Top Ugandan Schools Primed to Raise S1 Cut-Off Points

By | January 30, 2023

Due to a noticeable improvement in the general performance of Primary Seven candidates who wrote their Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) papers last year, top secondary schools in the country are likely to raise this year’s cut-off points for Senior One entrants.

Traditional titans like St Mary’s College Kisubi, Gayaza High School, Mt St Mary’s Namagunga, Namilyango College, Kibuli Secondary School and Kings College Budo, among others, are widely expected to put their cut-off points to anywhere between Aggregate 4 for boys and 5 for girls, sources have told Sunday Monitor.

We understand that other schools that don’t fall in the top 50 categories are expected to maintain their entry points.


According to the 2022 PLE results released on Friday, 714,702 candidates passed and are eligible to join post-primary institutions compared to 659,910, who were successful the last time.

These essentially Ugandan secondary schools will have to collectively take in 54,792 more Senior One students than they did the last time.

When the selection process starts, head teachers of secondary schools will select from a pool that had 114,617 pupils (14.1 percent) who passed in Division One. The previous year, this number was 81,864–a representation of 11.1 percent.

Elsewhere, another 357,999 candidates who passed in Division Two will throw their hats in the ring compared to 334,711 who sat in the 2020 cohort.

The candidates who passed in Division Three this time are 146,583, and 95,702 in Division Four.

Of the candidates who failed flat-out, the exams are 97,109 compared to 74,878 from the 2020 cohort. These won’t qualify for government sponsorship under the free secondary education scheme, which is going into its 16th year.

A primary Seven candidate is deemed to have passed the exams if he/she garners anywhere between Four and 28. Usually, government schools implementing the free education programme take all candidates with aggregates between four and 28.

Mr Ismail Mulindwa, the director for basic and secondary education in the Education Ministry, told Sunday Monitor on Friday that the cut-off will be determined by an automatic computerised system. He added that it will depend on the performance of candidates who applied to that particular school.

“As you know, cut-off points usually go up based on performance in a given year. Many schools performed quite well and the majority will find their cut-off points either increased or maintained due to the bigger number of Senior One entrants,” he revealed, adding that he expects most upcountry schools to “maintain [cut-off points] of last year.”

The selection of Senior One entrants is expected to be conducted between February 2 and February 3 at UMA Hall, in Lugogo, Kampala.

Most school heads we talked to couldn’t disclose what they reckon will be their cut-offs, saying it was premature since the government had not processed the computer sheets reflecting their cut-off marks.

“It will be a lie to say that this is our cut-off now for this year because performance is a big determinant in this,” said Mr Ishaq Mbalirwa, the head teacher of Madinah Islamic Secondary School, Nsangi, adding, “Let us wait and see what the ministry will decide for us.”

Due to a slight improvement in performance in the 2020 results, many schools increased the 2022 entry points, while some maintained their cut-off mark.

In 2021, 971,143 (659,910, PLE) and 311,233 (UCE) students passed the 2020 national examinations and were eligible to join Senior One and Senior Five. However, only 600,000 students were selected to join Senior One and Senior Five. This means 371,143 students who passed the 2020 PLE and UCE were not admitted during the joint selection exercise.

How the cut-off mark is determined

Cut-off points for any given school are determined by the Education ministry based on the number of candidates who sat for the exams. The ministry sets the cut-off points using an automatic computerised system that allocates students according to general performance and first choice preference of pupils. A school can also wriggle out of the maximum depending on the available facilities and students who choose it as their first choice.

The rest, even if they fall in the bracket of admissibility, are ‘sold’ to other schools during the selection exercise.