General Overview


The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand.

NCEA qualifications are recognised by employers and used for selection by universities and polytechnics, both in New Zealand and overseas.

How does it work?

  • Each year, students study a number of courses or subjects.

  • In each subject, skills and knowledge are assessed against a number of standards. Each standard describes what a student needs to know, or what they must be able to achieve, in order to meet the standard. Having met it, they will gain credits towards national qualifications. For example, a Mathematics standard could be "Apply numeric reasoning in solving problems".

  • For Achievement Standards, there are four grades:

               Achieved (A) for a satisfactory performance

               Merit (M) for very good performance

               Excellence (E) for outstanding performance

               Not Achieved (N) if students fail to meet the criteria of the standard

  • Schools use a range of internal and external assessments to measure how well students meet these standards.

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

  • Most subjects at Trinity offer around 20 credits. This means that during a full year of study a student would have the potential to gain around 120 credits.

  • There are three levels of NCEA certificate, depending on the difficulty of the standards achieved. In general, students work through Levels 1 to 3 in Years 11 to 13 at school.

  • Students are recognised for high achievement at each level by gaining NCEA Endorsed with Merit or NCEA Endorsed with Excellence. High achievement in a specific course is also recognised.

  • At the beginning of each year students and caregivers are emailed acopy of the Trinity College "NCEA Parent Student Handbook". Please click here to see a copy.
  • The document "A Guide To NCEA" is useful for further information - and it is available in multiple languages.

NCEA Level 1

Students must achieve 60 credits in addition to the Numeracy & Literacy co-requisites below

Certificates can be Endorsed with Merit or Excellence

Merit - if 50 or more credits are at Merit or Excellence

Excellence - if 50 or more credits are at Excellence

Numeracy & Literacy co-requisites

The Level 1 Certificate will not be awarded until students have also gained either (A) or (B):


     10 credits in Literacy (English)

     10 credits in Numeracy (Mathematics) OR

(B) Passed the online Numeracy & Literacy co-requisite assessments run in early June and November at school.

NCEA Level 2

Students must have a minimum of 60 Level 2 credits and they can “carry over” 20 Level 1 credits from previous years. In addition, students must also have met the Numeracy and Literacy requirements of Level 1 - that is, a minimum of:

     10 credits in Level 1 Literacy (English)

     10 credits in Level 1 Numeracy (Mathematics)

NCEA Level 3

Students must have a minimum of 60 Level 3 credits and they can “carry over” 20 Level 1 or Level 2 credits from previous years.

University Entrance

Students will need the following to be awarded University Entrance:

  • Attain NCEA Level 3.

  • Achieve 14 credits at Level 3 in each of three subjects from the list of approved subjects. The list of approved subjects will consist of subjects derived from the New Zealand Curriculum and with achievement standards at Level 3. This list is available on the NZQA website.

  • Achieve UE numeracy - 10 credits at Level 1 and above from specific achievement standards, or three specific numeracy unit standards.

  • Achieve UE literacy - 10 credits (five in reading and five in writing) at Level 2 and above from specific standards.

Recognising High Achievement With “Endorsements”

Certificate Endorsement

If a student gains 50 credits at Excellence, their NCEA will be endorsed with Excellence. Likewise, if a student gains 50 credits at Merit (or Merit and Excellence), their NCEA will be endorsed with Merit.

Course Endorsement

Course endorsement provides recognition for students who perform exceptionally well in individual courses.

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

  • 14 or more credits at Merit or Excellence, where

  • At least 3 of these credits are from externally assessed standards and 3 credits are from internally assessed standards. Note, this does not apply to Physical Education, Religious Studies and Level 3 Visual Arts.

Trinity Catholic College Assessment Dates

Each course provides a hand-out to students outlining the teaching, learning and assessment of the course. This handout looks similar to the table below. All courses can be found in one document as well if needed. This allows parents to be aware of any upcoming assessments for their son or daughter and it is a useful tool for parents to help students manage their workloads.

Please note that there is very limited flexibility around the timing of assessments. Please contact the school if students are having extended periods of leave.

