Choosing a course or subjects at school

As you work through NCEA Levels 1–3, you will need to make decisions about what courses or subjects to study.

At Level 1 (Year 11) you should take a broad range of courses that will lead on to more specialised subjects. In Years 12 and 13, start thinking about what areas you need to focus on for your future study or career.

Your Level 2 results are important, as these are often used as part of the selection process by universities, polytechnics and employers.

You may need to take particular Level 3 standards as an entry requirement for some tertiary courses.

Compulsory subjects

At many schools, all students study English, Mathematics and Science in Year 11.

At Years 12 and 13, there are no compulsory subjects. However, some schools require students to study English or another language-rich subject, to meet university entrance literacy requirements.

Choosing courses to meet University Entrance requirements

If you are planning to go to university in New Zealand, or just want to keep it as an option, you will need to meet the New Zealand university entrance requirements. This means you will need to choose courses that will help you achieve literacy and numeracy credits.

However, if you are planning to go to university overseas, you will also need to meet requirements for the country you wish to study in. Some countries have their own specific requirements that you must achieve.

New Zealand has arrangements with some countries for NCEA to be recognised for university entrance. For more information about other requirements for university entrance around the world, see Applying to study overseas with NCEA.

Choosing subjects

Below are some key things for you to consider when making decisions about what other courses or subjects to take.

Choose subjects you enjoy and are good at

Your chances of doing well and achieving the standards assessed in your courses are better when you enjoy the subjects, or have a natural talent for them. These are the subjects you should look at first when choosing your course.

Your school will provide a list of options. Many schools provide opportunities in Year 9 or Year 10 to sample a variety of subjects. Doing this gives you some experience of the subject, to see if it suits you.

If you are thinking of taking a subject, but you don't know much about it, talk to a teacher.

Choose subjects that support what you want do after school

It is sensible to choose subjects and courses that relate to what you want to do after you leave school. Many careers or qualifications have special requirements.

For example, if you want to be a motor mechanic it makes sense to consider one of the technology subjects. Or, if a career in medicine appeals to you, you should do science subjects like chemistry and physics.

If you don't know what you want to do, the best path is to do as broad a range of subjects as possible across all your courses, to keep your options open.

Get more advice

Whatever stage you're at, ask people for advice and think carefully about what you hear. Ask parents, friends, teachers and careers advisors.

Careers New Zealand is a reliable, comprehensive source of information. For their help, see Careers New Zealand.

You may also like to read and download the Where to from School (PDF, 1.2MB) brochure.

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