Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education

The Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) is an academic certificate awarded to candidates upon completion of secondary education in Kenya.[1]

The first KCSE exam was held in 1989 at the same time as the last Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE), which it replaced as the entrance requirement for Kenyan universities.

The top students in the inaugural year of 1989 were Faith Wambui from Ongata Rongai in Nairobi city in 2013 who scored 96%, and Naeem Samnakay (who had also been the top student in the first KCPE exam four years previously). The top girl student was Sylvia Waweru from The Kenya High School.

In 1989, the KCSE included 10 subjects, but was later reviewed in 1992 and changed to 7 subjects under the presidency of Daniel arap Moi.

Group one (Compulsory subjects, 1989–2022; as from 2023 Mathematics and one language were compulsory) Group two (Sciences) Group three (Humanities) Group four (Technicals) Group five (Foreign Languages and Business)
English, Kiswahili, Mathematics Biology, Physics, Chemistry History and Government, Geography, Christian Religious Education, Islamic Religious Education and Hindu Religious Education Home Science, Art and Design, Agriculture, Computer Studies, Aviation, Electricity, Power Mechanics and Woodwork French, German, Arabic, Music and Business Studies

For grading, candidates must take all the three compulsory subjects, at least two sciences, one humanity and at least one practical or technical subject (see table above).

The KCSE examinations are taken under very strict supervision by the invigilators to avoid cheating and run for a period of about one month. Cheating in these examinations attracts severe penalties from the Kenya National Examination Council, and students caught cheating get their grades cancelled.[2]

The exams usually start in early November and end in late November. During December, the exam is graded and the results are released in late December the same year. However, the dates and even months for the examination may change depending on various factors such as teachers' strikes and natural calamities such as Covid-19 which led to reshuffling of the academic calendar in all learning institutions in the country.

Examination results are announced to the public by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, and the top hundred students and schools are released to the media the day of the results announcement, online portals for checking results is also made available at that moment.[3] School rankings are divided into the top 100 private schools, public schools and provincial schools.

The grading of the examination is as follows:

Grade Agrregated points Points
A 81-84 12
A- 74-80 11
B+ 67-73 10
B 60-66 9
B- 53-59 8
C+ 46-52 7
C 39-45 6
C- 32-38 5
D+ 25-31 4
D 18-24 3
D- 11-17 2
E 0-10 1

In Kenya, this examination is the entrance qualification to public and private universities and the pass mark is grade C+. Students who attain a lower mark than C+ join other tertiary institutions for non-degree courses. Over time, stringent measures have been taken by the government to ensure and sustain the credibility of the KCSE examination. However, there have been instances of breaches of these measures leading to examination vices such as leakage to some selected students who if undetected end up scoring high grades. The ministry usually punish students caught in examination malpractices by cancelling their results, and they are also barred from sitting for another national exams for a period of three years, after which they will be allowed to sit for another K.C.S.E exams. Examination officials who participate in the cheating and leakaging of the exams questions are also charged in a court of law.[4][5]

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students take the examination after four years of the Secondary School Course and this examination is a major determinant of the individual's future career. Since in 2018, a good grade guarantees one a place in one of the public or private universities in the country. Previous candidates didn't enjoy that opportunity.

Impact of COVID-19 in 2020


During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and due to the surge in cases, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Professor George Magoha, postponed the certificate examinations to 2021 for 800,000 Form 4 candidates. It was done in March 2021. This was the first time in the history of Kenyan education for the exams to be postponed and the academic calendar cancelled.[6]

See also



  1. ^ "secondary school qualification".
  2. ^ "kenya national Examination ouncil".
  3. ^ "KCSE KNEC Portal - How To Login". Kenyadmission. Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  4. ^ "Ministry of Education Kenya".
  5. ^ Okoth, Brian (2023-01-20). "Why it's difficult to know the best 2022 KCSE student in the country". The Standard. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  6. ^ Nation, Daily (2020-07-03). "Radical changes as KCSE exams begin". Nation. Retrieved 2023-06-08.

How to get your KCSE certificate if school was closed