Difference Between O’level, SSCE and A’level

I’ve once briefly answered this question of whether there is any difference between SSCE and O’level in the post, “SSCE Results: 5 Credits Needed, Combinations and Where D7, E8 or F9 Accepted“. 

And for those who may still be confused about different A’level programmes/results, I think my post, “IJMB, JUPEB, NABTEB, and Cambridge: No UTME To 200 Level Admissions” might have solved the dilemma.

However, there is a need to go in-depth and compare what the differences could be among the three – SSCE, O’level, and A’level.

Especially while studying the JAMB brochure or reading the admission requirements of a school, candidates are thrown into confusion when the terms O’level, SSCE, and A’level are used without further explanations.

This post will share side by side overview of what you need to understand about each to get the differences more clearly.

What are O’level Programmes/Results?

If you’re hearing O’level programmes, these are exams that are slated to hold at the end of secondary school studies making the landmark of academic success after the programmes. The O’level is short for Ordinary Level.

At the end of the senior class (i.e SS 3) which is the final class of the second phase of secondary school classes (i.e SS 1 to SS 3), you’re expected to sit for any of these exams in Nigeria.

  1. West African Examination Council (WAEC)
  2. National Examination Council (NECO)
  3. National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB)
  4. General Certificate of Education (GCE)
  5. National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS)
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Of course, a candidate, before the final class (i.e at SS 1 or SS 2) can as well write any of these exams in order to possess O’level results too.


While the internal (school candidates series of) WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, NBAIS are meant for those who are presently completing their final classes, the external (private candidates series of) generally referred to as GCE –  General Certificate of Education.

What are SSCE Programmes/Results?

As a matter of fact, O’level is the same as SSCE. In full, the acronym SSCE means Senior Secondary Certificate of Education.

The term O’level is usually used interchangeably for SSCE and vise versa.

Therefore, if a school uses either of the two, it’s still referring to the school candidates or the private candidate exams/results believed to have been possessed before, during, or after your final year in secondary schools.

What are A’level Programmes/Results?

These are programmes attended usually after you must have got your O’level/SSCE. They are advanced post-secondary school courses of which results are used to measure the academic success of the courses.

The term A’level is short for Advanced Level.

After you’re done in secondary schools, a few institutions and study centers give you a chance to obtain these programmes forms to prepare you for the universities.

The programmes usually run for one year in theory. Candidates are expected to be at dedicated study centres, within this period, attending lectures and at the end of the courses, partake in the joint national or international exams.

Whereas, candidates who undergo A’level courses and pass are expected to seek admssion into universities of choice for the 200 level of their courses of interest. That’s unlike candidates with O’level/SSCE who can only gain admissions to the 100 level of their courses of interest.

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Popular A’level Programmes include:

  1. Joint Universities Preliminary Examinations Board (JUPEB)
  2. Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB)
  3. National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) A’level
  4. General Certificate of Education (GCE) A’level
  5. University of Cambridge A’level

If you take note, NABTEB and GCE have Advanced Level versions of the O’level examinations.

Understanding Admission Expressions Regards O’level, SSCE, and A’level

These terms are usually mentioned in the JAMB brochure very often. And while you’re reading admission adverts or pages of certain schools, they can mention these terms as if you’ve got them.

So, what should be in your mind when you come across these terms.

  1. O’level is also talking about SSCE which may include WAEC, NECO, GCE, and NABTEB. NBAIS is not acceptable by all schools yet and those who are accepting it are only for a few related courses such as Islamic or Shariah law, Arabic Studies, etc.
  2. O’level or SSCE refers to candidates who are seeking 100 level admssion through JAMB UTME. It may also refer to candidates who wish to go for programmes, such as Nursing, Part-time courses, pre-degree,  Health technology, etc
  3. A’level is referring to candidates who must have completed those advanced courses and may also include OND, HND, or any other diploma.
  4. A’level is referring to candidates who are to obtain the JAMB Direct Entry (DE) form to process the 200 level admissions

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