Exam council explains how KCPE exam results are standardised

Monday, December 11th, 2023 07:21 | By
Marking of exams. PHOOT/Print

After this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) results were announced, there was uproar from a section of Kenyans, with some going to court to raise complaints about the marking process.

As a result, the National Assembly Committee on Education, led by Tinderet Member of Parliament Julius Melly, wrote a letter to the Education Cabinet Secretary, Ezekiel Machogu on November 30, requesting him to respond to the issues.

The committee met Machogu and Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) Chief Executive Officer Dr David Njengere, among other Ministry’s officials recently to be appraised on arising issues.

The issues, included rationale of expedited marking of KCPE, use of mobile service providers to transmit the results and the justification of charging the public x1 to receive results, the marking processes, awarding of marks, and anomalies in capturing of marks, among others.

 “I want to assure Kenyans that the KCPE results on the KNEC portal were correct. Everything was fine and principals from various schools can confirm was in the transmission that there were some technical issues,” the CS explained.

“The purpose of the KCPE examination is to enable placement of learners to secondary schools. It is, therefore, imperative that learners and their parents know the results in good time, to prepare for the transition to secondary schools,” the CS explained.

“Since 2016, the timelines for processing were changed to allow adequate time for placement by mid-December, and give parents and guardians the opportunity to prepare for Form One admission in January,” the CS said.

At the same time, KNEC has explained the entire examination process right from registration of candidates to processing of the exams.

It starts the exam cycle with registration of new examination centres and candidates, which happens at the beginning of every year and inspection of these centres is also done.

Released within timeline

Normally, exams are written in November after which processing begins and then results are released.

But Njengere says reforms that the Ministry of Education implemented in 2016 created an exclusive examination period when all students except candidates would proceed for holidays in November. “The KCPE exam was timetabled for administration before the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam. Processing of KCPE examination commences immediately after candidates sit the last paper,” he stated.

He dismissed reports that results were hurriedly released, saying it was within the timeline of the work plan for processing KCPE exams.

He said marking of this year’s KCPE English Composition, Insha and Kenya Sign Language for learners with visual and hearing impairment began on November 3, and was completed on November 18.

Document reading for Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) answer sheets is done using Optical mark recognition (OMR) machines.

The MPs also sought an explanation on the standardisation of the examinations.

Njengere said KCPE is a norm-referenced test and compares one candidate’s performance with another, with the standardised scores facilitating comparison performance across all subjects since the papers are marked under equal weighting. “Standardisation of raw marks to standard marks is a process that involves adjusting the raw marks for each paper in the exam to allow for differences in difficulty and in the extent to which marks scatter,” Njengere explained.

Constructed responses

For KCPE, there is the selected response, which means the answer is provided and there are four options for candidates to pick.

Under constructed response, he said it covers Composition and Insha where a candidate is given a question and is required to construct a response. “The weighting of the two is such that weighting for constructed response is heavier than for selected response. If you perform well in constructed responses, you will find yourself performing better and that is a global best practice in all exams,” Njengere said.

Ranking of the raw score will remain the same after standardisation and only the value changes in the new mapping of standardisation.

In 2023, he said KNEC adopted the standardisation criteria by computing raw score means performance and standard deviation that is mapped to the percentage scale of normal distribution of mean score of 50 and the standard deviations of 15 and 12 for MCQ and composition papers respectively.

On the question of similar scores, Njengere said KNEC runs an ICT test called Item Difficulty Programme (IDP) to flag out centres that over 80 per cent candidates have selected similar identical responses and also assists in identifying collusion cases in MCQ tests.

He said there have been minimal cases where some schools have posted identical overall marks, majorly experienced in subjects that are fully tested in MCQ that is in Mathematics, Science and Social Studies and Religious Education.

He, however, said presentation of identical responses for several candidates in a school can be a major concern if it occurs in English and Kiswahili subjects where a multiple choice question is combined with composition.

“All the cases that have been posted on the social media on schools having all the candidates with identical marks in a subject are doctored results as there have never been any school with a candidature of more than 30 that all of them have ever scored identical overall marks in a subject in KCPE exam,” he explained.

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