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NCEA – The National Certificate of Educational Achievement

NCEA - Taumata Mātauranga ā-motu Kua Taea

NCEA – The National Certificate of Educational Achievement

This is New Zealand’s national qualification for senior secondary students. NCEA is part of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework and is the main secondary school qualification.

The ‘New’ NCEA

From 2024, the ‘new’ NCEA will begin to be phased in with full implementation of the new achievement standards at Levels 1, 2 and 3 in place by January 2027. In 2024 and 2025, new standards will be introduced and used at Level 1; this process will then continue with new standards in 2026 at Level 2 and will be completed with new Level 3 standards in 2027. In 2024 and 2025, current standards will be used in Level 2 courses and from 2024 – 2026, current standards will be used in Level 3.

A small ‘pilot’ programme is operating in 2023 in Level 1 Agricultural Science and Level 1 English where teachers are delivering programmes of learning and assessment that involved new achievement standards. This will be extended to all subjects in Level 1 from 2024.

Standards, Credits and Grades

  • nationally prescribed Standards for all subjects show what students need to know/do in the important aspects of a subject;
  • Standards describe the level of work students need to produce and how well they’ve done;
  • students know exactly what they have to do to achieve the Standard;
  • students gain Grades and Credits
  • every Standard is worth a set number of credits.
  • Achievement Standards
    • in nearly all school subjects.
    • three levels of achievement:
      • Achievement
      • Merit
      • Excellence
  • Unit Standards
    • in a few subjects.
    • usually one level of achievement:
      • Achievement

The ‘new’ NCEA Requirements (beginning from 2024) – what is changing?

In 2024:

  • new NCEA Level 1 achievement standards will be fully implemented. Current Level 1 achievement standards will expire at the end of 2023;
  • NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 will each become 60-credit qualifications (Level 1 currently requires 80 credits and includes the current literacy and numeracy requirements of the qualification);
  • the te reo matatini, pāngarau, literacy, and numeracy co-requisite, which sits outside of the new NCEA qualification, will become mandatory.
    • Learners will only be awarded an NCEA qualification once they have met this 20-credit co-requisite.
    • Learners need to complete the co-requisite once only.
  • From January 2024, NCEA Level 2 and Level 3 will each require 60 credits at certificate level or above.  These Levels currently require 80 credits, but learners can ‘carry over’ 20 credits from the level below. This provision will cease, so learners will not be able to carry over 20 credits from Level 1 through to Level 2, or 20 credits from Level 2 to Level 3.
  • During 2024 and 2025, learners will be able to meet the 20-credit co-requisite through achieving either the new standards in Literacy-Writing, Literacy-Reading, Numeracy, Te Reo Matatini, and Pāngarau or gaining 20 credits from a small list of literacy and numeracy-rich standards (to be confirmed).

Creating courses using new NCEA achievement standards

  • all NCEA subjects have four achievement standards – two internally assessed, two externally assessed – worth 20 credits in total.

The ‘new’ NCEA Requirements – what is staying the same?

  • Unit Standards as well as Achievement Standards can be used towards the 60-credit NCEA Level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications;
  • any credits learners already have can be used towards the new NCEA qualifications;
  • there is no time limit on completing an NCEA. If learners gain part of their qualification, they can return to study at any time;
  • course and certificate endorsement requirements also remain the same:
    • students will be required to gain 14 or more credits in a course at Achieved, Merit or Excellence (including at least three external and three internal credits) to gain a course endorsement.
    • certificate endorsement continues to require 50 or more credits at Merit or Excellence level.

NCEA Level 2 and 3 – phased implementation

  • new achievement standards for NCEA Level 2 subjects will be implemented in 2026;
  • new achievement standards for NCEA Level 3 subjects will be implemented in 2027;
  • this will mean a ‘mixed’ NCEA qualification for several years where students will be studying new standards in one year and current standards in (a) subsequent year(s) until full implementation in 2027.

The current information in the Curriculum Book will remain.

Certificate Endorsement

To qualify for an endorsement with Excellence, students must gain 50 credits at Excellence. Excellence credits at a particular NCEA level can be accumulated over more than one year (applies for Merit endorsement).

An endorsement with Merit requires 50 credits at Merit (or Merit and Excellence).

For example, a student gains a Standard, worth 5 credits, with Merit and so gains 5 Merit credits. These credits can be gained from both internally and externally assessed Achievement Standards (Unit Standards that do not have at least a Merit achievement level are not included). The Interim Results Notification in mid-January will show if candidates have qualified for Certificate Endorsement.

For further information about Certificate and Course Endorsement please click here.

Course Endorsement

Students gain an endorsement for a course (subject) where they achieve:

  1. 14 or more credits at Merit or Merit and Excellence = endorsement with Merit.
  2. 14 or more credits at Excellence = endorsement with Excellence.
  3. Included in the 14 credits must be at least 3 (Merit or Excellence) credits from externally assessed Standards and 3 (Merit or Excellence) credits from internally assessed Standards (this does not apply to NCEA Physical Education as this subject has no external assessment).
  4. Sufficient credits in a single school year.


  • subjects in our curriculum which provide assessments that award Merit and Excellence grades are eligible for course endorsement;
  • subjects in which there is assessment of Standards from more than one NCEA ‘domain’ are eligible for course endorsement, e.g. Year 11 Physical Science (Physics and Chemistry);
  • students who change schools during a school year may still be eligible for course endorsement;
  • students who are studying multi-level courses can gain endorsement, however, the endorsement is awarded at the lower level. For example, a student studying 13ENGL who gains 8 Merit credits at Level 3 English and 6 Merit credits at Level 2, gains a Level 2 Merit endorsement in Year 13 English (this assumes that a minimum of 3 of those Merit credits are external and 3 internal).

The Interim Results Notification, available in mid-January when results become available, shows if candidates have gained a course endorsement in a particular subject. Typically, students access their results online via their NZQA Learner Login that they have set up, or refreshed, earlier in the year. They may choose to order a hard copy of their Results Notification by following the instructions on their Learner Login.

For further information about Certificate and Course Endorsement please click here.


The Record of Achievement is ordered from NZQA through the ‘Learner Login’.

Record of Achievement:

The Record of Achievement (ROA) is the official ‘academic transcript’ and is available from mid-April each year. It displays all Standards with results of Achievement/Merit/Excellence. The ROA is usually requested as ‘evidence’ for various university applications. The Record of Achievement is ordered online through the student’s Learner Login.

For further information about Certificates, please click here.

Internal Assessment

Many skills are assessed internally with teachers setting and marking assessments. Marking samples are checked by external moderators to maintain standards nationally.

External Assessment

  • usually in the form of a three-hour examination where one or more Standards are assessed (November);
  • some subjects have no examination (e.g. Physical Education, Arts and Technology);
  • some subjects require students to submit a portfolio which is completed in school but assessed externally (e.g. Design and Visual Communication and Arts);
  • other subjects require students to do practical design projects which are completed in school and assessed externally (e.g. Technology).


Examination subjects have formative (practice) assessments during the year and a school Prelim examination in September to provide students with practice in the external Standards, and to provide derived grades for NCEA externals. These provide evidence of student achievement and progress in these Standards.


There is no fee for domestic students.

For international students, the fee is $383.30 per student.