Saica’s exam pass rate increases

The pass rate for the first of the two professional qualifying examinations to become a chartered accountant in South Africa rose from 59% last year to 64% this year.

The University of Pretoria is once again the top performer, with a pass rate of 99% compared to last year’s 92%.


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The University of Cape Town has seen its pass rate shoot up from 77% in 2020 to 91% this year and the University of North West from 80% to 93%.

University 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Pretoria 99% 92% 94% 92% 87% 92% 92% 97%
Cape Town 91% 77% 84% 91% 83% 81% 91% 93%
Johannesburg 82% 71% 81% 64% 82% 82% 84% 91%
Stellenbosch 95% 79% 87% 93% 85% 90% 79% 75%
Witwatersrand 87% 78% 84% 85% 81% 79% 91% 90%
North West 93% 80% 91% 90% 92% 84% 87% 74%

Source: University of Pretoria

This year 3 887 students wrote the first Initial Test of Competency (ITC) of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) and 2 507 passed. During the 2020 pandemic year 3 657 students sat for the exam and 2 149 passed.

The institute said in a statement that despite the challenges and negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students, many have turned these challenges into opportunities.

“These candidates had to overcome immeasurable odds to pass, and they lived up to the task,” Saica CEO Freeman Nomvalo said in the statement.

The University of Pretoria achieved a 100% pass rate for its first-time writers (169 students).

Madeleine Stiglingh, head of the Department of Accounting, said the pass rate for black, coloured and Indian students was an “unprecedented” 100%.

The overall pass rate for all first-time candidates at the different institutions was 70% – up from 68% last year, but down from 76% in 2019.

The University of Pretoria’s first-time pass rate of 94% on average over 15 years is one of the most consistent over time, the university said.

The national pass rate for this year’s first exam for all black candidates (1 899) was 52%. The overall pass rate for white students was 85%, coloured students 69%, and Indian students 63%.

The institute noted that of the 983 black candidates who passed, 314 are distance learning students from Unisa. The pass rate for the Thuthuka (bursary) students was 87% compared to 54% for the same exam last year.

Top students

The top 10 candidates passed their exam with honours, achieving more than 75%.

Top student Hanne Mertens and four more of the top 10 students are from the University of Stellenbosch. The North West University’s Christi-Ann du Toit was second and Meera Ranchod from the University of Cape Town was third.

Pass rate race gap a concern

Saica says it remains concerned about the gap between the pass rate of black and white students.

It is in the process of procuring the services of an independent researcher who will focus on a review of the full value chain to better understand the possible causes of the gap between different racial groups.

The researcher will, at the end of the research, present a report identifying the possible root causes and recommendations on how these can be addressed.

According to Saica students must obtain an overall pass mark of 50% and a sub-minimum of at least 40% in three of the four professional papers.


Robert Zwane, senior executive at Saica, says its education, training and examination processes are in line with international best practice, as outlined by the education and training standards of the International Federation of Accountants.

“These processes are also reviewed by our peer institutes for reciprocity purposes to ensure these standards are being met and maintained,” says Zwane.

Saica is accredited by the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba), which undertakes regular and detailed reviews of the institute’s qualification process.

Zwane says Saica engaged one of its members and a representative of one of the international professional bodies during the course of last year to perform an independent review of the ITC and the second exam, the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) standard.

Of the 1 066 repeat candidates in April this year, 51% passed.

Nomvalo said candidates who will be rewriting the exam later this year should persevere and encouraged them to continue working hard and not to give up.

The sitting for the second exam is September 1 and 2 this year.