Differences between WAEC and NECO

I’m sure every Nigerian student knows that there are differences between WAEC and NECO examinations that are held every year, for issuing O’level certificates to citizens who satisfied the requirements set by the examination boards. 

The WAEC, GCE, and NECO examinations share similarities and differences. These similarities and differences aid the examination candidates.

Differences between WAEC and NECO


The West African Examination Council (WAEC) is tasked with organizing examinations in the five English-speaking countries of West Africa, which include Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and Liberia. 

WAEC conducts two examinations every year in Nigeria. The first examination that WAEC conduct is the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), which is mainly for senior secondary final-year students popularly known as SS3 students. 

The second examination conducted by WAEC in Nigeria is the WAEC GCE (General Certificate Examination). It is called the Private candidate examination because the participants of the examination do not register under any school, rather they come as private individuals. Anybody can sit for the WAEC or NECO GCE examination.

Functions of WAEC

  • WAEC sets an examination that will be in the best interest of the public interest. This means that WAEC is tasked with conducting examinations that will qualify candidates to be issued results of comparable quality to those issued by other internationally recognized examination bodies.
  • Aid the development process of quality education.
  • Maintaining the educational standards in all schools in the WAEC member states.
  • Making the people of West Africa realize the possibility of bigger achievements that go beyond academic examinations.


The National Examination Council (NECO) is an examination board that was created by the former Nigerian head of state, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar in April 1999. 

This examination board is tasked with organizing examinations for Senior secondary school final year students. This examination is called the NECO SSCE (Senior School Certificate Examination). 

 NECO’s Vision

  • To organize and conduct a standard examination, which will meet both national and international standards.
  • To play major roles in educational assessment programs worldwide.

NECO: The mission

  • To make sure that examinations that are conducted by NECO meet the necessary provisions, expectations, and needs of the nation’s educational policy and follow the national curriculum.
  • To deliver examinations, whose certificate will be trusted and recognized internationally.
  • The NECO examination board is tasked with organizing and conducting the following examinations:
  • National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE).
  • Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
  • Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), which include both external and internal examination variant. 


The WAEC and NECO GCE are examinations conducted by WAEC and NECO primarily for candidates that are no longer in the secondary school system.

The GCE is quite different from the SSCE examination in ways such as:

  • The GCE examination doesn’t require candidates to appear in school uniforms, but school uniforms are compulsory in SSCE examinations.
  • The examination halls for GCE examinations can be in a different town from a candidate’s town of residence, but SSCE examination halls are situated mostly in the candidate’s school.
  • GCE is an examination organized for people from all walks of life, but SSCE is particularly for secondary school final-year students.
  • The practical session for the GCE examination is usually alternative-to-practicals, while SSCE examinations feature in-exam practical sessions and alternative-to-practicals in some cases.

Alternative to practicals is a format of practicals that is done theoretically i.e without lab equipment and done with pen and paper; while the regular practical session consists of experiments done with the necessary equipment and specimens.

Similarities between WAEC, NECO, and GCE

  1. The three examinations are official examination boards that operate in Nigeria and English-speaking countries of west Africa. They confer senior secondary school certificates to deserving candidates.
  2. The three examination boards set examinations that feature similar question structures, which include three sections
    • A. Theory section.
    • B. Objective section.
    • C. Practical section.
  3. The objective section for the 3 examinations features a total of 60 questions. The objective questions are multiple-choice questions. Candidates are given four options to choose from. 
  4. The theory section for the three examinations features up to 9 questions, and candidates have the option of answering up to half of the questions. Depending on the year.
  5. The practical examination section is conducted in the three examinations There is an option of alternative to practical for examination centres that don’t happen access to the necessary equipment. 

Differences between WAEC and NECO (including GCE)

Organizing bodyWAEC is organized by the West African Examination Board (WAEC)NECO is organized by the National Examination Council (NECO)GCE means General Certificate Examination.
VariantsWAEC SSCE,NECO SSCEGCE is an examination variant that can be conducted by WAEC and NECO examination boards. So there is NECO GCE and WAEC GCE.
Examination timeWAEC is usually held every year in May and June.NECO is conducted every year around May/June.WAEC GCE examination is held in two batches every year. The first batch of WAEC GCE will sit in January/ February and August/September. NECO GCE is held once a year, during November/December.
Target populationSecondary school final-year students are known as internal candidates.Secondary school final-year students are known as internal candidates.GCE examination features tradesmen, craftsmen, civil servants, university students, and secondary school students. The candidates of the GCE examination are known as external candidates.
  OutreachWAEC is conducted in five English-speaking West African countries which include: Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.This examination is held only in Nigeria.Both WAEC and NECO GCE are done only in Nigeria.
Official websitehttps://www.waecheadquartersgh.org/Nigeria WAEC website: http://www.waecnigeria.org/http://www.neco.gov.ng/WAEC GCE official website: http://www.waecnigeria.org/NECO GCE official website: http://www.neco.gov.ng 

Frequently asked questions about SSCE and GCE examinations

Can GCE be used in processing admission?

Yes. WAEC and NECO organize the GCE and SSCE examination, for this purpose. 

Can WAEC GCE examination be used for studies abroad?

Yes, you can use the WAEC GCE for processing admission abroad. 
However, it’s important to know that it’s not the only requirement. A valid passport and visa will be needed too.

WAEC and NECO examinations are two of the major examinations that are conducted for final-year secondary school students in Nigeria. These examinations certify them as legitimate graduates from the secondary school system.

The GCE is an examination conducted by WAEC and NECO for candidates who are no longer in the secondary school system but have a need for the O’level certificate.

The purpose of the examinations is to award O’level certificates to their candidates.

Now, do you know the differences between WAEC and NECO examinations?

Make a choice, and enjoy your studies!

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