August 2020

Key dates

Key Dates

1 August
- Data file submission due (used to calculate the quantity of exam papers and materials for external exams)
- Check exam timetable clashes then confirm candidates’ external entries
- TRANSLATED PAPERS – Final date for ‘Answer’ and ‘Request’ flags to be set in data file
- MCAT Level 1, 91027 – Deadline for schools to advise NZQA of Assessment Day and number of booklets required
- DT & HM CAT – Deadline for date nomination
- Send entries in English, Agricultural and Horticultural Science, Classical Studies, Te Reo Māori digital exams to enable the practice digital exam platform for these subjects
3 August
Confirm intention to offer digital practice exams
19 August
Check accuracy of externally assessed entries in preparation for 9 September data file submission
31 August / 25 September Digital practice exams available to schools who registered
9 September - Data file submission due.
- Confirm entries for externally assessed standards including NZ Scholarship. Necessary for candidates to get personalised exam materials
- Final date for withdrawals from Externally Assessed standards including NZ Scholarship
- Check timetable clashes and discuss the schedule for these exams with candidates
15 September MCAT Level 1, 91027 Assessment Day One
17 September MCAT Level 1, 91027 Assessment Day Two
25 September Term 3 Ends
1 October - Data file submission due
- Derived grade applications open online
- SPECIAL ASSESSMENT CONDITIONS (SAC) 2021. First time applications for entitlement open for 2021
2 October SPECIAL ASSESSMENT CONDITIONS (SAC) Applications for Learning Disorder close for 2020
8 October Confirm with NZQA three-way exam clash arrangements
12 October Term 4 Begins
---- change of date due to COVID-19 disruption

PN checklist

PN Checklist: things to do

  • Confirm the preferred date for MCAT by 1 August
  • Register for DTHM CATs by Aug 1
  • Include entries for digital exams in your data file as soon as possible
  • Check students requiring translated papers are flagged “answer” or “request” and correct for the 1 August file
  • Attach SAC entitlements to external entries before end of Term 3
  • Check accuracy of external entries including digital external entries in preparation for the 9 September data file
  • Inform teachers about external exam marker and verifier opportunities
  • Remind interested teachers about the Ringa Toi exhibition registration of interest cut off
  • Update revised Key Dates in school documentation
  • Advise Deans etc. to alert International fee payers and those going to tertiary study overseas in 2021, of each country’s specific entry requirements
  • Share updates about digital online exam practice activities with HODs

Topics in this EmaiLink:

General Administration & Data

  • School Relationship Manager school visits
  • NSN cards
  • Courier Bags L3 Visual Art and Scholarship

External Exams Administration

  • Online Submitted subjects
  • DCAT and MCAT changes for 2020
  • Vaka Eiva Competition

NCEA Online

  • Getting ready, practice activities
  • Support for managing digital exams
  • Digital practice exams
  • Digital exam information for Language teachers

Derived Grade and Unexpected Event Grade updates

  • Notification of update #3

Special Assessment Conditions

  • Entries
  • Braille papers
  • Attachments of entitlements to external standards
  • Digital exams
  • Managing computer notification


  • Circulars
  • Ringa Toi Exhibition
  • Translated papers and answers

Information for Staff

  • Key Dates
  • Contract vacancies for markers etc
  • Digital exams - languages
  • Innovative assessment case studies
  • Entry requirements for overseas universities following COVID-19 disruption and changes to NCEA and University Entrance.

General Administration and Data

Virtual visits from your School Relationship Manager

We’ll meet with you individually online to address any concerns or queries and discuss how you are managing student assessment. These meetings will use Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Candidate NSN cards

These will now be dispatched on or before Monday 27 July. Please contact your School Relationship Manager if you have not received the cards for your school by 3 August.

Couriering Level 3 and NZ Scholarship Visual Arts portfolios

Schools are reminded that couriering of Level 3 and Scholarship Visual Arts submissions to NZQA is the responsibility of the school. NZQA does not supply bags or courier tickets for Level 3 and Scholarship Visual Arts portfolio submissions.

This year Level 3 and NZ Scholarship Visual Arts has the same submission date, 12 November, as a number of external submission subjects. NZQA is responsible for arranging the courier pick up from schools of physical submissions for these subjects. However, schools must make their own arrangement for Level 3 and NZ Scholarship Visual Arts.

Schools may not use their Level 1 and 2, red and blue bags for sending in Level 3 and Scholarship submissions.

