The 2008 matric examinations kicked off without any hiccups on Monday morning, with the Grade 12's saying the English paper 1 exam had not been to tough.
Most pupils from schools around Pretoria said they were confident they had done well in the examination, which was divided into three sections and included making a summary, but were nervous for the mathematics exam on Friday.
Mamelodi High School learners, speaking to BuaNews after writing the paper said they expected nothing less than a B symbol.
Ruth Mathonzi, 19, from Nellmapius Secondary School said she found the paper easy. "It was just like the tests we have been doing during the year; not difficult at all," she said.
She found the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams easier than the previous papers written in both Higher and Standard Grade. "With the NSC, you don't really have to study very hard because you know what to expect and you can prepare yourself accordingly.
"Teachers have been working very hard to prepare us for the new curriculum and everything worked out fine," she said.
It was the first time that all Grade 12 learners in public schools wrote exams based on the National Senior Certificate curriculum, which was phased in 2006. A total of 592 000 Grade 12 learners were registered to sit for their finals in 6 500 examinations centres in the country.
Angel Mbatha, 19, from Vukani Mawethu High School, also in Mamelodi said: "The paper was fair, we were expecting something that we would have to wrack our brains completing but it was just the opposite."
The only section the youngster found slightly challenging was the summary they had to write but she tried to answer as many questions as possible. "The question was not clear but I'll definitely get an A or B," an optimistic Angel said.
She noted that although she was prepared for the exams and had been given support from her teachers, she had still been nervous for the exams. "I'm still struggling to manage the stress, these exams will determine my future and I'm nervous especially for Maths, I must continue practicing," Angel told BuaNews.
Ms Mbatha's school mate Isaac Mashoboko, 21, said the thought of writing the first NSC exams was scary at first but the teachers had prepared them. "It is not difficult like the Higher and Standard Grades, I've already calculated my marks for the English paper and will definitely get a B symbol," he told BuaNews.
However, Isaac found Section B, which was made up of a comprehension, slightly difficult as he did not understand what was required of him. "But I tried and I'll definitely make it up on Friday when I write Maths," he said.
School Principal, Nkgopetseng Sehlabane, said while there was nothing about the NSC th pupils needed to be scared or nervous about, it had taken the teachers longer to complete the syllabus.
"According to a report from the teachers, learners were well prepared and understand the new curriculum, the exemplars distributed by the Education Department also helped us a lot and learners found it a bit easier because they know what was expected from them," Mr Sehlabane told BuaNews.
Grade 12 pupil Tshepo Bapela, also from Vlakfontein, said the comprehension section had been easy but the grammar section was a bit tricky. "I was well-prepared thanks to our teachers, I'll definitely get B," he said, adding that he was nervous about the next paper on Friday, Mathematics.
He noted that the new curriculum needed a lot of hard work and understanding.
The first two-hour paper was better than expected, said 18-year-old candidate, Hester Bernard from Menlopark Hoerskool in Pretoria.
She said the paper was basic but well constructed. "There were no difficulties at all and I think the Preliminary Exams prepared us very well for these final examinations. Actually there was nothing strange in this paper.
"I think as long as you prepared yourself in time and followed the instructions everyone would have passed," Hester said.
The confident matriculant said she loved the new curriculum because it was relevant to South Africa and international current affairs. "If you understand these issues and then apply what you have been taught at school, then you can easily write the subject."
Hester said she had been eating nutritious food to manage her stress, which is often a major concern for teachers and parents of matriculants. "I also studied early and then had enough sleep.
"After completing preliminary exams, me and my friends did not stop studying because we did not want to suffer stress during final examinations. Here at school we have wonderful teachers who always look after us and they are supportive and have adequately prepared us before we start writing."
Hester added that her study group had played a major role in preparing her for the exams.
On Friday Hester will be writing Mathematics with the rest of the country's matrics.
Another 18-year old candidate from Menlopark Hoerskool, Wieham Havenga said the English paper had been extremely well-formulated.
Mamelodi High School learner, Frans Ledwaba, 17, said he was confused about how the NSC worked because the textbooks they had received from the school were not the same as the ones received by students from neighbouring schools.
"I don't know whether to concentrate on the textbooks or exemplars because I can't find most of the questions from the exemplars in the textbooks we have, I'm hopeful though and look forward to the Accounting Paper tomorrow [Tuesday]," Mr Ledwaba told BuaNews.
Grade 12 learners, north of the city, said they were sure they had passed their English Paper 1.
Kgoitsemang Rachoene, 17, from Reitumetse High School in Block L Soshanguve said she had been working hard throughout the year. "It was a bit difficult, but I was prepared."
Kgoitsemang's friend, Ntwanano Nkwinika, who is also 17-years-old, said initially he had been nervous thinking that the paper would be difficult, but after writing he was full of smiles.
Their Principal Ms Makgatho also expressed confidence in her students. "The department has been very supportive providing learners with support study materials," she said.
Support interventions included subject adviser and teacher training which began in 2005, textbook catalogues of approved textbooks and the provision of these textbooks to the learners.
At Hebron Technical and Commercial High in GaRankuwa, the learners sang the same tune saying the paper was very simple.
Seleso Thoane, 18, told BuaNews that prior to the exam, she was expecting a difficult paper, but after writing she realised the paper was simple. If successful, she said she would study Human Resources at the University of Pretoria next year.
Under the new curriculum, all exams are written at one level and there is no longer Higher and Standard Grades. Learners also have to choose either mathematics or mathematical literacy and take Life Orientation which is assessed internally.
Schools have also been supported in many ways by the teacher unions including higher education institutions and non-government organisations, publishers and all the media houses, SABC and many private companies.
The department advised learners to continue to work through exam exemplars and use the Study Mate publication for last minute preparation. - BuaNews