Unit standard definitions and explanations

Parts of a unit standard


The title of a unit standard expresses the outcomes that someone who is credited with the unit standard has demonstrated they know and/or can do.

Outcomes (Elements)

Outcome statements describe knowledge, skills and attributes a learner has demonstrated, and the context within which these have been assessed. In order to be credited with the unit standard, a learner must achieve all of the outcomes described in the outcome statements.

Performance criteria (Evidence requirements)

Performance criteria specify the critical evidence required to meet the outcomes. Collectively, performance criteria provide the standard against which outcomes are assessed.

In relation to each outcome, the performance criteria will specify what is expected to have been done or demonstrated to a particular quality, quantity, level or standard.

Range statements

Range statements may be included in unit standards. These ensure that the same factors are considered for assessment of each learner. Range statements are also used to clarify evidence requirements and/or assessment conditions.

Assessors should note the placement of range statements.

  • If written in the Guidance information (Explanatory notes) section, the range statement applies to all outcomes in the unit standard.
  • If written immediately below an outcome statement, it applies to all performance criteria in that outcome. 
  • If written immediately below a specific performance criterion, it applies to that performance criteria only.

Assessors need to note the wording of range statements when deciding what evidence is required. Included below are several range statements that illustrate a number of possible variations.

Variation 1: If there is no wording that indicates otherwise, evidence from all items in the range must be considered in deciding whether the outcome has been met. For example:

  Written texts demonstrate sufficient technical accuracy to communicate the purpose to the intended audience.
  Range: technical accuracy - verb tense, subject-verb agreement, spelling, punctuation.

Variation 2: The wording ‘includes but is not limited to’ followed by listed items means evidence for all listed items must be considered, but other evidence from unlisted items can be considered as well. The main reason for this sort of range is to ‘future proof’ the standard as much as possible, and/or to allow for different assessment contexts. For example:

  User interface of a word processing application is navigated effectively using good practice.
  Range: includes, but is not limited to - shortcuts, screen display options, finding help.

Variation 3: A list prefaced by ‘may include but is not limited to’ provides suggested factors for consideration. You can consider evidence from the listed items, or evidence from a completely different list; the learner’s context will probably indicate what those items might be. For example:

  Colour is selected and used according to the supplied specifications.
  Range: may include, but is not limited to - font colour, fill colour, background colour, image colour.

Variation 4: The range indicates the minimum number of factors that must be considered from the given list. For example:

  Text is evaluated in terms of reader’s purpose.
  Range: one of - usefulness, interest, validity, credibility.

Guidance information (Explanatory notes/Special notes)

These convey information that will help assessors interpret the standard and/or increase the likelihood of consistent assessment judgements. They can be used to indicate any special assessment requirements or conditions.

They may also include information to assist assessors and trainers in their interpretation of the standard – for example, about education and training, or specific licensing, or Consent and Moderation Requirements (CMR) specifications, among other things.


Unit standards are registered at one of the approved levels of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Read the level descriptors.


Credits allocated to unit standards reflect the notional learning time expected for learners to meet the outcomes in those unit standards. (Actual learning time will, of course, vary from learner to learner.) Notional learning time includes time spent in structured tuition and self paced learning and practice; time taken to gather and provide evidence for assessment purposes; and time taken to be assessed in all the outcomes and contexts.

One credit represents a notional 10 hours of learning, practice, and assessment time.

Purpose statements

The purpose statement succinctly describes why this standard is needed; in particular, the use and relevance of the standard to learners, employers and communities in a context. In many instances, the outcomes may be used in similar ways across more than one industry, community or sector. The standard must differentiate clearly between the outcomes the standard recognizes and the context in which these may be used, in order to encourage use by more than one standard-setting body.

The purpose statement may also say for whom the unit standard is intended. This may or may not exclude some people from being assessed against the standard – the wording should make that clear.  For example, the purpose statement for Unit 15007 (version 5) states, “This unit standard is for people for whom English is not their first language.”

Entry information

Unit standards may contain entry information. Entry information will relate to critical prerequisites (health, safety or legislative requirements), or to recommended skills and knowledge.

Assessors are responsible for ensuring learners have met any requirements specified in this section prior to the award of credit.


Each time there is a change made to a unit standard, a new version is created. Minor changes to standards may not affect outcomes. However, assessors should always check their assessment tasks or evidence guides, and evidence and judgement statements carefully against the new version of a standard to ensure that material reflects the requirements of the new version of the standard, as adjustments may be required.

When a version of a unit standard has been replaced, the Standard Setting Body responsible for the unit standard may specify a last date of assessment against the superseded version. It is recommended that assessing organisations check the table (Status information and last date for assessment of superseded versions) in the current version of the standard.


One grade is available for every unit standard: Achieved. Some unit standards may also include Merit, or Merit and Excellence grades. These are used for the purpose of recognising differentiated performance in the outcomes of the unit standard.

Successful learners need to demonstrate a better (higher quality) performance in the same outcomes in order to achieve the higher grades.

Expiry date

When a unit standard is designated as ‘expiring’, the unit standard document remains available on the NZQA website, with an 'expiring' watermark. The unit standard can still be assessed against until the date of expiry (as specified on the standard document and in the Change report). Once a unit standard’s status changes to ‘expired’, it can no longer be assessed against. For more information regarding this, refer to Outcomes of unit standard reviews.

Other explanations

Change reports

Every time a change is made to unit standards, a report is published on the NZQA website at the same time as the new versions. These change reports summarise the main changes that have been made to the standards, their rationale, and standard expiry dates, among other things.


All unit standards must periodically be reviewed to ensure that they are fit for purpose. The frequency of review will be driven by factors such as the strategic plan of the Standard Setting Body responsible for the unit standard, the level and type of industry change, legislative requirements, and moderation feedback. A review involves full industry and stakeholder consultation.


The purpose of rollover of a unit standard is to extend its registration period. If it is nearing its planned review date and there has been insufficient information to inform a review, the standard is rolled over to maintain currency. It is then issued as a new version, but with content unchanged.


This occurs when a unit standard requires amendment prior to review. The revision generally focuses on fixing a known defect in the unit standard (such as wording that needs correcting, out-of-date legislation or prerequisites, or assessability issues). The unit standard is issued as a new version.

Further information

For further information see the Outcomes of unit standard reviews page or the Guidelines for listing assessment standards and consent and moderation requirements on the Directory of Assessment Standards (PDF, 412KB).

You can also email qaadmin@nzqa.govt.nz if you have a question or issue.

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