How NCEA works

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The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand, and is administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

NCEA is recognised by employers, and used for selection by universities and polytechnics, both in New Zealand and overseas.

Click here for the ‘How NCEA works’ video

Click here for the ‘How NCEA works’ video transcript (English)

Click here for the ‘How NCEA works’ video in other languages

Click here for parent information about Secondary school from the Ministry of Education

How it works

Visit the NCEA information for Parents page on the NZQA website or check out this guide to Understanding NCEA.

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.

University Entrance
University Entrance (UE) is the minimum requirement to go to a New Zealand university.
To qualify you will need:

  • NCEA Level 3
  • Three subjects – at Level 3, made up of:
  • Literacy – 10 credits at Level 2 or above, made up of:
    • 5 credits in reading
    • 5 credits in writing
  • Numeracy – 10 credits at Level 1 or above, made up of:
    • achievement standards – specified achievement standards available through a range of subjects, or
    • unit standards – package of three numeracy unit standards (26623, 26626, 26627- all three required).

Subject resource pages are available here, and have the standards for each subject and past examination resources.

NCEA Guide: Free Mobile App:

To help parents and employers better understand NCEA, NZQA has developed an app designed for mobile devices – phones and tablets. Called NCEA Guide, the app is for parents, whānau and employers and provides quick and easy access to key information about NCEA.

NCEA Guide includes key content about the structure of NCEA, how the qualification is used after studying, how credits work, and how endorsements are earned. Users can also choose to view the content in English or Te Reo. Importantly, parents and whānau can also get information about how they can support family members studying towards gaining their secondary school qualification.

The NCEA Guide App is free to download – get it now from Google Play Store and Apple App Store