Standards sit at a specified level on the Directory of Assessment Standards (DAS). Each standard describes what a student needs to know, or what they must be able to achieve, in order to meet the standard. Having met it, they will gain credits towards national qualifications.

Each standard has a defined credit value. Credits may be accumulated from different learning institutions or workplaces towards a single qualification. All organisations with consent to assess against standards recognise credits awarded by others.

Types of standards

Students can achieve two types of standard - unit standards and achievement standards.

  • Unit standards are competency based
  • Achievement standards are New Zealand curriculum based

How standards are achieved

As students study new topics, their teachers will explain what will be assessed and how. Teachers ensure that students are prepared for assessment. If students pass the assessment, the standard is achieved. See Assessment of standards for more information.

Assessments measure what a student knows or can do against the registered criteria of a standard in courses they study. If they meet the criteria, they achieve the standard, and gain credits towards a qualification.

Some standards are internally assessed by teachers during the year. Other standards are assessed externally by NZQA at the end of the year e.g. in an exam or by a portfolio of work.

Internal assessment

Internal assessments are used to assess skills and knowledge that cannot be tested in an exam, e.g. speeches, research projects and performances. See NCEA subject resources for assessment information and criteria for a particular standard or subject.

To find assessment resources that have been developed by the Ministry of Education for use with the internally assessed achievement standards, see Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI).

External assessment

Most external assessments are by examination at the end of the year. For some subjects, e.g. Technology or Visual Arts, students submit a portfolio of their work at the end of year. See NCEA exams and portfolios for detailed information.

Assessment grades

The grades that a student can earn depend on the type of standard being assessed.

For unit standards all grades may be available, but usually there are just two grades:

  • Achieved (A) for meeting the criteria of the standard
  • Not achieved (N) if a student does not meet the criteria of the standard

For achievement standards, there are four grades:

  • Achieved (A) for a satisfactory performance
  • Merit (M) for very good performance
  • Excellence (E) for outstanding performance
  • Not achieved (N) if students do not meet the criteria of the standard

What happens if a student doesn't achieve a standard?

Schools may allow students to have further assessment opportunities for internally assessed standards later in the year. Students can have up to one further assessment per standard per year.

There is only one opportunity each year to achieve an externally assessed standard. If a student fails to achieve externally assessed standards, they may repeat the assessment the following year. Students who were sick at the time of the exams may apply for a derived grade for individual standards.

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