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What is NCEA?

NCEA is the main qualification that senior secondary school learners study for every year in New Zealand.

Learners study individual subjects which are combined for a level certificate.

Usually you will study subjects for:

  • NCEA Level 1 certificate in Year 11

  • NCEA Level 2 certificate in Year 12

  • NCEA Level 3 certificate in Year 13.

NCEA stands for National Certificate of Educational Achievement and is recognised by employers and tertiary providers in New Zealand and overseas.

NCEA is part of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) which ranges from Level 1 to Level 10, and includes certificates, diplomas and degrees.

Achievement Standards and Unit Standards

Standards are particular skills or knowledge within a subject. There are two types of standards in NCEA, achievement standards and unit standards.

Subjects such as English and science can help you gain achievement standards.

  • Achievement standards are graded using the 'NAME' system:

    • 'N' for not achieved

    • 'A' for achieved

    • 'M' for achieved with merit

    • 'E' for achieved with excellence.

Vocational subjects, such as hairdressing or carpentry, as well as usual subjects, can help you gain unit standards. 

  • Unit standards are graded:

    • 'A' for 'achieved'

    • 'N' for 'not achieved'.

Unit Standards are particular skills or knowledge within a subject. There are two types of standards in NCEA, achievement standards and unit standards.

Changes to Special Assessment Conditions (SAC)
How is NCEA Assessed?

NCEA work is assessed externally or internally.

  • When your work is externally assessed, you usually sit a national exam at the end of the year or submit your work online which is set and marked by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

  • When your work is internally assessed, you usually do essays, reports, experiments or tests throughout the year, which are marked by your school.

  • Internal assessment marking  samples are also checked by independent moderators from NZQA to make sure all schools are assessing work to a national standard.

Assessment can be in either English or te reo Māori.

Every NCEA subject is made up of standards that are worth a certain number of credits.

What are Credits?

Each standard is worth a certain number of credits. When you achieve a standard, you earn the amount of credits that standard is worth.

  • A single achievement standard is usually worth three or four credits. Most NCEA Level 1 new standards are worth 5 credits.

  • A single school subject is usually made up of 3 to 5 standards.

  • Literacy and Numeracy from 2024 are co-requisites and can be gained through Common Assessment Activity (CAA) or in 2024 and 2025 through some tagged Achievement Standards. Literacy and numeracy credits are available through a range of subjects.

  • Literacy credits show that a learner can demonstrate reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

  • Numeracy credits show that a learner can demonstrate mathematical skills in everyday life.


The new structure (adapted from the 2024 LNA seminar handbook) 

Minimum of 80 credits for each Certificate, including 

  • 60 credits at a level or above 

  • 10 credit te reo matatini or literacy co-requisite required for any level  

  • 10 credit te pāngarau | numeracy co-requisite required for any level.  

How do I get University Entrance?
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How the new qualification works 

  • Credits from a lower level are no longer used 

  • Each qualification can include credits from a higher level 

  • Both achievement standards and unit standards can be used. 

  • If a standard contributes to the co-requisite requirement, it will not be used towards the minimum 60 credits required to complete the qualification 

  • Certificate endorsement requirements have not changed. 50 credits at excellence, or a mix of 50 credits at excellence and merit, or 50 merit credits are required. 

  • Course endorsement requirements for 14 credits including a minimum of 3 external and 3 internal credits have not changed. All standards completed by a student will be included in endorsement calculations, including those used to complete the co-requisite requirement. Level 1 course endorsement exceptions for Religious Studies and Physical Education have been removed. 

  • University entrance: 


To be awarded UE you will need: 

  • NCEA Level 3 

  • 14 credits at Level 3 in each of three approved subjects 

  • Literacy - 10 credits at Level 2 or above, made up of (5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing) 

  • Numeracy - 10 credits at Level 1 or above 





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