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How to write a high scoring KCPE composition

The English composition is one of the papers that gives KCPE candidates, parents and teachers sleepless nights because they consider it challenging. Unlike other papers,
English composition is not a multiple choice test so it calls for a candidate’s creativity.

Students can gradually sharpen their creativity and writing skills through reading and constant writing practice.

These were the KCPE composition questions in past KCPE exams:

KCPE English composition 2006

We had come to the end of the term. There was a holiday before us. My friends and I decided to try something new…………………………………………………………………

KCPE English composition 2007

As soon as the bell for break rang, I rushed out of the classroom to look for my friends. I was eager to tell them the story.

KCPE English composition 2008

When we arrived in the school at 3 o’clock from the standard eight educational tour, we were surprised to find other pupils at parade…………………………….

KCPE English composition 2009

It was half time and our team was leading. We were all excited. We rushed and gathered round the games captain and the team coach ……………………………..

KCPE English composition 2010

The day I had been waiting for finally arrived. I woke up excited……………………………..

KCPE English composition 2011

We lined up on both sides of the road from the school gate ready to welcome a Member of Parliament (MP). It was a school prize giving day………………………………….

KCPE English composition 2012

When I knocked on the door, nobody opened immediately. I was just about to leave when my aunt came to the door smiling………………

KCPE English composition 2013

When we arrived at school that morning, two women and a man were talking to the headtecher near a car parked outside the office. When the car left, the headteacher announced that our school had been chosen as the cleanest in the county.” The County Director of Education will be sponsoring a school trip this Saturday” he said……………………………………..

Comments on past KCPE English compositions

A major observation made after analysis of these past KCPE composition questions is that aside from the 2009, 2011 and 2013 questions, all the others are open compositions. That is, the candidates were given an opportunity to determine the direction their composition would take.

The 2006 KCPE composition required candidates to write about how they spent a
school holiday. One might write about going to a farm, a visiting relatives, a game park, or any other activity of their choice. Remember, it does not have to be a true account of their actual holiday. This is creative writing which can be fictional.

The 2009 and 2010 composition questions have something in common – they required a candidate to write about something that is exciting. It could be a wedding, a visit to an amusement park, a school festival, or any other interesting activity a candidate can think of. All a candidate is required to do is master two or three themes that he/ she can confidently write about and connect it to the beginning of the composition.

A close review of best KCPE best composition over the last years show that candidates need to be imaginative and come up with a captivating story from the input given. A good command of the language is also essential. The later is displayed by use of vocabulary, phrases and idiomatic expressions that relate to the theme of the composition.

Knowing the appropriate phrase or idiomatic expression to use is not enough as one has to know its meaning so as not to use it out of context as is observed in some KCPE compositions. A candidate should have variety in sentence structure and still communicate fluently, expressing the feelings and emotions in such a way that they can be shared with the reader. The is only possible if a candidates read widely especially the recommended story books, taking a critical look at how different phrases, idiomatic expressions and vocabulary are put into use.

Some of the best KCPE compositions narrate the candidate’s own experience. Writing on own experiences help one to practice on expression of own ideas and go a long way in promoting originality that is in short supply in most primary school compositions.

Common composition themes

Some common composition themes and expected vocabulary that a KCPE candidate can practice on are shown below.


Program schedule, adjudicators, culture, sample official competition, drama, music, rehearsal, curtain raiser, stage, fashion, hall, set piece, celebrate, costumes, recite, audience, master of ceremony culture, drama, sample, auditorium, theater, marshal, value, character, actor, actress, troupe, master of ceremony, audition.


Referee, goal post, games master, lane official, pitch, football field, first half, second half, extra time, dribble, pass, dodge, penalty, penalty kick, handball, injury time, result, free kick, middle field, fixture , final, tournament, fans, opponents, coach, referee, cheering, spectators.


Window shopping, short change, shop-lifting, shop manager, shop attendant,
entrance, exit, left luggage, price tag, number tag, carrier bag, shopping basket, queue, tills, shelves, cashier, trolley, display, counter


Celebrate, master of ceremony, bride, bridegroom, bridesmaids, wedding gown, best man, reception, servers, bouquet of flowers, procession, feast, couple, cards, decorate, balloons, ushers, flowers, invitation cards.

Activities at house

Chores, wash, clean, milk, cook, mend, wipe, mop, brush, polish, split curtains, draw curtains, paint, repair, slash , neighborhood , to fence, gate, homestead, hosepipe


Traffic light, zebra crossing, pedestrian, road safety, side-walk, yellow line, bend, speed limit, traffic rules, traffic police, accident victims, stretcher, ambulance, first aid, fracture bleeding, injury, bruise, bandage, speeding, head on collision ,windscreen, wipers, dashboard, speedometer, safety belt, bonnet, brake, , acceleration, front wheel, rear lights.

Drug abuse

heroin, bhang, cocaine, hallucination, dependence, withdrawal, trafficker, addiction, smoking, alcohol.


Laboratory, blood specimen, diagnose, signs, symptoms, recover, disinfect, test tube, stethoscope, prescription, laboratory assistant, laboratory test, contagious, infection, epidemic, gloves, syringe, sample, dose, vaccine, persist, lose weight, lose appetite, suffering from, HIV/AIDS, epidemic, disposable, sample, inoculate, inoculation, lab coat .

Agriculture shows

Show, stand, guests, exhibitions, arena, crowd, acrobat, acrobatic dancers, company, grade cattle, demonstration, plots, restaurants, parade, speech, judges, prize winner, official opening grade cattle, restaurants, guard, speech, parachute, display, runners up, supply, vegetables.


