The subjects you choose are important depending on your career goal. If you are unsure about your career plans, it is best to keep your options open and have a good, mixed selection of subjects.

Why are subject choices important?

For higher (tertiary) education:

If you do not have the right marks or combination of subjects, you will not get into certain courses or programmes. Your subjects, as well as the results you achieve, will impact which programme you can enter and at which institution you can apply. Subjects are not of equal value and are scored differently depending on the institution and qualification you want to apply to study.

For work:

Your high school subject choices affect access to tertiary education more than it will affect your job options. However, your subjects will impact what knowledge you have when applying for work. For example, taking accounting as a subject can increase your understanding of the finance sector. Your subjects could impact what learnerships you could be considered for, some require Maths and Science for example. Take a look at the table on CareerHelp to see how your subjects match with different careers.

You will have to pick your subjects in Grade 9. The earlier you start thinking about your career goals, the better.

How many subjects do you need in Matric?

You need a minimum of 7 subjects in Matric: 4 are compulsory subjects, and the other 3 are your elective subjects.

What are compulsory subjects?

Compulsory subjects are required to pass Matric. There are 4 compulsory subjects:

  • 2 Official languages (1 Home Language and 1 First Additional Language)
  • Math or Math Literacy
  • Life Orientation

What are elective or optional subjects?

Elective or optional subjects are not compulsory but selected based on your preference and interest in particular subjects. These subjects are useful to build your knowledge, enabling you to understand specific concepts better.

You need to choose a minimum of 3 elective subjects from the subject selection list your school offers. There are 25 elective subjects offered in South Africa (see the list of subjects below) but not every school has all the subjects available.

Elective subjects offered in South Africa:


Think about which subjects you enjoy and what subjects you are good at before you choose your subjects. Selecting subjects that you are good at and interested in increases your chances of achieving success. You do not want to risk of failing, by choosing subjects that you do not enjoy or find hard.

Your final decision should be in line with your future goals. However, if you are still unsure about your career goals, keep your options open by selecting subjects such as Maths and Science. They are some of the most important subjects. The combination of subjects you take, plus each subject’s results will affect whether or not you will be granted admission into the university or college programme of your choice. It is important to check the entry requirements of each college or university you want to apply to.