Qualifications and standards

Review of English Language unit standards

NZQA National Qualifications Services (NQS) has reviewed English Language (EL) standards. This is to ensure there is a pathway suitable for those who want to use unit standards as assessment tools in programmes towards the reviewed/new New Zealand Certificates in English Language (Levels 1-4) qualifications.

Proposed changes to standards

Proposed EL unit standards were submitted in December 2017 for quality assurance, following consultation that closed in October of that year. The main changes proposed are:

  • An increased number of EL standards from 48 to 69 to align with the reviewed New Zealand Certificates in English Language (NZCEL), where there are three new qualifications. These are context-specific standards to accommodate academic and workplace qualifications at levels 3 and 4.
  • The realignment of Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to standards at all levels.
  • Adjustment to the text length, text complexity and/or the range of evidence requirements to align to the new CEFR levels.
  • The addition of the NZCEL Guiding Document to the Guidance Information to support these standards.
  • Introduction of new standards at levels 1 and 2 to encourage wide reading.
  • Reduced number of assessment events at levels 2 and 3 to allow for more teaching and learning time.
  • Removal of grading in Level 4 standards due to low demand. However, grading for Level 3 General standards has been retained for the purposes of NCEA course and certificate endorsements for secondary school students.
  • Higher credit values at Level 4 to include a range of skill sets to allow for a more flexible approach to programme design and gathering of evidence at the tertiary level.

Proposed draft unit standards

A matrix (PDF, 121KB) containing the proposed English Language unit standards is available. Proposed draft unit standards are available at the following links:

Draft versions of these standards are for reference purposes only. No assessment can occur against this version of these standards until the listed versions are published.

For convenience, current English for Academic Purposes (EAP) standards are included on proposed English Language Level 3 (Applied) and Level 4 (Academic) pages. Level 4 EAP standards are mandatory for the New Zealand Certificate in English Language (Academic) (Level 4) [Ref 1883].


In March 2017, NQS commenced the review of English Language Level 1 Foundation - Level 4 unit standards to ensure that:

A review panel was established. It comprises people who have:

  • expertise in English Language
  • understanding of the needs of English Language learners
  • commitment to the use of unit standards as assessment tools in programmes
  • commitment to open communication, collaborative problem solving, and team work.

The panel collectively has experience/expertise in/with:

  • assessment, design and moderation of English Language unit standards
  • New Zealand Certificates in English Language
  • Common European Framework of Reference
  • graded unit standards
  • English for Academic Purposes unit standards
  • English Language related projects, reviews and programme implementation
  • Secondary, tertiary and community sector.

Contact for the review

We welcome questions, ideas and contributions to the review. If you would like to receive information and updates about the review, please send a message to the review mailbox asking to be added to the email network, at: englishlanguage.review@nzqa.govt.nz.


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