All Learners Who Registered Wrote Exams, Says Department

More than 1 million candidates were registered to write the final matric exams this year. Now that the exams have come to an end, the department is certain that its efforts had a positive impact on learners.



After finishing a 30 day exam session, the department is confident that all learners who registered to write the exams were able to write them. 

Exams started on 5 November and officially came to an end on 15 December 2020. During this time, a total of 216 question papers were written at 8 200 exam centres.  

“We did the best we could to accommodate learners in this particular examination. Even where candidates were incorrectly registered, we made sure that if they pitched up to an examination centre we accommodated them...We can confidently state that every learner was able to write the examinations" said Rufus Poliah, Basic Education Chief Director of National Assessment and Public Examinations.

Poliah said even learners who fell ill the day before their exams were able to write from hospital.  

On 4 November, the department released a statement allowing learners who tested positive for Covid-19 to write their exams. This was a change from its initial decision to not allow Covid-19 positive learners to write.

A total of 715 candidates tested positive for Covid-19 between 5 November and 15 December. These learners were all allowed to write their exams.  

The total number of learners who tested positive per province are as follows:

  • Eastern Cape - 542
  • Western Cape - 70
  • Gauteng - 49
  • Free State - 30
  • North West - 7 
  • Mpumalanga - 6 
  • KwaZulu-Natal - 5
  • Northern Cape - 5 
  • Limpopo - 1 

The department has mourned the loss of 1493 teachers, as well as the passing of Northern Cape MEC for education, Mac Jac.


Now that learners are done writing exams, the department has start the marking process.

“Marking will commence in earnest on 4 January 2021.  On 12 February 2021, the DBE will present an irregularities report to UmaIusi, and thereafter wait for the quality assurance agency to make an announcement on the integrity, credibility and fairness of the 2020 NSC examinations,” said Basic Education Minster Angie Motshekga.

Each province has its own marking dates based on the number of scripts they have to mark.

Poliah said 3 provinces have already started with staggered marking because of the high number of candidates who wrote exams. 


 Marking dates

Mpumalanga -

1 - 12 December 2020

4 - 22 January 2021


5 - 18 December 2020

6 - 19 January 2021


13 - 22 December 2020

5 - 22 January 2021

Western Cape  3 - 22 January 2021
Northern Cape 2 - 14 January 2021
Eastern Cape 4 - 21 January 2021
Free State 6 January - 21 January 2021
North West  6 January - 22 January 2021
KwaZulu- Natal 6 January - 22 January

Marking Standardisation

A number of marking standardisation meetings have been taking place recently, as the department has been meeting with representatives from different panels to interrogate the exam marking guidelines along with the expected answers from learners.

Poliah said the purpose of these meetings is to make sure every question is '"looked at with a fine eye" in order to identify any questions that could be misinterpreted by learners. 

According to Poliah, 52 meetings out of 144 have taken place, and the department will continue to have more in an effort accommodate learners and their possible final marks. 

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