More than 600,000 candidates across Kenya began their Form Four national exams at 8am on Monday morning.
The testing of 615,772 in 9,350 centres started with mathematics alternative ‘A’ exam at 8am.
They will sit for Chemistry test from 11.30am.
Examiners have already collected exam papers from sub-county headquarters— an exercise overseen by senior government officials, including Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
Headteachers picked up the tests and those who sent their deputies were rejected.
Dr Matiang'i said due diligence in this year's exams would be three times tougher than last year.
This, however, should not make candidates feel intimidated as they only have to do their best, he said.
The CS spoke to students at various schools in Kericho County after witnessing the opening of exam container at Kericho County commissioner's office.
"We must have a credible exam. There will be no leakage. The regulations will be three or four times tougher," said the CS at Kericho High School.
"But don't be afraid. As the President (Uhuru Kenyatta) likes saying, give it your best. Write what you know.”
He said he was keen to nurture honest and hardworking Kenyans through school.
The CS said the exams had kicked off well across the country, with security forces— including Kenya Defence Forces— assisting in distribution of papers in inaccessible and insecurity-prone areas.
He was accompanied by his Energy counterpart Charles Keter, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Wanyama Musyambo and other leaders.
CS Keter, who is an alumni of Kericho High School, asked the students to have confidence in their abilities.
Teachers Service Commission CEO Nancy Macharia, who oversaw the opening of containers in which the papers were stored in Uasin Gishu County, said under the new regulations, principals are the only ones allowed to collect the exams.
"This is among stringent measures the ministry has put in place to curb irregularities," said Ms Macharia.
She expressed optimism that the exercise would run without any hitches like the recently completed Standard Eight tests.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said they were prepared to deal with any challenges that may be caused by the heavy rains pounding some parts of the country.
Dr Kipsang said five helicopters were on standby and would be used to ferry test papers to areas that may be inaccessible via road.
In Mandera two helicopters have been deployed to dispatch the exams.
"In Kwale we have one and another one in Marsabit. One helicopter is on standby in case of anything," he said as he supervised opening of exam containers Uhuru na Kazi Building in Mombasa.
"We are collaborating with KDF, Kenya Police and other government agencies to ensure smooth operations. We have deployed helicopters to ensure the exam papers are dispatched on time," he said.
"I have engaged with regional education coordinator in Northern Kenya where we also encountered some challenges and he has assured me that all is well.”
In the Coat, the PS said one helicopter would be available to ferry papers, especially in Kwale where some areas are flooded.
In terms of security, he said the Kenya Defence Forces and police were collaborating to keep thwart any threats.
Dr Kipsang reiterated the measures the government has put in place to curb exam leakage and cheating.
"Candidates will be seeing the papers for the first time this morning because we were able to put in elaborate systems to ensure the exams are adequately protected,” he said.
“All government officials will be moving round to check the examinations delivery.”
Mombasa County commissioner Evans Achoki said six exam containers had been opened for delivery.
"We are ready and set for the month-long examination period. We have deployed adequate security personnel in all exam centres," added Mr Achoki.
The exams kicked off smoothly in Kwale County as acting County Commissioner Mwangi Kahiro assured candidates and teachers of adequate security.
“We have heightened security in all our institutions to ensure that the examination runs smoothly and we don't think there will be any problems," he said.
He warned of stern action against anyone found engaging in fraud.
At Kwale Boys High School, the exam started without any hitches.
Principal Sombo Festus said all the 217 students have showed up for the tests.
“The papers arrived on time and so far, the exam has started," he said.
In Eastern and North Eastern regions, helicopters are on the standby to ferry papers in case floods render road impassable.
Speaking after witnessing the launch of the examinations distribution in Embu town, Eastern Regional Coordinator Wycliffe Ogallo said floods were likely to be a challenge in Mandera, Isiolo, Moyale and lower Eastern regions.
Mr Ogolla assured all the 117,000 candidates at 3016 centres in the two regions that they would receive their papers on time.
“We have put in place optimum security measures so that students can sit for their exams in a quiet and enabling conditions,” he said.
He was accompanied by Regional Education Director Margaret Leisuda and the National Kenya Examination Council regional coordinator Phoebe Njagi.
“The government will ensure there is fairness and all areas access examination materials in good time. All will have a fair playing ground,” Ms Leisuda assured.
In Wajir, Knec board member Leonard Owambo said one chopper would serve one sub-county in Mandera and three others in Wajir.
“Despite the area being expansive and some roads impassable, we are prepared to respond immediately. One helicopter is ready to ferry the papers. We assure that no candidate will miss their exams,” Mr Owambo said.
There was a hitch after braille and large-print papers for a candidate at Apostolic Girls Secondary school in Makadara, Nairobi, was found in the Wajir East Container while papers for a candidate in Ahmed Liban Secondary School was found in Nairobi.
The mix-up was resolved after officials agreed that the candidates can use the available papers to avoid wastage of time.
About 2,999 candidates are sitting the KCSE examination in 50 centres in Wajir County.
In Murang'a, County Commissioner John Elungata said despite heavy downpour in the morning, all the centre managers collected their papers on time.
Mr Elungata said the security committee was ready for any eventuality that may arise during the examinations.
In Meru County, 21,882 candidates are expected to sit for the tests— 10,712 boys and 11,170 girls.
Centre managers from the 390 examination centers in the county braved the early morning rains to collect papers amidst calls to curb cheating.
Headteachers in Tharaka-Nithi County also braved the heavy rains to pick up the tests.
In Tharaka-Nithi, 9,127 candidates including 4,694 girls being and 4,433 boys will sit the exam this year. Out of this, 129 are adult candidates.
Tharaka-Nithi County Commissioner Florence Amoit, who oversaw distribution of the tests, said everything was set.
County Director of Education Ann Kiilu said despite heavy rainfall, her examination officers would deliver.
In Isiolo County, distribution of examination materials went on smoothly in Isiolo, Garbatulla and Merti sub-counties despite light showers in some areas.
Garbatulla Deputy County Commissioner Kipchumba Rutto said the heavy rains that pounded the area on Sunday night would not affect transportation of exams.
At least 1,259 candidates will be sitting for the exams in Isiolo County.
In Mandera, the process kicked off well while in Marsabit town, officers and centre managers braved the chilly and rainy morning to distribute the exams.
In Nairobi, Labour Cabinet Phyllis Kandie and Education Principal Secretary Colleta Suda oversaw the distribution of papers.
"We have come to wish our children success and see the start of exams, so far no irregularities or challenges have been witnessed," said Ms Kandie when she toured Moi Nairobi Girls High School.
Ms Kandie asked the students to have faith that they will pass their exams
"Considering what the girls went through this year, they are still strong and they have full support of the government in case of any challenge," she said, referring to the fire incident that hit the school earlier this year.
Reported by Anita Chepkoech, Faith Nyamai, Winnie Atieno, Kazungu Kalume, David Muchui, Charles Wanyoro, Bruhan Makong, Alex Njeru, Ndungu Gachane, Vivian Jebet, Irene Mwendwa, Manase Otsialo and Fadhili Fredrick.