Understanding NCEA

New Zealand's National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) are national qualifications for senior secondary school students.

How NCEA works

NCEA challenges students of all abilities in all learning areas, and shows credits and grades for separate skills and knowledge. It enables students to gain credits from both traditional school curriculum areas and alternative programmes. For more information, see How NCEA works.

Changes to NCEA and UE for 2022

Changes were made to NCEA and University Entrance in 2022, recognising the impact of student and teacher absences due to the community spread of COVID-19 and other winter illnesses.

Changes to NCEA and UE for 2021

A series of changes were made to NCEA and University Entrance in 2021, following disruption from COVID-19 in Term 3. These changes are designed to make sure students have a fair opportunity to attain NCEA and be awarded UE.

Changes to NCEA and UE for 2020

To recognise the disruption caused to teaching, learning and assessment as a result of COVID-19, several changes were made to NCEA and University Entrance for 2020. Additional changes to NCEA applied for students in Auckland, and students outside of Auckland who met specific thresholds were also able to access this support.

These changes only applied to the 2020 school year. Information about changes made for 2021 is available here.

Using Learning Recognition Credits earned in 2020

Students who earned Learning Recognition Credits in 2020 but did not attain an NCEA will be able to use all their credits (including their LR credits) towards the same level of NCEA in 2021.

Students who earned Learning Recognition Credits at a higher level than the level of the NCEA they attained in 2020 will be able to use their Learning Recognition Credits towards NCEA qualifications (up to the level of the LR credits) in 2021.

NCEA Change programme

The Ministry of Education and NZQA are in the process of strengthening NCEA to improve well-being, equity, coherence, pathways and credibility – for students and teachers alike. The changes are scheduled to be phased in over six years, with new achievement standards at Levels 1, 2 and 3 in place by January 2026. More information is available at the NCEA.Education website

NCEA and the Whānau workshops

NCEA and the Whānau is a programme of free workshops that have been designed to help whānau better understand NCEA.

When parents and whānau understand NCEA and are engaged in their child’s learning journeys, young people are more likely to succeed. For more information see NCEA and the Whānau

NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops

To help Pasifika families to better understand NCEA, we have designed NCEA ma le Pasifika workshops. This is a programme of free workshops designed specifically for Pasifika parents and their families. When parents and family are engaged in their children's learning journey, they are more likely to succeed in school. For more information see NCEA ma le Pasifika Workshops

NCEA and business

Employers need to understand the secondary qualifications system in New Zealand, in order to understand the information that prospective employees present them with. For more information, see NCEA in business.

Using NCEA after leaving school

NCEA and other national certificates are recognised by employers and used as the benchmark for selection by universities and polytechnics. NCEA is also readily accepted overseas, including by universities. When applying for employment, prospective employees can create a summary of their results from their Record of Achievement. For more information, see Using NCEA after leaving school.

Awarding of NCEA level 2 after leaving school

Many students are also completing NCEA – often at Level 2 – in attempting new qualifications while undertaking tertiary study. For more information see Awarding of NCEA Level 2 after leaving school.

History of NCEA

Since its introduction in 2002, the NCEA qualification system has progressively been improved through a number of initiatives. For more information, see History of NCEA.

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