New Zealand’s National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) are national qualifications for senior secondary school students. NCEA is the main qualification pathway at Sacred Heart College and all students enter NCEA.

How Does NCEA Work?

NCEA challenges students of all abilities in all learning areas, and shows credits and grades for separate skills and knowledge.

Each year, students study a number of courses or subjects. In each subject, skills and knowledge are assessed against a number of standards. E.g. A mathematics standard could be 'Apply numeric reasoning in solving problems'.

When a student achieves a standard, they gain a number of credits. Each student must achieve a certain number of credits to gain an NCEA certificate.

Individual NCEA subjects are subdivided into Achievement Standards, some of which are assessed internally during the course of the academic year, and some externally through the NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) national examinations at the end of the year. At Sacred Heart we use a range of internal and external assessments to measure how well our students meet these standards. Evidence about achievement may be collected in a variety of ways: group tasks, tests, projects and examinations.

Internal assessments begin in February and run through until November each year. It is extremely important that all internal assessments are treated as if they were final examinations as credits are attributed to each one. Students must ensure they develop good work habits at the beginning of the year and work hard continuously through the year to achieve the best results possible.

NCEA – Achieving a Certificate

At each level, every student must achieve a certain number of credits to gain an NCEA certificate. Credits can be accumulated over more than one year.

NCEA level requirements:

  • Level 2: 60 credits at Level 2 or above + 20 credits from any level, Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements must also be met
  • Level 3: 60 credits at Level 3 or above + 20 credits from Level 2 or above, Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements must also be met.

Credits gained at one level can be used for (or count toward) more than one Certificate.

Result Levels

There are seven different levels of assessed results for Achievement Standards:

  • N - Not Achieved
  • A - Achieved
  • M -  Achieved the Standard with Merit
  • E - Achieved the Standard with Excellence
  • ABS - Absent from Examination
  • SNA -  Standard not assessed
  • RNA - Result not yet available

Certificate Endorsement

For an NCEA certificate to be endorsed with Excellence a student must gain 50 credits at Excellence at the level of the certificate or above. So, if a student has 60 Level 2 credits at Excellence they may have their Level 2 certificate endorsed with Excellence. Likewise, if a student gains 60 credits at Merit (or Merit and Excellence) at Level 2 their NCEA Level 2 certificate may be endorsed with Merit. Endorsement awards show on the Record of Achievement.

Certificate endorsement is calculated in January each year on the release of external results. Only the highest level certificate awarded can be endorsed unless students:

  • achieve more than one level NCEA certificate in a single year e.g. a Year 12 student doing multi-level study may achieve both a Level 2 and a Level 3 certificate in the one year and have them endorsed
  • in addition to meeting the requirements of a higher level certificate endorsement they have achieved sufficient credits from a lower level to be able to endorse the lower level certificate e.g. a student may be working at both Levels 2 and 3 and achieve enough Level 2 Excellence credits to upgrade their Level 2 Merit endorsement to Excellence. The student will need to contact NZQA to have the lower level certificate upgraded.

Endorsement of Courses/Subjects

Course/subject endorsement provides recognition for a student who has performed exceptionally well in an individual course/subject.

A student will gain an endorsement for a course if, in a single school year, they achieve:

  • 14 or more credits at Merit or Excellence, and
  • at least 3 of these credits from externally assessed standards and 3 credits from internally assessed standards. Note, this does not apply to Physical Education, Religious Studies and Level 3 Visual Arts.

University Entrance

University Entrance (UE) is the minimum requirement for attendance at a New Zealand university. To be awarded UE a student will need:

  • NCEA Level 3
  • Three subjects – at Level 3, made up of 14 credits each, in three approved subjects
  • Literacy – 10 credits at Level 2 or above, made up of 5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing
  • Numeracy – 10 credits at Level 1 or above

Once a student has met the requirements for University Entrance it will appear on their Record of Achievement.


New Zealand Scholarship assessments enable candidates to be assessed against challenging standards and are demanding for the most able candidates in each subject. Assessment is by either a written/spoken externally assessed examination or by the submission of a portfolio or report of work produced throughout the year.

Scholarship candidates are expected to demonstrate high-level critical thinking, abstraction and generalisation, and to integrate, synthesise and apply knowledge, skills, understanding, and ideas to complex situations.

New Zealand Scholarship provides recognition and monetary reward to top students. They do not attract credits, nor contribute towards a qualification, but the scholarship result appears on the student's Record of Achievement.

Approximately 3 percent of all students studying each subject at Level 3 are awarded Scholarship if they reach the standard that has been set and 1 percent at Outstanding level.


When a student enrols in a programme that leads to credits for standards and national qualifications, they are given a unique identification number known as a National Student Number (NSN). All standards and national qualifications gained by a student throughout their life are recorded against their NSN. If you have a NSN you can use the Learner Login to see all results and download your Record of Achievement (ROA) - an official transcript of all the national qualifications and standards that a student has achieved.

Further Assistance

If you require further assistance or have any questions relating to NCEA you can contact Mrs Mary Graham, Assistant Headmaster Academics.

College exams and Progress reports
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Study centre and Student tutoring
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