NCEA

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement, or NCEA as it's commonly known as, is New Zealand's main secondary school qualification for students in years 11 to 13 and is accepted by the majority of employers here and overseas.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) administers NCEA. They are your first stop for information and have some great resources to help you understand NCEA. Check out the NCEA information on NZQA's website. Also download their NCEA Guide mobile app, which has practical information in both English and Te Reo Māori about how NCEA works and how you can help your child when they are studying for NCEA.

Careers NZ helps people think about what career they would like and how to create a plan to get there. They can help you and your child understand NCEA, choose the right subjects for the career or next education step your child wants to take and they provide support with career planning.  Check out NCEA information on the Careers NZ's website, or call them toll free on 0800 222 733.

The Youth Guaranteee website can also help you and your child think about their options after school, see how their skills and interests relate to industry and create a plan to get into their job of choice. They can then plan their secondary school studies and achieve NCEA Level 2 (or equivalent) with this in mind. 

Your school knows all about NCEA and about your child and their strengths, weaknesses and interests.  You can talk to your school anytime during the school year about NCEA, your child's career plans, and how to help them to get there. Many schools also have NCEA information sessions that you can attend.  

You can also ask your child themselves. They are the ones studying NCEA, and developing an idea of what they want to do for a career.

Here's a brief run through of NCEA to help you get started.

How does NCEA work?

NCEA has three levels:

  • Level 1 - usually in year 11 (year 11 is the equivalent to old 5th form)
  • Level 2 - usually in year 12 (year 12 is the equivalent to old 6th form)
  • Level 3 - usually in year 13 (year 13 is hte equivalent to old 7th form)

Within these levels your child chooses to study a variety of NCEA subjects offered by their school. These subjects have a range of standards that are used to assess your child's progress. The standard describes what the student needs to know or what they must be able to achieve in that subject.

For example:

A history standard might be - “carry out an investigation into a historical event of significance to New Zealanders”.

A mathematics standard might be - “solve measurement problems involving right angled triangles”

An accounting standard might be - “prepare a report that analyses and interprets a company’s financial report for external users”.

Each standard is worth credits and students must gain a minimum number of credits to achieve each NCEA level. Credits are earned using a mix internal and external assessment. 

What NCEA "grades" can my child achieve?

There are two types of standard that contribute to NCEA, and different levels of achievement for each.

Achievement standards

These generally involve studying traditional curriculum subjects and your child gain these with grades of:

  • achieved with excellence (an excellent pass)
  • achieved with merit (a very good pass)
  • achieved (pass)
  • not achieved (fail).

Unit Standards

These generally involve studying vocational subjects and your child is awarded unit standards with grades of

  • achieved (pass)
  • not achieved (fail).

How many credits does my child need to earn at each NCEA level?

At every level of NCEA your child needs to achieve a total of 80 credits to have gained that NCEA level qualification as follows:

NCEA level 1

80 credits at level 1 or higher, including

  • 10 credits in numeracy standards
  • 10 credits in literacy standards.

Assessment can be in English or te reo Māori.

Talk to your child's teachers if you're unsure about which standards give credits that meet the numeracy and literacy requirements for NCEA.

NCEA level 2

Total of 80 credits made up of:

  • 60 credits at level 2 or higher
  • 20 credits at any other level.

NCEA level 3

Total of 80 credits made up of:

  • 60 credits at level 3 or higher
  • 20 credits at level 2 or higher.

 How do scholarships fit in?

A scholarship is an external exam or assessment for top performing secondary students. Students usually enter in year 13, which is their last year of school. Scholarship exams are based on level 3 standards relating to areas of the New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (the curriculum for Maori-medium schools) studied in year 13.

A scholarship does not count towards your child's NCEA credits or a qualification, but the fact that your child has gained a scholarship appears on the student’s Record of Achievement.

What does NCEA cost?

There is an annual fee of $76.70 (GST inclusive) for students being assessed for NCEA standards. This fee covers all standards and up to 3 scholarship subjects. You may be able to apply for financial assistance if:

  • you are getting a Work and Income or StudyLink benefit
  • your joint family income  means you qualify for a Community Services Card
  • you have more than 2 teens studying NCEA in the same year – in this case it doesn’t matter how much you earn

Why is this all so different to when I was at school? 

In the past, secondary school qualifications had a strong focus on the more academic subjects. Students who were interested in vocational subjects weren't able to get qualifications in those subjects and gain recognition for their skills and knowledge.

They also relied heavily on exams (external assessment). This meant that all a student’s learning throughout the school year couldn’t be taken into account in their qualification. Another limitation was that exam marks were scaled so that only a certain number of students could pass.

NCEA is fairer and gives a very full picture of what your child can do. Any student who demonstrates the required skills and knowledge to the level of a particular standard, achieves NCEA credits. Each student receives a School Results Summary that shows all the standards taken throughout their school years, and the results for each.

Assessment is continuous throughout the year which means that everything a student does counts towards their qualification. This means that they have to work hard all year.

Since NCEA was introduced, more students are leaving school with qualifications. 

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