Examinations conducted by the South African Nursing Council

Circular 14/2020

22 December 2020


TO:National Department of Health
 Provincial Departments of Health
 Nursing Education Institutions (NEIs)
 All stakeholders


Examinations conducted by the South African Nursing Council


The purpose of this circular is to notify the National Department of Health, Provincial Departments of Health, Nursing Education Institutions (NEIs) and other relevant stakeholders about the following matters pertaining to the examinations that are conducted by the South African Nursing Council:

  • Examinations written in October 2020
  • Re-writing of failed examination papers/portions
  • Late applications for entry into examination
  • End date of the SANC-conducted examinations for the legacy nursing qualifications
  • SANC examination for the new nursing qualifications


2.1 Background

The May 2020 examination was postponed due to the COVID-19 Alert level 5 lockdown. The examination dates were rescheduled and communicated accordingly. The students wrote the postponed examination in October 2020.

2.2 Way forward

  • Students who were not successful in the October 2020 examination will rewrite in May 2021; and
  • Students who were successful in the October 2020 examination will write the final examination in November 2021.


This serves to remind the NEIs that irrespective of the phasing out of the legacy nursing qualifications, the procedure to be followed by the candidates for re-writing of failed examination papers or portions remains the same, i.e.

3.1 A candidate who has failed a portion/paper in the Council examination for the first time follows the process outlined below:

3.1.1 Re-entry into any of the two consecutive examinations after publication of the examination results

  • An examination application form and prescribed fee must be submitted to the Council by the NEI;
  • These submissions must be made within the prescribed time frames;
  • Credits of the passed portion/paper will be retained; and
  • A candidate who has failed twice may be offered academic support by the Nursing Education Institution (NEI) in preparation for the third re-entry into an examination. The NEI will keep and maintain records of such academic support. 3.1.2. A candidate who after three attempts (full academic year) fails the

3.1.2. A candidate who after three attempts (full academic year) fails the examination, re-registers for the course and resumes training.


4.1 Background
The examination schedule which also outlines the closing dates for admission of students to the examination is published in advance during the last quarter of each calendar year for the examination to be conducted during the following year. 

4.1.2 In terms of section (4) (1) of the Regulations relating to the examinations of the South African Nursing Council (Government Notice No. R7. of 8 of January 1993 as amended) on application for admission to an examination, “A candidate shall submit to the Council an application for admission to an examination not later than the seventh day of the month, three months prior to the month in which the examination is to be conducted”.

4.1.3 In terms of section (4)(2): An application for admission to an examination submitted later than the date referred to in sub-regulation (1) may be accepted by the Council-

  • if it is submitted within seven days of the date referred to in sub-regulation (1) and is accompanied by the late entry fee prescribed by regulation 16(c); or
  • if, in the case of a candidate who has failed one or more portions of an examination but who qualifies for a further examination, it is submitted before or on the date which shall be published together with the results of the examination in which the candidate failed, in which case no late entry fee shall be payable.

4.2 Council resolution 

At the virtual meeting held on 21-22 October 2020 the Council resolved that the NEI, not the students, should be responsible for payment of such late registration fees referred to in section 4.1 above.

4.3 Implications for future examinations

4.3.1 The examination section has been inundated with late submissions of applications which are outside the stipulations as indicated in sections 4.1.2 and 4.1.3 above. This creates an administrative nightmare for the examination section. The practice also exposes SANC to risks. 
It is on this basis that from the year 2021, the following will apply

  • 4.1.2 AND 4.1.3 ABOVE. NEIs must strictly adhere to the examination schedule that is published on a yearly basis.

4.3.2 NEIs which fail to apply for students’ examination entry as per published examination schedule will be liable for any litigation that may ensue since the affected students will not write the examination.


5.1 Background

5.1.1 Circular 3/2020, issued on 28 January 2020 indicated that the end dates of the SANC conducted legacy examinations will be announced in March 2020. The examination dates were not communicated because of the uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5.1.2 The last examination dates are as reflected in the table below:

Type of ExaminationLast Examination Date
Examination for the Bridging Course for Enrolled Nurses leading to registration as a General or Psychiatric Nurse, in line with Government Notice No. R.683 of 14 April 1989 (as amended). November 2023
Examination for the course leading to registration as a Midwife, in line with Government Notice No. R.254 of 14 February 1975 (as amended). November 2022
Final examination for the course leading to registration as a Psychiatric Nurse, in line with Government Notice No. R.880 of 02 May 1975 (as amended)November 2022
Examination for the Diploma Course in Clinical Nursing Science, Health Assessment, Treatment and Care, in line with Government Notice No. R.48 of 22 January 1982 (as amended).November 2022
Admission examination for foreign applicants for the following: 
Registration as a Nurse. 
November 2023


5.2 Implications

5.2.1 The NEI should bring the contents of this circular to the attention of students.

5.2.2 The end dates will not be changed under any circumstances.

5.2.3 The NEIs and the students should be aware that from beginning of 2024 onwards the SANC will no longer conduct summative examinations for the above nursing programmes as well as the admission examination for foreign applicants/nurses.

6. SANC examination for the new nursing qualifications

6.1. Background

6.1.1 Circular 3/2020 issued on 28 January 2020 communicated future examination practices of SANC for the new nursing qualifications.


6.1.2 Students who are enrolled for the new nursing programmes will be required to write and pass the licensure examination on completion of training before their names are entered in the SANC register.


6.1.3 The licensure examination system is still under way. The Council, at its virtual meeting approved the project to conduct nursing practice analysis/task analysis which will inform the blue print for the licensure examination.

6.1.4 Students who are currently undergoing and are due to complete the Higher certificate in Nursing will however take up the SANC-conducted examination for professional entry in May/November 2021.

6.1.5 Foreign applicants/nurses will also be required to write and pass the licensure examination before they are entered in the SANC register at the beginning of 2024.

6.2 The examination dates

ExaminationExamination DatesClosing dates for examination applications
Examination for the Higher certificate in Nursing in line with Government Notice No. R.169 of 8 March 2013 5 May 20212 April 2021
3 November 20217 August 2021


6.3 Implications

6.3.1. NEIs should submit the Completion records by 15 March 2021 as only students who were successful will be considered for the examination.
6.3.2. Students have a choice to select the examination date that suit their needs.
6.3.3. NEIs should submit the examination applications on behalf of the students who intend to write the May 2021 examination as indicated in the schedule above.
6.3.4. Students will be responsible to download the examination application form on the SANC website at www.sanc.co.za in case they choose to write the examination other than May 2021. The form together with proof of payment of applicable examination fees should be emailed to exam@sanc.co.za.
6.3.5. The examination will for now be conducted at the NEI where one was enrolled for the programme.
6.3.6. The examination question paper will be based on the Exit Level Outcomes and Associated Assessment Criteria of the programme.
6.3.7. The students will be required to hand over the examination question paper after writing.
6.3.8. Only one examination paper of 100 marks will be written.


This Circular becomes implementable and valid on the date of issue. For further information in respect of this Circular, you are advised to contact Ms SJ Nxumalo, SANC Senior Manager: Education &Training at (012) 420 1022 or on e-mail at: jnxumalo@sanc.co.za.

Yours sincerely,


Ms SA Mchunu
Registrar and CEO
South African Nursing Council