Understanding Unit Standards

Unit standards are the building blocks of a qualification.

A unit standard describes the learning outcomes to be achieved by the learner, as well as the assessment criteria against which the student’s performance will be judged. These unit standards are the minimum levels of competency as agreed by an entire industry.

A learning outcome is what a student will know and be able to do when they have completed their qualification and have been judged competent. These outcomes will be recognized through national standards and qualifications.

Unit standards are your source document for the design of assessment tools.

They are used to measure a person’s competence (the candidate can demonstrate his or her competence in the skills and knowledge required to achieve that particular unit standard). You can use unit standards to find the ‘gaps’ in your knowledge and/or skills.

Each unit standard is registered with SETAs and recognised by SAQA and can be ‘pegged’ on an NQF level. A unit standard will have a certain number of credits which helps to understand the complexity of the knowledge and skills required by the unit standard.


1 credit = 10 notional* hours of study e.g. research, days spent in a lecture, reading, etc.

A *notional hour is any activity that can be directly linked to the acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding for that particular unit.


See also What are Modules

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