Understanding the German Grading System (Compared to the Kenyan One)


To join a German University one needs atleast a C+ from Kenya, which is assumed to be equivalent to a German Abitur which gives you direct entry to Uni. (Even with Studienkolleg, that is ONLY to improve your language skills and prepare you to join the German system and not necessarily to better your grades).

The grades between A and C+ when converted though could give you less than an Abitur. That might sound contradictory but that is how things work around here. Thus my first advice: when applying to a German University, DO NOT convert your Certificates to German equivalents. So that you understand why a C+ or any grade before that, can let you join a Uni but may not be enough to get you an Ausbildung.

KCSE subjects are also grouped, what they refer to as clusters

  • Group 1: English, Kiswahili and Mathematics
  • Group 2: Biology, Physics and Chemistry
  • Group 3: History, Geography, CRE, IRE, HRE
  • Group 4: Home Science, Art & Design, Agriculture, Woodwork, Metalwork, Building Construction, Power Mechanics, Electricity, Drawing &Design, Aviation Technology, Computer Studies
  • Group 5: French, German, Arabic, Kenyan Sign Language, Music, Business Studies

For KCSE you need 8 subjects, namely Group 1, one from Group 4 or 5, four from Group 2 and 3 (It is possible to take all three from one group and only take one from the other group, like I took all Group 2 and only Geography from Group 3). Most Schools had two compulsory subjects from either Group 2 or Group 3, leaving you to choose two more subjects from either groups.

When your Kenyan Certificate is converted to a German Equivalent, they don’t convert your overrall grade but instead look at the specific subjects in order to find the German equivalent. The different subjects are “weighted”, meaning some subjects carry more weight than others, e.g. a B in Math, is “heavier” than an A in history.

The subjects that play the BIGGEST role in the final certificate you get in the German system are namely:

Group 1 (Language, art and music): German, Foreign Language, Art, music
Group 2 (Social Science): History, Geography, CRE, Philosophy, Business, Politics (Civics)
Group 3 (Mathematics and Sciences): Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Informatics (Computer Studies)

You only need 4 subjects.

  • Math,
  • a Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics),
  • a Foreign Language (English, Kiswahili, French, German) and
  • an extra subject (Geography, History, CRE, Computer Studies e.t.c)

Grading Systems:

The german grading system is staged in six steps: 1 is the best and 6 is the worst, most Universities/Schools only grade to 4 and anything less than that is considered a 5. The Kenyan system on the other hand grades until 0%.

Kenyan Grading System German Grading System
Grade Percentage Grade Percentage
A 80-100%, 1.0 100-95.5%
A- 75-79% 1.3 95.4 – 90.9%
B+ 70-74% 1.7 90.8 – 84.8%
B 65-69% 2.0 84.7 – 80.3%
B- 60-64% 2.3 80.2 – 75.8%
C+ 55-59% 2.7 75.7 – 69.7%
C 50-54% 3.0 69.6 – 65.2%
C- 45-49% 3.3 65.1 – 60.6%
D+ 40-44% 3.7 60.5 – 54.4%
D 35-39% 4.0 54.3 – 50%
D- 30-34% 5.0 0 – 49.9%
E 0-29%

So depending on how good your grade is from your KCSE results for the 4 subjects chosen, that’s what determines your final certificate grading in German. You can do the exercise yourself at home to determine what grade you’d get if you convert your KCSE Cert into a German equivalent. Just pick 4 subjects as stated above, and use the best grade from the “other” subjects and see.

So for the overal grading you have:

  • 1 and 2 – Abitur
  • 2 and 3 – Realschulabschluss
  • below 3 – Hauptschulabschluss

Anyone with a grade better than 2.5 (B in KCSE) in Math and German is graded as Abi, 3 is Realschulabschluss and below that Hauptschulabschluss; that’s independent of the other subjects.

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