NCEA – How it works

30/06/2016

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand. Three levels of NCEA are available – students usually complete one level per year in their final three years at school. The first level, Level One, is studied in Year 11, followed by Level Two in Year 12, and finally Level Three in Year 13.

View the NCEA page on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website

How it works

In their final years at Garin College, students select subjects which they believe will be beneficial for their chosen career path. Each subject assesses the students' abilities related to that subject at various times throughout the year.

Some assessments of student ability are completed in school-time and are marked by teachers ("internal" assessments), whereas others are completed at the end of the year in examinations ("external" assessments). Each assessment (sometimes called a "standard") has a specific "credit" value attached to it, normally ranging from three to six credits per assessment. In order to gain a certificate for the level at which they are studying at, students must have gained a certain number of credits, particular to each level. The current requirements set by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority are as follows:

NCEA Level 1

When you have achieved 80 credits at Level 1, you'll qualify for NCEA Level 1. Eight of the credits must be from numeracy standards and eight other credits must be from literacy standards (usually obtained in Mathematics and English classes). These skills can be assessed in English or Te Reo Maori or a combination of these. Your teachers can tell you which standards provide the required numeracy and literacy skills.

NCEA Level 2

NCEA Level 2 requires a minimum of 60 credits at Level 2 or above and 20 credits at any other level. Credits can be used for more than one qualification, so some of your NCEA Level 1 credits can count towards NCEA Level 2. For NCEA Level 2 there are no specific literary or numeracy requirements.

NCEA Level 3

For NCEA Level 3 you will need to achieve 80 credits, of which 60 must be at Level 3 or above, and 20 at Level 2 or above. 

Students receive a grade dependent on how well they met the national guidelines for a particular assessment. These are:

  • Not Achieved (N) – the student receives no credit value for this grade
  • Achievement (A)
  • Achievement with Merit (M)
  • Achievement with Excellence (E)

Certificate Endorsements

If a student accumulates a certain number of credits at a particular grade, their certificate will be "endorsed" with a specific grade. Specifically, if a student accumulates 50 or more Merit credits at the level of the certificate, their certificate will be endorsed with Merit. If a student accumulates 50 or more Excellence credits at the level of the certificate, their certificate will be endorsed with Excellence.

Club Garin Colours

Garin College awards Colours to students who attain their national certificate with Merit or Excellence grades. As part of receiving the award, students receive a "scholarship" badge which is affixed to their blazer.

University Entrance

You will be awarded University Entrance by NZQA and be qualified for entrance to a university in New Zealand if you have obtained:

  • NCEA Level 3
  • Three subjects, at Level 3, taken from the list of 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, made up of:
    • Achievement Standards – specific standards available through a range of subjects
    • Unit Standards – a package of three which are offered at Level 1 for specific students

Universities and other tertiary providers in New Zealand sometimes have other specific requirements for entry to particular courses. If you have a particular course in mind already, check the entry criteria as soon as possible, to ensure that you are entering for the right standards.