Information, video, stereo, television, screen, vision, video cassette recorder, power button, remote control, video cassette, DVD, Compact Disk (CD) player, microphone, earphone, speaker, volume, amplifier, dial, press, channel, eject


Pleasure, leisure, leisure time, concentrate, endure, alert, discover, talent, skill, knowledge, aware, excel, determine, relate, materials, relax, experience, conducive, novel, stamps, hobby, develop.


The following are some of expressions which a candidate can use in writing compositions under the following:-

Writing about sadness, confusion or terrifying moments
  • Scared half to death………
  • That was the time hell broke loose……..
  • A cry of horror escaped me at the sight of ………
  • Anger blocked my throat……….
  • A chill ran down my spine……….
  • Eyes were as red as berries……….
  • Fight tooth and nail……
Writing about joy
  • The joy I had knew no bounds………
  • Build castles in the air………..
  • Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks……….
  • I jumped in ecstasy………….
  • The vibrant smile on the face expressed incredulous joy………
  • The crowd applauded thunderously………….
  • I walked tall……….
  • Ripples of joy filled my heart………..
  • Wild cheers rent the air.
  • Everyone was dressed to kill and looked gorgeous
  • Smiled broadly exposing their egg-shell white teeth.
  • The bride and the bridegroom exchanged vows as the congregation cheered thunderously.
  • The maids and the flower girls were beautifully dressed and they looked spick and span.
  • The bride swayed her lips left to right, her beautiful dress sweeping the floor.
  • My teeth rattled as my feet buckled at the sight of ………
  • Felt a strong grip on my neck followed by a smack.
  • They were armed to the teeth like soldier in a battle field.
  • Victims were frog-marched to the police car and driven away at a terrific speed.
  • The man had a protuberant stomach, thick mustache and eyes as red as berries. -My heart palpitated as I waited anxiously
  • The thieves were apprehended by the police.
  • I heaved a sigh of relief.
  • We helplessly fought the raging fire without success.
  • The charred remains were taken to the morgue.
  • Thousands of sparks nose making the sky look like a huge glistering city.
  • Tongues of fire roared like an angry monster.
  • The buildings were reduced to ashes. Scores of fire victims lay groaning in pain and agony.
  • The fierce fire spread rapidly.
  • Thick smoke billowed from the burning house.
  • Thick clouds of smoke formed up in the sky.
  • The injured writhed and groaned in pain and agony.
  • The vehicle was reduced to nothing but a mangled wreck.
  • Heard a screeching of breaks……..
  • Searing pain stubbed their nerves.
  • Sombre mood engulfed the onlookers.
  • Some flying debris got lodged into my………
  • Glass shattered and few pieces found their way into my eyes.
  • The blast lifted the bus off the ground, sending passengers flying in all directions.
  • Bled profusely at the rate of a leaking pot……..
  • As ugly as a scarecrow
  • As honest as a mirror
  • As heavy as lead
  • As stupid as a pot
  • As harsh as truth
  • As humble as a worm
  • To lose heart
    • To lose hope about something wonderful that you thought would happen.
  • To throw dust in the eye.
    • To mislead or deceive someone by presenting or introducing distracting information.
  • To live from hand to mouth
    • To just just enough money to sustain yourself by proving just your basic needs such that you do not have any extra money.
  • To show a white flag
    • To give up. To give a sign that now you want peace or a truce after a fight or disagreement.
  • Thick in the head
    • Not clever, a slow learner
  • A red letter day
    • An important day in the calendar. For example: a public holiday or an important day for the family such as the day they go on a trip.
  • To take a French leave
    • Being absent from work without permission.
  • Make a mountain out of an anthill
    • To make a big deal about something that really isn’t a big deal
  • To smell a rat
    • To be suspicious about something.
  • To turn tables
    • to change a situation completely, so that someone loses an advantage and you gain one
  • To bury the hatchet
    • end a quarrel or conflict and become friendly
  • To sweep the board
    • To win every event or prize in a contest.
  • The lion’s share
    • The largest part of something
  • Golden voice
    • A person with a golden voice is a smooth talker. Very persuasive, can talk almost anyone into anything.
  • To make both ends meet
    • Earn just enough money to live on

It is not possible to use all the suggested vocabulary and idioms in one composition. That said, learners should aim to use as many of them as possible. For practice, candidates should write multiple compositions on the same topic after some time but this time use different vocabulary from the ones used in the first composition.

For guided composition like the one for 2013 KCPE examination, a candidate can still choose to write on a different topic so long as it is smoothly changed at the beginning. A candidate could for instance decide to approach the composition as follows

We lined up on both sides of the road from the school gate ready to welcome a Member of Parliament (MP). It was a school prize giving day……. However little did we know that the occasion was never to be. We had waited for two hours when suddenly it begun to rain heavily………………………………….(Then one can write about an accident during the rains, adventure of going home late after the rains, going shopping after the MP failed to come among many other themes one can think about.

As can be seen by now, one can write about almost any theme from such a beginning of a composition and most KCPE compositions are like that. Though almost all the composition in the last few years have been such that candidates have been given the beginning of a story which they are required to complete, different instructions could be given. These may include being given a title of the composition, an ending to a composition or even writing a letter. So candidate should learn about them too.

Other than the vocabulary, candidates need to select some expressions, similes and idioms that may be used in each theme. Discuss with other candidates and their teachers the similes, expressions and idioms that may used in each of the themes given.

December 21, 2020

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