Tertiary education in Nigeria: the JAMB, the Struggles, and the Alternatives 

Mark Talmage-Rostron
September 10, 2021 · 8 min read

Achieving your dream of studying for your degree and realizing a successful career starts with JAMB. Or does it?

So you’ve finished high school. What is the next step? Well, you first have to choose which university, such as Nexford University, college, or polytechnic college to attend that will give you the greatest chance of becoming gainfully employed and in a better paying job than those who only have a high school certificate.

You should also take the necessary and regulated steps for your admission. Before you can get admitted to the University of your choice, you first must sit laborious exams and screenings. Luckily not with Nexford University. But we will cover that later.

One crucial exam in Nigerian college admission is the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) given by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).  Recently, the JAMB released the 2021/2022 students results which turned out to be abysmal.

If you were, but hopefully not, one of those people who failed, what happens then? Is it the end of the road? Not at all. In this blog, we’ll discuss the alternatives to the JAMB UTME here.

The UTME and JAMB explained 

You know you have to sit the exams, but who are these bodies and what exactly do they do? Established in 1978, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) oversees the standardized examination for undergraduate prospects of Nigerian universities. The mandate empowers the Board to “conduct Matriculation Examinations for entry into all Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in Nigeria”.

It also mandates the Board to carry out other necessary activities for overseeing the standardized exam. This exam, called the Unified Tertiary Marticulation Examination (UTME), is open to all candidates having either certificates from the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or the National Examination Council (NECO) in Nigeria.

Taking the UTME 

The first step in taking the UTME is to register at the JAMB website. You can also register at computer-based test (CBT) centers all over Nigeria. Once you register, you can access the interactive brochure and the syllabus system for the UTME on the website thru the quick link. You can also get these at the CBT center you registered in. You have to register and take an exam for four subjects, of which English is compulsory.

The grade system for the UTME is from 0-400. The cut-off mark is different every year. For example, for the 2020 UTME, the minimum cut-off marks for admission are as follows.

  • 160 and above for universities.

  • 120 and above for polytechnics.

  • 100 and above for colleges of education.

The JAMB held a Policy Meeting on 31 August this year to determine the minimum cut-off marks for the UTME. The meeting also includes the heads of tertiary institutions. For an examinee, this meeting is crucial as it determines your admission status to the university of your choice.

The struggles of a UTME examinee 

UTME examinees experience struggles before, during, and after the examination, just like any other exam student.


Preparing for the UTME requires a lot of effort, time, and money. Examinees must start studying for the exam as early as possible using materials like past UTME questions. Different publishing companies publish past UTME questions and sell them in bookstores.

There are no tutorial centers or cram schools solely for UTME affiliated with the JAMB. However, the Board has an online practice test available on its website. There are also some test software and applications from test prep companies which you can use to study for the UTME.


The most nerve-wracking part about the UTME is the time after the exam. You have to wait for the results, which determine whether you can enter college or not. You also have to remember that the UTME is not the only deciding factor for college admission. There is still the Post-UTME, an exam or screening by different universities and colleges for selecting their prospective candidates. The Post-UTME started in 2005, and happens after the JAMB releases the UTME results. So, failing the Post-UTME could still mean denial of your admission even though you passed the exam.

Students’ Worries 

The UTME has been a source of worry for examinees because of its not-so-high passing rate. Just this year, JAMB Registrar Is-haq Oloyede said that the 2021 results of the UTME were lower than that of the past three years. There was even news that 86% of the examinees of this year’s UTME failed, according to some reports. Whether the mass failure is true or not, the UTME is a source of stress for many Nigerian students.

I failed the JAMB UTME. What now? 

As we mentioned before, failing the UTME means you won’t be able to go to college in the year you took the exam. You have to wait for a year to retake the exam. This means you’ll exert more effort and spend more money on materials. Also, being a retaker doesn’t guarantee a pass. There are examinees who retake the UTME and still fail, even after multiple years of trying.

