What is NCEA?

As New Zealand’s national curriculum, NCEA (or the National Certificate of Educational Achievement) is a core part of our schooling system. It’s currently the most popular curriculum offered to senior high school students in New Zealand, with other options including Cambridge and International Baccalaureate curricula.


NCEA is run and administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, or NZQA.


To make sure you’re in the know about all things NCEA, we’ve answered a few of your questions on how it works here.


Who sits NCEA exams?

Typically, NCEA exams are sat by students in their final three years of high school, where they will complete Levels 1 through 3. However, NCEA credits can be obtained elsewhere through other qualifications such as diplomas – you don’t even need to be at school.


How does the qualification system work?

The two words you’ll need to know, in order to understand NCEA, are credit and standard.


NCEA Levels 1 through 3 work on a ‘credit’ system. Credits are essentially the building blocks of an NCEA qualification. Students earn credits through passing ‘standards’.


In each subject, skills and knowledge are assessed against multiple standards, each testing a different skill (in Mathematics, for example, there might be separate standards for probability, algebra, and geometry). Each standard will have a number of credits attached to it (for example, four credits). By building up a portfolio of credits in different standards, students are able to gain an NCEA Certificate at the level they are working towards.


Students are recognised for high achievement at Levels 1 through 3 by gaining an endorsement with Merit or Excellence. This can be achieved by passing a number of standards with Merit or Excellence endorsement, thus gaining credits with these titles.


Students are assessed through a mixture of internal and external assessments. Internal assessments are marked by students’ teachers, and are sat during the school year. External assessments more commonly take the form of exams, and are marked by qualified NZQA markers to ensure standardisation and fairness.


Is NCEA right for me?

Different curricula suit different people. One of the key differences about NCEA, when compared to Cambridge or IB, is the weighting that is allocated to internal assessments during the year, rather than large examinations at the end of the year.


Therefore, NCEA might be suitable for you if you’re good at managing your workload, and are happier putting in consistent effort during the year rather than building up to one exam.


Sometimes, top students will find that they aren’t being extended enough by the core NCEA curricula. For this reason, NZQA developed the NCEA Scholarship path, where top students can demonstrate their abilities in more difficult exams, and are awarded cash prizes for doing so.


What can I do with my NCEA qualifications?

Good results in NCEA exams will help to gain you entry into all universities and further study pathways in New Zealand, and are accepted by almost all universities around the world.


Where can I find out more?

The NZQA website has a section understanding NCEA, which you can access here:


I need help with my NCEA subjects, where can I go?

At EduExperts, we offer tuition across all main subjects for all popular high school curricula, including NCEA. Get in touch with your local centre for more information – your friendly centre manager will be more than happy to help you find the support you require!

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