The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand.  It was introduced as the main secondary schools qualification between 2002 and 2004.  NCEA is recognised by employers, and used for selection by universities and polytechnics, both in New Zealand and overseas.

How it Works

In each subject, students’ skills and knowledge are assessed against a number of standards.  Course outline sheets are issued at the start of the year.  These have details of the standards offered in each subject, their credit value and how and when they will be assessed.

Subjects 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.

Grades (NAME) are assigned to each standard: N Not Achieved; A Achieved – for satisfactory performance; M Merit – for very good performance; E for outstanding performance.

Subject Endorsement
  • If a student gains 14+ credits at Excellence level in an individual subject, they will gain an excellence endorsement for that subject.
  • If a student gains 14+ credits at Merit (or Merit and Excellence) level in an individual subject, they will gain a Merit endorsement for that subject.
Course Endorsements
  • Course Endorsements enable students with strong performances in individual courses to gain Excellence or Merit endorsements in those courses overall.
  • If a student gains 50 credits at Excellence, their NCEA certificate will be endorsed with Excellence.
  • If a student gains 50 credits at Merit (or Merit and Excellence), their NCEA certificate will be endorsed with Merit.
Rules for Sitting Standards

Handing in Assessment Material

Assessment material must be handed in during the period on the day of the assessment.

If it is handed in to the Office after that period or if it arrives at the end of the day it will be considered late and will not be assessed.


All assessment material other than tests / examinations being submitted must have the generic cover sheet attached, with the Authenticity Declaration signed to ensure all work is your own.

Where work is not authentic, the standard will be assessed as ‘no achievement’. You can’t copy, it all has to be in your own words and your own work.


Any leave of absence must be applied for well in advance through the Director of Assessment.  Application for leave may not be granted or you may forfeit an assessment opportunity.

Medical certificates must be supplied for assessments missed for medical reasons.

Re-Assessment Opportunities

Opportunities to “try again” may be provided at the discretion of the teachers in charge of the subject.


A student can appeal the result of an assessment.  The following process must be followed

  • Student first approaches the class teacher or teacher in charge (TIC) of the subject within 5 school days of the assessment being returned.
  • A reconsideration form must be completed by the teacher.
  • If the situation cannot be resolved by the teacher, the case is taken to the Teacher in Charge, Head of Department or Head of Faculty.
  • If still no resolution, the case is taken to the Director of Assessment, who consults with the Deputy Principal in charge of Curriculum and Assessment to make a decision.
  • If the decision is disputed, the case is taken to the Principal.


Misconduct may take the form of the following:

  • Sharing information
  • Copying another student’s work
  • Talking during an assessment
  • Interfering with another student’s learning
  • Refusal to follow instructions
  • Cheating
  • Cell phone use
  • Other relevant actions like using ChatGPT during or for an assessment

Students not meeting requirements regarding appropriate conduct are to be referred to the Director of Assessment. Misconduct can result in the student/s receiving N.

How Can I Help

Ask to see the “course outline” sheets that your child will have received for each subject.  Read these carefully and note all Internal Assessments on a calendar.  Encourage revision before these assessments as success in these Internal assessments will mean your child gains credits that count toward the 80+ they need to gain NCEA Level 1.

Ask to see the “NCEA Student Booklet” that your child will receive.  Read and discuss this with them.  Check that they have chosen the subjects they require to ensure a suitable pathway of study at Year 12 and 13.

Monitor your child’s progress as they gain credits.  This can be recorded in the NCEA Student Booklet.  Encourage consistency throughout the year rather than just relying on External Assessment at the end of the year.

Encourage and support your child, recognise that they need a quiet work space at home to complete homework and revision and stress to them the importance of persistent hard work and that they achieve to their personal best.

University Entrance

University Entrance is the minimum requirement to enter a New Zealand University.

The NCEA minimum requirements for University Entrance are:

  • Achievement of NCEA Level 3 (60 credits at Level 3 or higher and 20 credits at Level 2 or higher)
  • 14 credits in each of the three subjects from the list of approved subjects
  • The remaining credits to achieve NCEA Level 3 may come from either achievement or unit standards
  • UE Numeracy – 10 credits at Level 1 or higher from specified achievement standards, or three numeracy unit standards
  • UE Literacy – 10 credits (five in reading and five in writing) from specific Level 2 and Level 3 Achievement Standards across a wide range of subjects.

NZQA University Entrance

Approved Subjects

University Admission Requirements

In addition to achieving University Entrance, most programmes have a more competitive entry and you must also meet the admission requirements and be selected into your programme of study.

Some undergraduate programmes require you have taken specific subjects and gained minimum credits in certain subjects. Some programmes have other requirements such as a portfolio, audition and/or interview.

All undergraduate applicants at the University of Auckland and some other universities will be allocated a rank score or a GES (guaranteed entry score).

Calculating your Rank Score

A student’s rank score will be allocated on their best 80 credits at Level 3 or higher over a maximum of five approved subjects and weighted by the level of achievement.

The rank score will be calculated by awarding the following points for up to 24 credits in each approved subject taken at Level 3. The maximum rank score is 320.

  • Excellence 4 points eg 80 x 4 = 320
  • Merit 3 points eg 80 x 3 = 240
  • Achieved 2 points eg 80 x 2 = 160

If students achieve fewer than 80 credits at Level 3 or  higher their rank score will be based on those credits they have achieved.

  • Level 3 subject requirements for a specific programme may be met in Year 12
  • NCEA Level 3 credits achieved in Year 12 may be counted towards the 80 best credits used for ranking purposes
  • Students are strongly encouraged to take approved subjects and achievement standards as best preparation for University study

New English language requirement for the University of Auckland from 2016

The University of Auckland is introducing a new entrance requirement called the Academic English Language Requirement (for students applying on the basis of NCEA results, the applicant must have gained a minimum of 17 credits in English at Level 2 or 3).

Students who do not meet this requirement will be offered places but will be required to do a specified English course at the University.