer Cambridge IGCSE subjects can also provide valuable resources for parents and students. School websites may include information about their subjects and their teaching methods and assessment practices. Parents and students can also contact schools to ask questions and request additional information.

Online search engines can be a helpful tool for finding information about Cambridge IGCSE subjects in South Africa. Using keywords such as “Cambridge IGCSE South Africa,” parents and students can find various websites with information about the subjects available, schools that offer them, and other resources.

Video resources can also be helpful for parents and students who want to learn more about Cambridge IGCSE subjects. The Cambridge International website includes various videos that provide an overview of the subjects available and tips and advice for students. 

Parents and students can also find videos on YouTube that cover specific subjects in more detail.

IGCSE in Different Regions of South Africa

In South Africa, the IGCSE qualification is equated to the National Senior Certificate (NSC) by the Department of Basic Education. 

Administered by the Cambridge Assessment International Education Board, IGCSE holds global recognition and is widely accepted by South African and international universities.

Across various regions in South Africa, diverse educational institutions provide the IGCSE. In Cape Town, for instance, notable schools like the International School of Cape Town, the American International School of Cape Town, and the Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard offer this curriculum.

To secure entry into South African universities, students must meet the minimum criteria outlined by the Universities South Africa (USAf) matriculation board. 

Although the conventional equivalence is IGCSE for grade 11, AS-level for grade 12, and A-level for grade 13, USAf acknowledges a blend of these qualifications for granting university exemptions.

To qualify for the exemption, students must excel in five distinct subjects: three Ordinary Level / IGCSE subjects graded A to C (or 1 to 6), coupled with two passes at either Advanced Supplementary (grade E), Higher General Certificate of Secondary Education (HIGCSE) (graded 1-3), or their equivalents.

Furthermore, students aspiring to pursue specific courses at South African universities might need extra subjects or specific grade benchmarks. Students must research the admission prerequisites of their preferred universities to ensure adequate readiness.

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