National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the core qualification for senior secondary school students, and it is available at Levels 1, 2 and 3 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF). Learning from both the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (the Māori-medium curriculum) contributes to NCEA and the University Entrance award. NCEA is for everyone, whether you want to do an apprenticeship, go to university, or be ready to get a job when you leave school.

NCEA information is now at your fingertips NZQA has a mobile App called NCEA Guide written for parents, whānau and employers.

The App provides quick and easy access to key information about NCEA. Content can be viewed in English and Te Reo Māori.

NCEA Guide for mobile devicesThe App makes practical information about NCEA more easily accessible and enables parents and whānau to access simple content about how NCEA works and how they can support family members studying for NCEA.

The NCEA Guide App is free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.


The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is the government unit responsible for managing the New Zealand Qualifications framework, administering NCEA, assuring the quality of non-university education providers and responsible for qualifications recognition and standard-setting for some unit standards.

There are three levels of NCEA  levels 1, 2 and 3. For Level 1, it will provide you with a solid foundation of skills and knowledge that you can build on. However, level 2  is the minimum qualification you will need for some jobs and tertiary programmes. Level 3, along with the University Entrance (UE) award is what
you will need to enter most university and tertiary programmes.

Most Year 11 students start at Level 1 of NCEA, and progress to Level 2 in Year 12 and Level 3 in Year 13. It’s common to study at a mix of different levels, depending on your learning programme. For example, Year 12 students may do most of their courses at Level 2, but start a new course at Level 1 or study another course at Level 3 because they are good at it. You can start working towards NCEA Level 2 before you gain NCEA Level 1.

To achieve NCEA level 1, you will need 60 credits at Level 1 or above, 10 literacy credits, and 10 numeracy credits. For NCEA level 2, you will need 60 credits at Level 2 or above, 20 credits at any level, and the Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements must also be met. NCEA level 3, you will need 60 credits at Level 3 or above, and 20 credits at Level 2 or above, and the Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements must also be met.

The question is, how to gain these credits? You can gain these credits by being assessed against standards. Standards assess different areas of knowledge and skills within each subject. A standard might require you to analyse a text, give a speech, or develop a business case. Included among the standards available are also specific standards that recognise Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge). Schools decide
what courses to provide, and which standards to make available in those courses. You can gain credits by showing that you know something or can do something. For example, the Level 1 standard ‘Apply algebraic procedures in solving problems’ will give you 4 credits when you are assessed against that standard and can show you have learned that skill. You can also gain credits from some activities away from the classroom. For example, getting your driver licence, completing work or study programmes, and studying through a trades academy can all help you gain credits.

For literacy and numeracy credits, you will need a minimum of 10 literacy credits (reading, writing, speaking and listening skills) and 10 numeracy credits (number, measurement, statistics, or other mathematical skills) to achieve each level of NCEA. You only need to gain these credits once. This means that once you have gained the credits, you have already met the literacy and numeracy requirements for NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3. There are many standards that will allow you to demonstrate your literacy and numeracy skills. These can be completed in a range of different courses and can be achievement standards or a specified group of unit standards (achievement and unit standards are explained here). If you’re unsure which standards you can take to gain your literacy and numeracy credits, talk to your school.