There are also instances when examinees resort to malpractice just to pass the UTME. An example of this malpractice is smuggling a person in place of the examinee to take the exam. According to reports, parents and/or students pay security agents at the testing centers for this to happen. Some students also resort to cheating to ensure high marks in the UTME.

This year alone, JAMB disqualified 195 candidates for alleged cheating. While others cheat during the exam, some resort to contacting people who advertise they can raise UTME scores in 15 minutes. These ads are frequent in Facebook, especially in groups and forums.

However, JAMB insists they would not hesitate to disqualify examinees engaged in any form of malpractice or cheating.

Alternatives to JAMB UTME

Instead of wasting your effort and money in retaking the UTME, it’s better to find alternatives to enter university.

IJMB Direct Entry Admission

Established in 1976, the Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB) is a federal government program intended to ease students’ admission into several Nigerian universities. The program takes one year to finish, with the last three months intended for exams. Successful candidates of the IJMB get 200 level, meaning you can skip the first year of university. However, you still need to undergo screening in the university of your choice.

There are many Nigerian Universities accepting students who passed the IJMB. You can register for the program and once successful, begin your IJMB journey.

JUPEB Direct Entry Admission 

Like the IJMB, the Joint University Preliminary Examination Board (JUPEB) is an Advanced level program for aspiring college students who failed to enter universities through the UTME. The program takes 9 months, and the program requires you to choose three subjects among the nineteen offered courses included in the syllabus for your JUPEB schooling.

Once you complete the program, you will receive a JUPEB Certificate. You can use the certificate to directly admit yourself to the University of Lagos and other JUPEB-affiliate institutions.

You can pre-register for the JUPEB program through their website. Once done and paid for the fees you can complete your registration at JUPEB affiliate centers all over Nigeria.

Study at Nexford

The technologically-advanced society is constantly changing the way the world works. Technology makes our lives easier, including studying. With one click, we can access more information. Thus, revolutionizing learning. One life-changing advancement in education is the establishment of online universities, such as Nexford University.

Learning at Nexford is 100% online, making learning flexible, affordable , and provides a favorable Return on Investment. You won’t miss out on your lessons even if you have a job or helping to run a home. You can log in to the Student Portal and choose the appropriate program. Of course, there are still live engagements and sessions you need to attend once in a while.

Nexford also has accreditations and licenses from other countries, including the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and the Higher Education Licensure Commission (HELC) in the District of Columbia, USA. The accreditations and licenses ensure that the type of education you’ll get at Nexford is of a high-quality and future-proof.

Admission is Quick and Simple 

Compared to the admission process at traditional Nigerian universities, Nexford’s admission process is simple and quick. It’s 100% online, and you can send any missing documents a short time after your application. Requirements vary depending on the program you’re taking. So, your requirements for an Undergraduate Program will differ from a Certificate Program or a Master’s Program.

However, make sure to polish your English, because it is a requirement no matter the Program. But, the University does offer an English Language Proficiency Test option at no cost.

There is an application fee equivalent to US$20. Tuition fees have a flat rate no matter the number of courses enrolled and have a recurring payment plan. The fee depends on the program you’re enrolled in.


All Programs at Nexford are designed for the improvement and development of your essential skills in the workplace.

College and the Future

Furthering your knowledge through a chosen University is one way to achieve your dream career. However, the struggles of entering University can wear you out. It is best for you to consider all possibilities as well as determine alternatives in case you fail on your first try. Also, with the digitally- and technologically-advanced society, it won’t hurt to learn outside the four corners of the traditional classroom. So, even if you fail your UTME, Nexford is here to transform you into a workplace and future-ready individual.


Ready to kickstart your learning journey? Don’t let JAMB stop you from achieving your dreams. Book a call with a Nexford Advisor today or request more information about Nexford’s online programs.

About the author
Mark Talmage-Rostron
Mark Talmage-Rostron

Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.

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