NZQA will courier Level 3 portfolios to individual candidate home addresses at the end of marking. It is important that candidate home addresses are correct, as the courier return of portfolios is not signature required and will be left at the address if nobody is home to receive them.

External Exams Administration

Online Submitted Subjects

An overview of the Online Submitted Subjects process, Digital External Submissions Upload – Overview, is available on each relevant subject page where there is a submitted component as part of the external assessment for that subject.

2020 Submission Instructions are available on the relevant subject pages of the NZQA website and in a document entitled Digital External Submission Upload – Instructions (PDF, 121KB).

Common Assessment Task (DCAT & MCAT) changes for 2020

Nominate the dates for your DCAT and MCAT assessment using the new section in the Key Indicator’s page of your Provider Login. Details for the DCAT are in this circular.

Schools are only able to hold the MCAT on one single nominated day to ensure the integrity of the assessment.

Changes for the 2020 MCAT are detailed in this circular. The changes are:

  • the day request process uses the new section on the Key Indicator page in your NZQA Provider Login (at the bottom of the page)
  • to request booklets in Te Reo Māori, set the ‘Translated’ flag on the candidate’s entry in data files submitted to NZQA
  • once a day has been nominated, schools that need to print the assessment for the alternative day will have to get NZQA approval.

Vaka Eiva competition in Rarotonga

A final decision about whether Vaka Eiva will be held this year is still pending. It is tentatively ear-marked for 20th – 27th November.

In the past, NZ-based students who participated in this sporting event could request to sit some of their exams at an Exam Centre in Rarotonga.

Participation by NZ-based students will be dependent on any travel restrictions. In addition, even if travel to Rarotonga is permitted, other health-related restrictions may mean that NZ-based students will not be able to enter a Cook Islands Exam Centre. As a result, it is not possible to yet confirm whether these students will be able to sit exams in Rarotonga this year.

We will update this notification if circumstances change.

NCEA Online

Getting ready for digital exams - practice activities

Refreshed practice activities for 2020 are now available to give students and teachers hands-on experience with what this year’s digital exams will look and feel like.

They can be found on the Student Exam Hub and include:

  • activities to get familiar with the exam platform e.g. navigate and complete an exam and the types of alerts a student may see
  • answers to a range of common questions
  • digitised versions of 2019 exams for all digital assessments being offered in 2020
  • a video overview of the digital exam platform.

Support to help you manage digital exams – videos, tutorials and Q&A sessions

  • Check out the Get your school ready for digital exams page of our website for our videos of what three Principal’s Nominees have to say about their schools’ experiences with digital exams and increase your understanding of the digital exam experience using their valuable insights.
  • Downloadable resources for Principal’s Nominees include a preparation timeline (PDF, 584KB) and a printable comprehensive guide (PDF, 2.4MB).
  • At the end of July look out for our self-guided tutorial series, along with links to register for virtual Q&A sessions. The tutorials have 10 short videos with accompanying resources that cover the basics of what you need to know and do if your school is new to digital exams.
  • There will be online Q&A sessions for new schools and schools scaling up their digital entries this year.

Digital practice exams

If you’re planning to offer digital exams in English, Agricultural and Horticultural Science, Classical Studies, or Te Reo Māori (reading standard only) this year, we will have contacted you to find out if you are interested in completing your practice exams in 2020 using the NZQA digital exam platform. You can find out more here.

Where schools express interest, we will provide more detailed information about what to expect and what to do to prepare for digital practice exams, so you can ensure this is right for your school. Contact your School Relationship Manager if you want to discuss this further before deciding.

Digital exams information for Language teachers

NZQA is providing digital exams in Languages for the first time this year. We are putting together the answers to some commonly asked questions which will be available through the individual subject pages soon. This information should help teachers to support students with decisions about their participation in digital language exams, and with their preparation and readiness.

Derived Grade and Unexpected Event Grade updates

Update #3 was distributed recently and covers:

  • the pre-approval process for exam clashes as a result of the exam timetable changes
  • managing absence from the MCAT and L1 and L2 Visual Arts
  • managing absence from the DCAT and LCAT.

Copies are available in the Derived Grade area of your school’s Provider Login.

Special Assessment Conditions

2020 Closing dates for SAC applications

This year’s closing date for applications made under the Learning category is 2 October 2020. Applications made under the Sensory, Medical or Physical categories can be made until the end of the exam period.

Applications should be submitted as soon as possible to ensure they can be reviewed by NZQA assessors in good time.

External entries for SAC students

Please ensure that as many external entries as possible for SAC students are submitted in the August datafile. This will facilitate the attachment of entitlements and the planning for personalised papers for these candidates.

