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Why it's difficult to know the best 2022 KCSE student in the country

 Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu (R) and Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang at KNEC Headquarters on Dennis Pritt Road, Nairobi on January 20, 2023, ahead of the release of 2022 KCSE results. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ezekiel Machogu on Friday, January 20 released the 2022 KCSE results without revealing the identity of the best student in the country or the school that he or she studied at.

There were 1,146 students out of 881,416 candidates who scored the Mean Grade of A (plain).

Boys dominated the A (plain) category with 875. Girls were 271.

Grade A (plain) starts from 81 points to 84 points, which is the maximum.

The students usually sit a minimum of seven subjects, with each subject attracting a maximum of 12 points (A plain).

Grade A in the subjects is 12, A- (minus) is 11; B+ (10), B plain (9), B- (8), C+ (7), C plain (6), C- (5), D+ (4), D plain (3), D- (2) and E (1).

Take the example of Student A whose seven subjects combination is Mathematics, English, Kiswahili, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geography and History. In all these subjects, this student scores Grade A in each.

To get his total points, you take seven (the number of subjects) and multiply it by 12 points, because he had scored A in each of the subjects. Remember Grade A attracts 12 points.

So, Student A's total points will be 84 points out of the maximum 84.

Now, take the example of Student B whose seven subjects combination differs from that of Student A. Student B's compilation is Mathematics, English, Kiswahili, Chemistry, Biology, CRE and Business Studies. Just like Student A, this learner too scores A plain in all the seven subjects to have an overall Grade of 84 points.

On paper, the two students appear equal in grading, but in reality, they are not.

Why is that the case?

During marking of exams, the examiners usually set the minimum marks that a certain grade starts from based on the difficulty levels of the respective subjects.

Let's now hypothetically allocate the minimum 'A' marks to the subjects that the two students were respectively examined in.

'A' marks allocation

Math (58 per cent), English (65 per cent), Kiswahili (68 per cent), Chemistry (55 per cent), Physics (55 per cent), Biology (61 per cent), History (75 per cent), Geography (70 per cent), CRE (77 per cent) and Business Studies (68 per cent).

Student A scored A plain in his subjects but had almost the minimum marks in the 'A' bracket. His marks were as follows: Math (58pc), English (66pc), Kiswahili (70pc), Chemistry (57pc), Physics (56pc), Biology (62pc), Geography (72pc) and History (76pc).

Student B, on the other hand, also scored A plain in her subjects, but with much higher marks in the 'A' bracket. Her distribution was as follows: Math (87pc), English (79pc), Kiswahili (81pc), Chemistry (91pc), Biology (87pc), CRE (92pc) and Business Studies (85pc).

In however much the two students scored the minimum marks to be categorised in the A bracket in the respective subjects, and getting an overall mean grade of A (plain) of 84 points out of the possible 84, Student B outperformed Student A because of the average marks she scored in the subjects.

If you take the total marks of Student A after adding the marks he scored in all seven subjects, you get 517. To get his average marks, you divide 517 by seven, which gives an average score of 73.857.

Student B, on the other hand, her total marks for the seven subjects is 602. When you divide that by seven to get the average score, you get 86.000.

So, despite the two candidates both getting Mean Grade A of 84 points out of 84 for scoring straight As in each of their respective subject compilations, one student had a stronger A compared to the other because of the marks she scored in the subjects.

During ranking, it means Student B (86.000) would be ranked higher than Student A (73.857), and that is how Kenya gets its topmost performers during listing, which has since been abolished.

In the 2019 KCSE, for instance, Buluma Tony Wabuko of Kapsabet Boys' High School scored an A (plain) of 84 points with an average percentage score of 87.159, followed by Barasa Maryanne Njeri of the Kenya High School with 84 points and a percentage average of 87.087.

Yes, the two students scored the maximum points (84), but Buluma had a superior percentage average of 87.159 against Njeri's 87.087.

Without the Education ministry revealing the average percentage scores in the 2022 KCSE exam, it would be difficult to know which particular student led the pack because the percentage scores are never shared with the individual students or schools in the results slip.

The students are only told that they scored As in the subjects without being informed of the marks.

What this means, is that many students who scored A plain of 84 points, or in some cases 83 points, won't be in a position to know who among them was the best performer countrywide without access to the respective average marks, which is in KNEC's custody.

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