Tips on how to make clever matric subject choices

It’s almost time for Grade 9 pupils to select subjects they want to take from next year until they write their final matric exams.

While making the call is an exciting exercise for some, others struggle with the commitment, especially when they are not yet sure what they want to study after school.

“Subject choice season requires some serious soul searching and big decisions, which are too important to leave until the day when you are presented with a checklist to indicate your choices. It should already be top of mind now for pupils who want to give themselves the best chance for success in Grade 12 and beyond,” head of faculty: information and communications technology at the Independent Institute of Education Nola Payne said.

Payne said time really is a child’s friend at this stage and it is important that the subject choice conversations should start between them, their parents, guardians, teachers and friends.

It is also important to not try and make decisions based on crystal-ball gazing, but to use the various resources available to assist with this choice – particularly when pupils are unsure about their vision for their future. These resources include:


“An educational psychologist associated with a higher education institution, whether public university or private, or even a professional in private practice, can be approached to do an aptitude test,” Payne said.

“These professionals are trained to use reliable assessments to gauge where the pupil’s talents, interests and strengths lie, and can be used as a strong indicator of the career directions and options the pupil should consider.”


By spending time speaking to advisers at higher education institutions, pupils will get a good idea of the range of potential qualifications they can pursue, and what the entrance requirements are.

“Your first stop is to visit the websites of various institutions of higher learning, and thereafter, you can further discuss your options with an adviser at the university or private higher education institution’s careers centre,” Payne said.

She said that once the pupil has an idea of what qualifications or careers excite them, they will be able to make informed matric subject choices.

“Your subjects should be very carefully selected and the decision must not be based on doing what your peers are doing or choosing all the easier subjects in the hope of scoring better marks,” she said.

Instead, the following factors need to be taken into consideration:


Look at a range of different institutions and courses within your field of interest to allow yourself some choice and a Plan B after matric.

Always consider a second option to avoid disappointment should you not be successful in your application for your first choice of a qualification.


Choose subject combinations that will leave you with options and room to manoeuvre.

If you struggle with maths and science, consider keeping only one of them so you can focus your efforts and achieve good results.

Maths literacy should only be considered as a last resort, as many courses require maths and you could be rejected based on the choice you made in Grade 9.


As you spend time at your desk every day, going from class to class, and completing your homework, be alert to which subjects you feel most comfortable with. Do your research and find out how your favourite subjects manifest in the working world, because they might be relevant to a field that you are not yet even aware of.


Choose at least two subjects that will boost your average. Admission to higher education is performance based, so it makes sense to do very well in some subjects rather than badly in all of them because you chose only gateway subjects in an effort to keep your options as open as possible.


You may think you won’t stand a chance of getting good enough grades to enter higher education after matric, but there are now many options for further study.

The South African National Senior Certificate and the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) have four levels of pass, so even if you do not get a degree pass, you could still qualify for diploma or higher certificate study.

Diplomas and higher certificates are normally vocationally or career-focused, and give you access straight to the world of work and even degree study.

“The key to making the best matric subject choices for your future self is to ensure you do your research thoroughly, and at a comfortable pace so you don’t have to rush the decision,” Payne said.

“These choices will have a profound impact on access to preferred qualifications and the career possibilities thereafter.

This is one of the first opportunities teenage pupils will have to practise strategic decision-making that will have a lasting effect on their lives, and it should be looked at as an exciting first step into their future as adults, and also a valuable learning and problem-solving lesson.”

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