NZ Education System

New Zealand’s National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) are national qualifications for senior secondary school students.

NCEA challenges students of all abilities in all learning areas, and shows credits and grades for separate skills and knowledge. It enables students to gain credits from both traditional school curriculum areas and alternative programmes.

NCEA and other national certificates are recognised by employers and used as the benchmark for selection by universities and polytechnics. NCEA is also readily accepted overseas, including by universities. When applying for employment, prospective employees can create a summary of their results from their Record of Achievement.

For more information, visit NZQA website.


How NCEA Works

  • Each year, students study a number of courses or subjects.
  • In each subject, skills and knowledge are assessed against a number of standards. For example, a Mathematics standard could be: Apply numeric reasoning in solving problems.
    Schools use a range of internal and external assessments to measure how well students meet these standards.
  • When a student achieves a standard, they gain a number of credits. Students must achieve a certain number of credits to gain an NCEA certificate.
  • There are three levels of NCEA certificate, depending on the difficulty of the standards achieved. In general, students work through levels 1 to 3 in years 11 to 13 at school.
  • Students are recognised for high achievement at each level by gaining NCEA with Merit or NCEA with Excellence. High achievement in a course is also recognised. For more information, read about Endorsements.

For more information, visit How NCEA works.


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. 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.


University Entrance

You will be qualified for entrance to a university in New Zealand if you have obtained:

a minimum of 42 credits at Level 3 or higher on the National Qualifications Framework, including a minimum of 14 credits at Level 3 or higher in each of two subjects from an approved subject list, with a further 14 credits at Level 3 or higher taken from no more than two additional domains on the National Qualifications Framework or approved subjects

a minimum of 14 credits at Level 1 or higher in Mathematics or Pangarau on the National Qualifications Framework.

a minimum of 8 credits at Level 2 or higher in English or Te Reo Maori; 4 credits must be in Reading and 4 credits must be in Writing. The literacy credits will be selected from a schedule of approved Achievement Standards and Unit Standards.

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.

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