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).

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

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

How it works

Visit the NCEA information for Parents

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.

National secondary examination timetable 2017.  All this years external examination times are listed here.