Changing the Mode of Conducting Examinations in Nigeria

By Bede Adazie. Bede, 35, lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a volunteer teacher in mathematics and science with the Lagos Eko Secondary Education Project, and also does part-time homeschooling. Bede is currently pursuing a PGD in Education with the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)


If there is ever anything l would change to improve education in my country, it is THE MODE OF CONDUCT OF EXAMINATIONS. Currently, examinations are a disaster to both parents, students, the government and teachers. It is generally not a true reflection of students’ knowledge and capabilities -to a great extent- and is in many cases a show of shame going by the number of ceased and cancelled results released by the examination conducting bodies. In fact, a state of emergency needs to be declared on examinations mode Nigeria.

In this write up, I will make effort to show: The current mode of conducting examinations in Nigeria. The merits and demerits of the exam modes and some proposals for changes in the modes of conducting the exams in Nigeria. Finally, l will discuss the impact this change will have in the overall educational development in Nigeria.

Current Mode of Conducting Examinations in Nigeria

The examination bodies include:

  • WAEC – West African Examination Council.
  • NECO – National Examination council of Nigeria.
  • NABTEC – National Board for Technical Education.
  • NBPE (SUPEB) – National and State Boards for Primary Education in Nigeria.
  • JAMB – Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board.
  • Tertiary Institutions (Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, Colleges of Education) all have their education boards, Senates or Board of studies.
  • Professional Examination bodies such as ICAN-Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, COREN-Council of registered engineers of Nigeria, CIPM-Chattered Institute of Personnel Management and the list goes on.

I must state here that examinations conducted by the professional examination bodies are virtually devoid of malpractices and can be a model for other exam bodies.

Examinations are conducted every term for 3 terms in the primary and post-primary institutions. It is held twice per session in the tertiary institutions representing the two semesters per session. It follows a standard pattern and marking scheme. The examination proper is supervised by a team of invigilators, paramilitary men, civil defense and some other adhoc staffs recruited as the case may be.

Merits and demerits of the current system and some proposals for change

Merits of the Current system:

  • It has survived a fairly long period of time, showing some stability.
  • It has produced a fairly good number of men and women in different disciplines.
  • It has some universal appeal.

Demerits of the Current Examination System:

  • It is wrought with examination malpractice which is put at over 85%. It is an open secret that parents, students, law enforcement agents and teachers connive to break the rules of examinations in Nigeria, turning it into a NATIONAL CARICATURE or A NATIONAL SHOW OF DISHONESTY.
  • The uniform nature of the exams is not a true reflection of course work and materials learned prior to the exam. The educational authorities are aware of the fact that schools vary in terms of curriculum content implementation and academic excellence from one locality to the other. But in an apparent show of academic brigandage and disdainful pride to appease the inferiority complex of the people, virtually everyone dances naked in the market square during exams, by imposing uniformity in the conduct of the exams.
  • Examinations in Nigeria could be tagged “cheating carnivals”. This has eaten and bastardized the psyche of a whole generation of Nigerians to the extent that all other sectors of the economy are collapsing as a result of the cheating mentality. From Banks, to Pharmaceutical drug production, household items etc. are mostly fake or made from ‘cheat’ materials. Someone aptly put it this way – “Nigerians are fake people, and all they do is plastic”.

Proposed Changes in the Mode of Conduct of Examination in Nigeria

I will start by quoting George Orwell in his book ‘The Animal Farm’, where he stated that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others”. I can rephrase it thus “all pupils / students / undergraduates / schools are equal, but some are more equal than the others”.

The problem can be solved twofold: -i- Horizontally. -ii- Vertically

-i- Horizontally: This means a decentralization in the conduct of the examinations by the examination bodies (WAEC and JAMB), and the granting of autonomy of individual states and local government administrations, to impact local educational curriculum content which is relevant to them in addressing the educational needs of the people. According to Albert Einstein, “Education is that which remains after all that is learnt in school is forgotten”.

-ii-Vertically: A national body -maybe the Ministry of Education- should ensure that standards are maintained in all states of the federation so as not to water down the value and meaning of education in these areas.

Other suggestions to tackling this challenge are:

  • Students should be made to undertake exams based on their abilities and not as a “show of what they are not”.
  • Certificates should be diversified. This means that they should clearly show what an individual could offer for the development of the country/state – not just subjects passed.
  • The recurrent problem of mass failures especially in Mathematics and English Language. There should be Mathematics and English language exams for different levels of certification, graded thus:-a- Minimum Standard Maths/English Exam Certification.-b- Average Standard Maths/English Exam Certification.-c- Maximum O’Level Standard Maths/English Exam Certification.

All three certifications should be acceptable to all tertiary institutions as a precondition for admissions into it. Upgrading to other standards can be done in the course of studying at the higher institutions.

Available data has shown all through the decades of the nation’s existence massive failures in O’Level Mathematics and English language examinations. These are caused by:

  • Poor quality tutorials (many schools lack qualified Mathematics and English Language teachers).
  • Poor Instructional materials.
  • A psychological apathy and bias towards the exams which has been festered and allowed to grow by parents, teachers and the students alike all through the years.
  • Finally, examinations, like elections, should be conducted free and fair in Nigeria. No one has the justification to accuse a politician as election riggers when he, his children, and children’s children have all cheated in an exam. The kettle cannot call the pot black. Just like the open conduct of elections, examinations in Nigeria should be done in the OPEN, whereby pressmen, cameras, and videos are employed and relayed live on National TV and radio stations, and streamed on the internet. No thief wants to be discovered. Therefore, the phenomenon of examination malpractice will die a natural death if exposed for all to see.

What These Changes Would Impact On The Overall Development Of Nigeria

These changes would have the following impact on the overall development of Nigeria:

  • When our schools start breeding honest men and women, the country would cease to be a haven for quacks and mediocre.
  • More professional men and women would run the affairs of the country.
  • There would be increased investor confidence in the economy of the country.
  • The problem of fake and adulterated drugs would be a thing of the past as more honest drug producers go into production.
  • True zeal and nationalistic patriotism would be born in the soul of Nigerians. Apart from football -where the best players are picked (in many cases) to represent the country- Nigerians do not sing their National Anthem or Pledge during other occasions, not to talk of singing it before writing WAEC, NECO or JAMB.
  • The United Nations would lift the 1989 embargo placed on Nigerian degree holders to recertify their qualifications by sitting for a foreign exam before proceeding to work or study abroad. That is how bad it has been.
  • Finally, we as a nation cannot continue to exist on a lie. Truth is the main fabric of every organized society on earth, all through the ages. When sanity in our Conduct of examinations and educational institutions are restored, the country would be better for it.

All our prayers, thanksgiving and supplications would be more meaningful if we all stop cheating in exams, cheating ourselves and leading deceitful lives.


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