The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main school leaving qualification in New Zealand. Around 150,000 students study each year towards an NCEA.
NCEA is recognised by employers and used by students as a stepping stone into employment, apprenticeships, and a wide range of further study options – from apprenticeships and trades training to degree-level study.
NCEA has three levels:
- Level 1 — usually in Year 11
- Level 2 — usually in Year 12
- Level 3 — usually in Year 13
At present, a student needs to achieve a total of 80 credits to attain an NCEA qualification at each level.
Credits are gained towards an NCEA qualification if a student achieves a standard.
Each standard describes what a student needs to know, or what they must be able to achieve, in order to meet the standard. Some standards are internally assessed by teachers during the year, while others are assessed externally by NZQA at the end of the year (for example, in an exam or by a portfolio of work).
There are two types of standards that contribute to NCEA:
- Achievement Standards — these recognise learning from our National Curriculum subjects. Students can achieve these standards with grades of: Achieved with Excellence, Achieved with Merit, Achieved (pass), Not achieved (fail).
- Unit Standards — these recognise learning in other areas (like vocational learning and te ao Māori). These standards usually only offer Achieved or Not Achieved grades (i.e. they are either pass or fail).
The Vocational Pathways provide new ways to achieve NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3, and develop pathways that progress to further study, training and employment.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) administers NCEA and has a range of resources, including videos, about NCEA and how it works (see our “Further Information” tab for quick links)
NCEA and Scholarship exams are the coming together of years of work for your child. It can also be a stressful time – for everyone.
The most important thing over the NCEA years is to keep talking to your child and encouraging them:
- ask them how their study is going
- check they are keeping to their internal study deadlines and requirements
- keep a check on their stress levels
- talk to them after each exam about how it went
- ask them if there is anything you can do at home to help them.
Here are some more tips to get through this time:
- make sure your child has a place at home to study
- balance study and free time – their study won’t be as effective if they don’t have breaks
- make sure they are taking care of themselves – eating healthily and getting enough sleep
- check that they are well prepared – they know when and where their exams are, what they need to take, and have transport plans
- talk to your child’s teachers if you have any questions or worries
- celebrate their successes.