The examinations will continue for a period of one week in 474 centres across the country.
The Ordinary Level registered an increase in the number of candidates from 61,768 last year to the current 79,694.
The increase was attributed to the first intake of the Nine–Year Basic Education (9-YBE) students, who are sitting for the first time since the commencement of the programme.
The programme started in 2009 when the government introduced universal education that spans to nine years of education.
The programme saw a massive enrollment in primary schools estimated to be at 95 percent countrywide.
At A-level, only 31,711 students registered. This is a far cry from the whopping figure of 51,484 enlisted last year. Male candidates make up a majority, at 17,192.
In an earlier interview with The New Times, the Director of Rwanda Education Board (REB), John Rutayisire, attributed the decrease of candidates at this level to the efforts put in place to promote vocational and technical courses.
Private candidates also decreased from 12,274 in 2010 to 7,637.
Several candidates interviewed by The New Times in several examination centres around Kigali yesterday, expressed optimism after the first paper which began at exactly 08.30 am.
“The paper was very simple for me, contrary to the way I thought it would be,” said Theogene Ahimana, a senior three student at Groupe Scolaire de Giporoso, who had just completed his mathematics exam.
Another candidate at the same centre, Leandre Habimana, expressed similar sentiments.
He said that his chances of passing the paper with flying colours were high.
“I think it is because I prepared exhaustively thinking that the papers will be difficult. I found the first one to be easy. Let me wait for the following papers, maybe they will be more challenging,” said the seemingly excited Habimana.
O-level candidates sat for History Paper I in the afternoon. Most of the A-level science candidates sat for mathematics in morning only while the Arts ones did History.
According to the timetable, the last examination will be the Science Practical exams due from November 9 – 11.