The derived grade process

A derived grade is a grade reported by a school for a candidate who for an approved reason:

  • has been unable to attend an examination or is unable to submit a completed portfolio (Design and Visual Communication, Technology, Level 3 Education for Sustainability or Level 3 Visual Arts)
  • believe their performance has been significantly affected and attended an NZQA external examination session
  • has been selected for national representation in a sport or approved activity. (Note: This has a pre-approval process with a separate application form).

Process overview


The overriding principles for the derived grade process are:

  • being fair to both the applicant and to all other candidates
  • that there is evidence of the illness or event and that it has impacted on the student
  • that the derived grade is based upon authentic, pre-existing standard-specific evidence that has been subject to a quality assurance process.

Candidates should sit the examination wherever possible. Where the candidate's derived grade application is approved and they also sat the examination, the better result will be awarded.

The candidate is the applicant. The school should guide students about the extent to which an application meets NZQA eligibility criteria and guidelines but should not prevent a candidate from making the application. If the school does not support the application the reasons for this are to be stated in the online application.

The candidate specifies the standards applied for. A candidate can choose not to apply for a derived grade for a standard where a Not Achieved grade will be reported. The school should inform the applicant if there is a valid grade available for each standard and what that grade is and advise that they do not have to apply where a Not Achieved grade will be reported.

NZQA may accept applications after the December closing date. In extenuating circumstances NZQA may accept late applications after applications close that were beyond the control of the candidate.

The Principal's Nominee must contact their School Relationship Manager to discuss the reason for the late application and request a Late Application Form.

However, no application can be accepted after results have been released in January. (Assessment Rule 7.1.5 (h)).

Derived grades are not unexpected event (emergency) grades. Derived grades are intended to be used for individual students and must be applied for. Unexpected event grades will generally be applied to groups of students affected in a similar way by a common single event and are applied at the discretion of NZQA.

Derived Grades are not available for:

New Zealand Scholarship subjects

See Assessment Rule 7.1.5(c).

Level 1 and 2 Visual Art

The school applies their late assessment/extension policy to provide a candidate with additional time to complete their portfolio. The absence or impairment must be consistent with the school's late assessment policy. This includes the reason for the absence being unforeseen or unavoidable and does not include the absence being wilful or for the applicants convenience. The grade submitted by the school is to be derived from valid, authentic, standard-specific evidence contained in the candidate's submitted portfolio for Level 1 and 2 Visual Arts


The school applies their missed assessment policy. The absence or impairment must be consistent with the school's missed assessment policy. This includes the reason for the absence being unforeseen or unavoidable and does not include the absence being wilful or for the applicants convenience. The grade reported by the school must be from pre-existing evidence gathered before the first MCAT was held and based on valid, authentic and standard-specific evidence.

See the relevant NZQA subject pages for further information on MCAT and Level 1 and 2 Visual Arts procedures.

What do I do if there is a highly sensitive situation?

Highly sensitive situations can be kept confidential, where appropriate. Contact your School Relationship Manager in the first instance to discuss the process to follow.

What if an event causes a group or number of candidates to want to apply for a derived grade?

Where an event happens that affects a large number of candidates e.g. death of a candidate, bus accident involving candidates, or localized flooding, contact your School Relationship Manager for assistance and advice on the process to follow.

The following situations should be investigated and/or advice sought from the NZQA Derived Grade Team or your School Relationship Manager

  • Transport delay, for example a bus breakdown, car accident or motorway blockage.
  • Exam Centre Manager states that the translated examination paper did not arrive.
  • There is a prolonged disturbance (e.g. fire evacuation) during the examination.
  • A candidate is concerned about the quality of the technology used to record or play information during the examination session
  • A reader or writer is suddenly unavailable to provide for special assessment conditions.
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