WAEC, NECO and NABTEB: What you need to know about Nigerian Senior School Certificate Exams (SSCE)

  • Nigerian Senior School Certificate Examinations otherwise known as SSCE are examinations taken by students at the end of senior secondary school across the country. They are conducted by certain examination bodies approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Education. The certificates offered by these examination bodies are what eventually will be presented as evidence of undergoing school and of course the grades on them will show a candidate’s performance or level of academic competence at this level of education. These certificates are what students present when applying for advanced studies or seeking for a job in the future. In this article, I would like to look at those examination bodies vested with the responsibility of carrying out those examinations, their structures, similarities and dissimilarities and how frequent they are being conducted and much more.

    An important point to note: These examinations are not only offered for students at school but also for those candidates that are out of school for reasons such as failing the exam in their previous attempt or similar circumstance.

    Related article: Ten best websites that offer a practical test for TOEFL and IELTS

    There are mainly three examination bodies that conduct SSCE in Nigeria, and these are West African Examinations Council (WAEC), National Examinations Council (NECO) and National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB). Let’s examine them one after the other, shall we?


    West African Examinations Council popularly known as WAEC was established to determine examinations need of English-Speaking West African countries, to conduct those examinations and eventually, to award certificates that are equivalent and up to standard with that of other recognized examination bodies internationally. It is the oldest SSCE exam body that is currently in existence in Nigeria.

    In Nigeria, WAEC conducts two examinations, namely;

    1. West Africa Senior School Certificate Examinations for school candidates often shorten as WASSCE for school candidate. It is being conducted for students currently in the last class of senior secondary school (SS3).
    2. West Africa Senior School Certificate Examinations for private candidates or WASSCE for the private candidates, as it is usually called. It is being conducted for candidates that are not currently in the school system.

    WASSCE for school candidates is conducted once every year between the months of May and June. Candidates are requested to register in their school prior to the examination time. For more information on this, check out the WAEC website. The examinations are conducted in government-approved designated centres across the country - mostly all government secondary schools and some selected private schools.

    On the other hand, WASSCE for private candidates is conducted twice a year – the first series and the second series. The first series is conducted in January/February and the second series is held in August/September.  This private exam is often referred to as General Certificate Examinations (GCE), and anyone that is interested can register to write it - unlike that of school candidate, this has no restriction as to who is to write the exams.

    See here for candidates who are eligible to write WAEC exam.


    National Examinations Council, otherwise known as NECO, is a national examination body established by the Nigerian government to conduct examinations. Unlike WAEC, NECO is a national examination body vested with the responsibility to oversee specified exams only in Nigeria. NECO’s main objectives are:

    1. To Prepare and administer standard and credible nationally and internationally acceptable examinations.
    2. To become a major player within the global assessment industry. (source

    Although the board was established in 1991, NECO’s maiden SSCE examination was conducted in 2000. NECO oversees the conduct of three main examinations in the country, namely;

    1. Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE) for both internal and external candidates, that is, students who are still the school system at the end of SS3 and those who are outside. Internal candidates take the exam in June/July, and external candidates take it in November/December).
    2. Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) - offered at the end of nine years of basic education; that is, at the end of Junior Secondary School (JSS 3)
    3. National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) - conducted at the end of Primary School; that is, after six years of primary education.


    National Business and Technical Examinations Board also known as NABTEB was established by the Nigerian law in 1992, in order to be “a Globally Recognized Assessment and Certification Body Preparing Candidates for the World of Work and Academic/Professional Excellence.”

    Unlike WAEC and NECO, NABTEB conducts not only examinations on general subjects but also on areas of business and technical skills. It also conducts examinations for advanced certificates in Business and technical skills. Click here for NABTEB’s complete list of Subjects structure and combinations.

    NABTEB is mandated to conduct examinations that will lead to the awards of;

    1. National Business Certificate (NBC): This certificate is to be awarded to school candidates that sat for NABTEB business trade-based examination at the end of secondary school, or private candidates who want to get a certificate to further their education or so.
    2. National Technical Certificate (NTC): This certificate is awarded to school candidates who sit for NABTEB technical trade-based examination at the end of secondary school or private candidates who want to get the certificate to further their education or so.
    3. Advanced National Business Certificate (ANBC): It’s called, NABTEB A-level, and it is only offered to those who sat and pass NABTEB O-level exams (NBC). It is equivalent to NCE (Nigerian Certificate of Education), OND (Ordinary National Diploma) and the like.
    4. Advanced National Technical Certificate (ANTC): It’s also called, NABTEB A-level certificate examination, and it’s only available to those candidates who sat and pass its prerequisite O-level (NTC). They share the same status with ANBC.

    Other examinations conducted by NABTEB are; Modular Trades Certificate Examinations (MTCE)
    and National Common Entrance Examinations.

    NBC/NTC and ANBC/ANTC certificate examinations are conducted twice every year, one in May/June for school candidates while the other in November/December for private candidates.

    Read also: Factors that affect performance in SSCE English among Nigerian students

    Subjects that are being examined in the SSCE

    All candidates are mandated to register and sit for a minimum of eight subject areas and a maximum of nine. Students have an option to write their SSCE exam by choosing either one of the exam body, for example, WAEC, or can undertake the exam with more than one body to increase their chances of getting the required credits. Some higher institutions in Nigeria accept a combination of two SSCE certificates from a candidate in order to help complement the certificate that has less required credit. The subjects are usually chosen in the following manner:

    1. Three (3) mandatory subjects - English Language, Mathematics and Civic Education
    2. Three to four (3 to 4) Subjects based on candidate’s prepared field of study (sciences, technology, humanities or business studies)
    3. At least one (1) Trade Subjects

    See a complete list of WAEC subjects.

    Related article: Requirements for studying MIS in Nigerian universities

    The exam format

    SSCE’s exam format is very similar to each other. There are two major sections - or papers as they are called, for almost all the subjects. These sections are:

    OBJ’S: OBJ or objective section has a series of questions with multiple choice answer options that a candidate is going to choose. Only one answer is correct among the choices.

    Theory: The second section of the exam is a theory. In this section, candidates will be confronted with several questions, and mostly they will be asked to choose and answer only some of the questions,  depending on the subject a candidate is attempting. Some of the questions require a detail definition or explanation of what has been asked while other questions need only short answers.

    It is essential to note that, English language and other science subjects like physics, chemistry, biology have more than two sections. Most of the subjects in this category require, in addition to the theory paper, a practical (laboratory) exam.

    SSCE grading system

    As any examination in the world, Nigerian SSCE has a standard grading system on which candidates’ performance is measured on. The table below gives the detail on how the grades are being awarded.

    Grade      Range (Out of 100%)        Remark

    A1           95-100                                 Excellent

    B2           94-80                                   Very Good

    B3           79-65                                   Good

    C4           64-60                                   Credit

    C5           59-55                                   Credit

    C6           54-50                                   Credit

    D7           49-45                                   Pass

    E8           44-40                                   Pass

    F9           39-0                                     Fail

    Note: Candidates are considered successful only if they have a minimum of five (5) credits and those five credits must include English Language and Mathematics.

    In conclusion, Nigerian SSCE as mentioned above, is very critical to students’ academic journey, hence the need for every student to have a clear understanding of it and how it’s being conducted. I hope this article serves this purpose.

    You may also want to check: Ten ways to boost your exam performance.

    Photo credit: Daily Post, Nigeria

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