Guidance on the preparation for exams and CATs can be found here.

Students requiring Braille papers

If any of your SAC students require Braille papers for exams, please ensure that their entries for external standards are submitted now (even if this means submitting an additional datafile). SAC needs to be attached to the exam sessions as soon as possible.

This must be completed by 7 August. No SAC applications for Braille papers will be able to be approved after this date.

There is considerable work and time involved in creating Braille papers.

Attachment of entitlements to external standards

This facility for the 2020 exams is open and the process should be completed as soon as possible. A guide to help you is available here (PDF, 203KB).

Please prioritise this process.

This facility is available until the end of Term 3 (other than the week in early September where it is closed while we extract data to personalise exam papers). If the process of attaching entitlements to exam sessions is not completed shortly after your September datafile is submitted, students will not receive personalised exam papers.

Attachments can be edited while the facility is open in Term 3 if an error has been made, or if a student requests a change.

SAC candidates in digital exams

If your school has plans to enter students for digital exams, you should consider the implications for SAC candidates before they are entered.

If you have any concerns that these students may be disadvantaged by participating in a digital exam, then they should be offered a paper-based alternative that they are used to completing.

Further information can be found here.

Managing Computer Notification students in exams

Students using a computer to complete a paper exam (i.e. using word processing) as a result of the Computer Notification process are managed in the same way as SAC students using a computer, including managing authenticity.

The entitlement to use a computer must be attached to exam sessions in the same way as for SAC students. Computers and printers also need to be set up in the same way. Consider entering students in digital exams where appropriate.

The facility for schools to submit Computer Notifications on behalf of students will close in the second half of August. Please prioritise submissions now.


Circulars (available online only)

A2020/15 Credentialing lockdown learning to recognise prior learning

A2020/14 Ensuring reported results accurately reflect student assessment opportunities

Ringa Toi Student Exhibition 2020

Information about this year’s exhibition and how to register interest can be found in this circular.

Registration of interest closes on Friday 14 August.

School contact details

Please keep your school’s contact details current in your Provider Login.

Translated papers and answers in Te Reo data file flags

Students must have the correct flags set against their external entries by 1 August data file for translated papers in Te Reo.

Information for staff

Key Dates 2020 wall planner PDF now updated

The revised Key Dates wall planner 2020 PDF and Word doc. are now available on the website. N.B. Hard copies will be printed and sent out to schools and you can print from the link above.

Contract Vacancies at NZQA

There are a number of contract vacancies available with NZQA, including markers, verifiers, panel leaders and examiner and materials developer roles for several NCEA and NZ Scholarship subjects. These are currently advertised on our NZQA website.

School Relationship Manager – Kura Māori Vacancy

Applications for this role close Monday 17 August. Applicants must be fluent in Te Reo and experienced in assessment quality assurance processes, so if you are interested or know of anyone suitable, please email or phone Andrew Macklin at 04 463 4232.

Innovative assessment case studies for internally assessed standards

NZQA is pleased to showcase examples of innovative approaches to assessment, as described by teachers, students, and senior managers.

NZQA has collected video evidence from teachers, students, and management in schools where innovative assessment is happening. It is presented as a series of case studies in three strands:

  • teachers talking about what they do differently,
  • students reflecting on what the style of assessment meant for them, and
  • management saying how they made the changes in their schools to accommodate this.

Research and discussion tools are included so that schools or departments can use them to instigate change.

An introduction to the case studies can be found in the Spotlight section of the NZQA website. The case studies can be found here. If staff have feedback on the case studies, please email us at

Impact of 2020 changes to NCEA and UE on entry requirements for overseas universities

Students seeking entry to an overseas university, or other tertiary institution, including international students returning home, must meet the entry requirements of the country in which they want to study. N.B. Some countries still require NCEA Level 3 with 14 credits in 3 approved UE subjects. Please refer: Specific country requirements for NCEA.

Under the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016, schools must ensure International students receive information regarding entry requirements for tertiary study overseas, if this is their intended pathway. Domestic students who plan to study overseas need to be aware of overseas universities’ entry requirements.

To support students using a 2020 NCEA qualification, or UE award for entry to an overseas tertiary institution, NZQA is sharing information with other countries about the changes made to NCEA and University Entrance, as a result of the COVID-19 disruption. You may contact your School Relationship Manager if you have any further questions, and students can contact NZQA directly on 0800 697 296.

Skip to main page content Accessibility page with list of access keys Home Page Site Map Contact Us