Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education is a mandatory entrance requirement for any student living in Kenya to advance to a tertiary education whether university or college. Even then, mere possession of this secondary education certificate is not enough to guarantee entry.
Whether a Bachelor’s Degree, Diploma or Certificate any career course has a required minimum pass mark which varies each year, according to gender and tertiary institutions. Usually a degree has the highest minimum pass mark of around pass mark of C+, followed by diploma then certificate.
The following are the major factors to consider:
1. School Factor
2. KNEC Factor
Though KNEC has its subject requirements a candidate must follow, the school where a candidate attends also impose their very own subject selection requirements. This pertains to what a school can offer Eg. a majority of schools do not offer Art and Design (442), Woodwork (444), Metalwork (445) and others, because of this, students in the respective school cannot pick subjects not taught by the school. Moreover, the school may dictate that certain subjects be compulsory Eg. Biology and Chemistry as such students must also take the subjects and choose from the rest.
The following are what is considered during Subject Selection:
1. Subject Count
KNEC dictates that a candidate can sit for a MINIMUM OF 7 SUBJECTS to A MAXIMUM OF 9 SUBJECTS. Any deviation from this subject count range results in a student graded a mean grade of Z. A mean grade of Z indicates that the candidate did not meet the regular requirements. In addition to this, each and every student must choose a subject according to a certain criteria.
2. Subject Criteria
KNEC categorizes all secondary school subjects into 5 subject Group:
- GROUP I – These consist of compulsory subjects all student must sit for
- GROUP II – These consist of Science Subjects
- GROUP III – These consist of Humanity Subjects
- GROUP IV – These consist of Applied Sciences
- GROUP V – These consist of Technical Subjects
Mathematics Alt. A (121)
Mathematics Alt. B (122)All candidates must take all of the above subjects, no exceptions. In the past there only used to be Mathematics(121) but has been split into Mathematics Alt. A (121) and Mathematics Alt. B (122). At the moment a school decides whether to pick one or all. Many schools usually have Mathematics Alt. A hence a student can only pick the subject a school registered for.
For schools offering all options, then a student must pick one of the 2 Mathematics options. Be informed, Mathematics Alt. B is tied to General Science (these are considered soft sciences). Be advised, students with these subject combinations are barred from pursuing a career in the hard sciences ie, careers whose knowledge and application is purely science based such as pharmacist, analytical chemist, microbiologist, electrical engineer.
Given that this is a compulsory subject group a student has a subject count of 3.
GROUP II (SCIENCE SUBJECTS)
Biology Braille (236)
General Science (237)
KNEC dictates that a candidate MUST HAVE A MINIMUM OF 2 SCIENCE SUBJECTS. From the above subject group, a school may impose at least 1 compulsory science subjects. Most schools usually offer Chemistry (233), Physics (232) and Biology (231). From this, a student may wish to pick one more from the other two left, this would be a total of 2 science subjects. Or may choose 2 more and hence have a total of 3 science subjects.
For schools offering General Science, based on the 2019 examination timetable, we can deduce that for any student who picks General Science (237) must take Biology (231) or Biology Braille(236). This is deduced from its exact time sitting where candidates sitting for a Chemistry Paper or Physics Paper while have General Science Paper sat along side. Check out for more on General Science (237).
A student can pick either 2 or 3 science subjects from this subject group.
From the first 2 subject groups. Any candidate will have a subject count of either 5 (3 compulsory subjects + 2 science subjects) or 6(3 compulsory subjects + 3 science subjects).
GROUP III (HUMANITIES SCIENCES)
History and Government (231)
Christian Religious Education (313)
Islamic Religious Education (314)
Hindu Religious Education (315)
KNEC requires that a candidates must sit for at least one(1) of the above humanity subject.
A candidate may choose to sit for more than 1 humanity subject. A candidate is only allowed to take one(1) of the Religious Education NOT more than 1.
GROUP IV (APPLIED SCIENCES)
Computer Studies (451)
Home Science (441)
Art and Design (442)
Power Mechanics (447)
Drawing and Design (449)
Aviation Technology (450)
GROUP V (LANGUAGES)
Business Studies (565)
Kenya Sign Language (504)
From the above left subject groups, KNEC gives the student a choice to pick from the above groups to add up to a total of either 7, 8 or 9 subject count.
Though there are a variety of subjects left, a candidate usually find themselves with less subjects to pick from as schools usually do not teach some of the subjects Eg. Most secondary schools have Subject Group IV in Computer Studies (451), Agriculture (443) and Home Science (441). If this is what the school offers the candidate can only pick from one of them.
In conclusion, subject selection is a very delicate area, one that requires a considerable amount of time and thought. A candidate must also be aware that the subject they do pick will determine the range of career options that one can pick from. It is advised that students seek consultation from their teachers or informed people. For more on this check out our article on how to choose KCSE subject in relation to career.