What is WAEC: History, Advantages, Disadvantages and Functions of WAEC

Nuelson Penuel Saturday, June 3, 2023 Education

In this article, you will learn the meaning of WAEC, history of WAEC , advantages and disadvantages of WAEC and functions of WAEC.

What is WAEC?

WAEC stands for West African Examinations Council. It is a non-profit organization that is responsible for conducting and administering various examinations in West Africa.

History of WAEC

The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) was founded in 1952 as a non-profit organization by the governments of Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia. The main objective of this council was to conduct and administer examinations that could assess the academic accomplishments of candidates who had completed a secondary education program in any of these countries. WAEC started with just two examination centers, one in Nigerian and one in Gambia. However, with time, the council expanded its coverage, and currently, it has over 27,000 examination centers spread across several countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and The Gambia. The first-ever examination conducted by WAEC was in 1953, which was the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE), aimed at assessing the academic abilities of students who had completed a secondary education program. After the success of WASCE, the council introduced several other examinations like the General Certificate of Education (GCE), National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), and the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). The West African Examinations Council has contributed significantly to the development of education in West Africa, promoting academic excellence and enabling students to achieve their academic and professional goals. Today, WAEC is widely recognized globally for its quality examinations and the contribution it has made to shaping the educational landscape of West Africa.

Advantages of WAEC

Elaborated below are some of the advantages of WAEC: 1. Enhances Academic Excellence: WAEC has contributed greatly to the development of education in West Africa by providing a standardized and quality assessment of candidates' academic abilities. Through its examinations, WAEC has enabled students to showcase their academic excellence and attain their academic and professional goals. 2. Promotes Educational Equity: WAEC helps to promote educational equity by providing a level playing field for all students in West Africa. The council sets the same standard for all students, irrespective of their location or educational backgrounds. 3. Provides Feedback to Students: WAEC examinations provide feedback to candidates by indicating their areas of strength and weakness. These results help students to determine their next steps and work towards improving their academic performance. 4. Enables Access to Higher Education: WAEC examination results are widely accepted by higher education institutions across the world, providing candidates with the opportunity to further their education in top universities and colleges. 5. Fosters International Recognition: WAEC has established a reputation for itself, earning international recognition and acceptance for its standard of exams. Therefore, candidates who pass their WAEC examinations can stand out and build their careers internationally. Overall, the advantages of WAEC demonstrate its critical role in shaping the educational landscape of West Africa, promoting academic excellence, and empowering students to achieve their academic and professional goals.

Disadvantages of WAEC

The following are some of the advantages of WAEC: 1. Limited Scope: WAEC examinations may not cover all topics or subjects in-depth, leading to limited exposure to certain areas of study and limiting the breadth of knowledge obtained by candidates. 2. Workload: Preparing for WAEC examinations can be extremely demanding on students and could cause undue stress, strain, and pressure on their mental health. 3. Limited Accessibility: The requirement for students to pay fees, obtain registration, and travel to designated centers may limit accessibility for some students, especially those from low-income families or distant locations, which may hinder them from taking the exams. 4. Potential for Cheating: The security measures put in place to prevent cheating during the examination may not be effective, and some students may resort to unethical methods of obtaining high scores. 5. Limited Application to Real-world Scenarios: Some critics argue that WAEC examinations' content does not adequately reflect real-world scenarios, and that the exams' contents are not tailored to meet the current needs of industries and society. Overall, despite its advantages, WAEC examinations have a few limitations that could be improved upon to ensure a more equitable, effective, and accessible assessment tool.

Functions of WAEC

The primary functions of WAEC include: 1. Conducting Examinations: WAEC is responsible for designing and administering various education examinations for secondary school students, including the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), and the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) exams. 2. Certifying Students: WAEC also processes and issues certificates to students who successfully complete their education examinations. WAEC certificates are widely recognized in West Africa and are used as a prerequisite for admission to higher education institutions. 3. Developing Education Curriculum: WAEC functions to develop and review the education curricula for all levels of education in West Africa. This ensures that the syllabus remains relevant to the changing needs of society and students are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge for future employment and life-long learning. 4. Quality Assurance: WAEC ensures the quality of standards in the education system by monitoring the exam administration process and investigating cases of examination malpractice. 5. Research and Development: WAEC engages in research and development activities aimed at improving the education systems in West Africa. This includes developing testing materials, conducting research studies on educational policies and practices, and disseminating information on best practices in education. Overall, the functions of WAEC remain crucial to the education sector within West Africa and promote quality, equity, and inclusivity in educational activities.


In conclusion, WAEC examinations have been a crucial tool for determining the academic ability and competence of candidates across West African countries. However, it is important to consider the limitations and challenges that come with the WAEC system and address them appropriately to improve the quality of education and the assessment process in West Africa. The need for innovation and modernization in examination methods, improving accessibility, and relevance to real-world scenarios should be prioritized to ensure that the WAEC system's outcomes align with the current needs of society and industries. Ultimately, it is essential to promote the importance of learning and education across West Africa and support students to achieve their academic potential.

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