SSCE Examination Guide for Learners


English paper intends to assess candidates’ ability to use English effectively as a means of communication in a given situation or context.

This means candidates’ competence to express themselves clearly and coherently in a manner that is suitable to the audience, purpose, topic, and context.

The general notes of marking of Composition, comprehension, and summary will be examined in this article.



The questions in the paper cover different writing skills. Topics covering description, exposition, narration, arguments, letters, and other imaginative or creative writings are chosen within candidates’ experience or knowledge.

Though the nature of each question is clear, candidates may either slightly or completely depart from it in their writing. Such candidates must not be penalized without careful consideration.

Where the composition is completely irrelevant, award zero for content, zero for organization, and not more than 8 for expression.

Composition assessment

The assessment of each piece is based on these four clearly defined criteria with the marks indicated against them.

Content                            10 marks

Organization                    10 marks

Expression                        20 marks

Mechanical Accuracy      10 marks


This refers to the statement and development of relevant ideas and points.


This refers to the form of the composition, i. e., the arrangement and ordering of sentences to form paragraphs and the unity of the paragraphs to make a whole composition.

The flow of thoughts from the opening, through the middle, to the conclusion as well as formal features is also considered here.


The qualities to be considered here include:

  • Use of appropriate style as well as choice of words and other expressions that are apt to the content
  • Use and proper arrangement of appropriate sentence types; and
  • Imaginative and appropriate use of carefully chosen diction, figurative language as well as skillful use of punctuation marks.

Mechanical Accuracy

The errors to be penalized in this aspect include:

  • Obvious grammatical mistakes
  • Spelling mistakes and
  • Punctuation mistakes
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Deduct half of a mark for each ringed error up to a maximum of 10 marks. This means candidates should have at least twenty (20) rings to score in this aspect.

Grammatical errors

The grammatical errors to be considered include omission or wrong use of sentence elements such as noun, verb, preposition, article, adjective and others.

The list of grammatical errors to be considered here is not exhaustive. The above information merely provides the examiner with a guide as to what specific errors to look for in this aspect.

Spelling errors

Spelling mistakes are to be ringed. However, the candidate is free to use American or British spelling but consistency must be maintained.

Penalty should be imposed only once on wrong spellings of each word, i. e. the first instance of spelling it wrongly. Subsequent instances are to be underlined and considered in awarding marks for Expression.

Punctuation errors

Punctuation errors to be ringed include omission or wrong use of such punctuation marks as full stop, question marks, exclamation mark, comma and quotation mark. The candidate is free to use single or double quotation marks but consistency must be maintained.

All instances of the use of small letters to begin a sentence or a proper noun as well the use of a small letter for personal pronoun “I” are to be penalized.

Wrong use of proper nouns

If a proper noun as more than one word, e. g. National Examinations Council or West African Examinations Council, where each word is supposed to start with a capital letter, ring only one error in the group.

If the composition is a letter, all errors in the formal features must be ringed. But the candidate is free to either correctly punctuate his/her address or leave it altogether unpunctuated.

But if a candidate starts punctuating and stops, penalize for the omission. Where a address is written in capital letters, put a bar and a ring at the margin.

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Wrong splitting or amalgamation of words

Wrong splitting or amalgamation of words should be ringed. So also is wrong syllabification of words at the end of the line. Abbreviation with or without the full stop mark after each initial letter are acceptable, e. g. U.N.O or UNO, N.E.C.O or NECO, W.A.E.C or WAEC.

In writing abbreviations involving the first and the last letters, the omission or use of the terminal full stop mark is acceptable, e.g. Mr. or Mr or Dr. or Dr

Length of composition

The composition is expected to be about the required number, especially at WAEC or NECO or NABTEB (450 words) long.

It is expected that before beginning to mark any composition, the examiner will estimate the required length and draw a double line at the point where the piece is about 450 words long. Mechanical errors below the double lines are not to be ringed.

They should be underlined and taken into account in awarding marks for Expression.

If a composition is appropriately shorter than the required length, there should be proportionate reduction in the maximum marks for Mechanical Accuracy.

Where this reduction in Mechanical Accuracy Marks is effected, the examiner should indicate the new maximum mark for this aspect.

The candidate should not be penalized for a composition that is considered too long. Instead, the entire piece must be taken into account in rewarding or penalizing him under Content, Organization ad Expression.

Composition length assessment

In most examinations, length of composition may be assessed as follows:

10 words per line                  45 lines

9 words per line                     50 lines

8 words per line                     Approximately 5 lines

7 words per line                     65 lines

6 words per line                     75 lines

5 words per line                     90 lines

4 word per line                       Approximately 112 lines


The following information is from the examiner and the teacher who is teaching comprehension must have the knowledge of it. Also, the candidates must have the knowledge how comprehension examinations are marked.

  • Deduct half a mark for one or more grammatical or expression errors at each scoring point.
  • If a candidate gives two answers to a question and either of them is wrong, award zero. But if both answers are correct, award full marks.
  • Words/Expressions used to replace words in the passage must fit in perfectly. If not, award zero.
  • Answers given in words, phrases or sentences should be accepted as long as they communicate meaningfully in the context of the correct answers.
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The following information is from the examiner and the teacher who is teaching summary must have the knowledge of it. Also, the candidates must have the knowledge how summary examinations are marked.

  • Award 5 marks for each scoring point.
  • Deduct half a mark only once for grammatical/expression errors in each scoring point.
  • Deduct 1 mark for inclusion of irrelevant/extraneous material in such scoring point.
  • Award two and half marks for each scoring point not written in a sentence and impose other penalties as appropriate.
  • Award zero for mindless lifting/verbatim copying of sentences from the passage.
  • If more than the required number of sentences is given, mark the first required number of sentences only.
  • Where a point, taken with the preamble, does not make a complete sentence, award one and half mark and impose other penalties as appropriate.
  • Where a candidate makes two points in a sentence and both are correct, award marks for one and regard the other as irrelevant/extraneous.
  • If a candidate gives two points to a question that demands only one and either is wrong, award zero.


The teachers and the students must carefully take notice of all this information and make use of them while teaching and while writing the examinations in Essays or Continuous Writing, Comprehension and Summary.

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