Standard number Title & Description Credit Value Internal or External Completion Date Assessment Type
AS 91011 Conduct geographic research with direction 4 Internal Due Friday 8th May Individual take-home project
AS91008 Demonstrate geographic understanding of population concepts 4 External Suspended Timetable 19 - 25 Aug Exam paper
AS91013 Describe aspects of a geographic topic at a global scale 3 Internal 23 Sept - 17 Oct In class time

Helping Students Succeed

  • Our experience would suggest that planning for and managing their workload is one of the biggest issues that students face as they become more independent learners.

  • Students are young adults and need some guidance and help to learn about self-control and self–management.

  • Students need some help in setting priorities around managing the tensions between academic study and extracurricular activities, work and social life commitments. We would ask that you help them by ensuring that they put all of their due dates in some form of a diary, be it a wall planner, electronic diary, book or cell phone.

  • Check the online assessment calendar and the course outlines so you can help them monitor their workload and manage their time.

  • For parents and students to know what’s coming up can avoid unnecessary stress.

  • Have a study space set aside for their personal use.

How do students keep track of entries and results with Achievement Standards and Unit Standards?

Students and parents should be aware that it is the student’s responsibility to check that their Achievement Standard and Unit Standard entries are correct. This is done through the NZQA website.

Students will need the password they chose in class and their National Student Number (NSN).

NSNs are given to students in June. Students can also access this information to see how many credits they have been awarded to date.  NCEA progress and final grades are published to Edge so can be accessed via your app or internet browser.

In addition to this, students’ results to date are published fortnightly as an Attitude to Learning (ATL). These are accessed via the Edge portal on your browser or your phone app. 

It is important to read the assessment procedures that are applicable to Trinity Catholic College. 


Domestic Students:

     NCEA Standards - no charge

     Scholarship Entries - no charge

International Students:

     NCEA Standards - $383.30 per year

     Scholarship Entries - $102.20 per subject

Frequently Asked Questions

How many credits are there likely to be in a full year's course under NCEA?

Approximately 120 if all the courses taken are NCEA courses.

After the assessment task is handed in, how long is it likely to be before it is returned to the student?

Up to four weeks. This is because the process involves a) marking b) cross-checking c) moderation meetings d) further possible marking and moderation meetings to be confident the student's work has achieved the grade awarded. Much more time is needed now for staff to meet as a team to work through this process. The grades awarded are "Excellence", "Merit", "Achieved" or "Not Achieved".

What can I do if I receive my assessment task back from my teacher and I do not agree with the grade awarded?

An Appeal must be lodged within 10 days of the work being handed back to students. Check the 'Appeals Procedure' in the assessment procedures on the college website. In brief, the process is as follows. See your subject teacher first. If still unsatisfied see your Head of Department. You may also work with your Dean to discuss and assist you to resolve your concerns. If you still have concerns, present your concerns to the Deputy Principal. Remember to check out the expected time frames.

When will I be able to find out how many credits my daughter/son has achieved so far and what grades they've received?

Grades awarded for NCEA standards are posted on Edge and so can be viewed at any time using the app or an internet browser. All standards that a student is enrolled for are listed in Edge together with the number of credits provided by each standard.

When a student has gained a "Not Achieved" for an Achievement Standard should he or she always complete a reassessment task where one is available?

It depends! It may be important and very sensible to complete the reassessment task and gain an "Achieved" grade or better ("Merit" or "Excellence"). The material involved may be important prior knowledge for further learning in the same course or as a pre-requisite for the next course. It may also be at this stage that the student is also still learning about what is involved in meeting the standard and another opportunity is well worthwhile to cement that understanding.

On the other hand, it may be sensible not to take up that opportunity, as it is an extra task completed over and above the ordinary workload. It may be better to focus on the achievement standards to come, aim for better grades in the ones still to be completed and to learn from the experience to date.  

Before deciding which way to go, discuss this with any of the following - the subject teacher, the Head of Department, the appropriate Dean or the Deputy Principal.

Is it appropriate, necessary or even wise (in terms of overall workload) for my son or daughter to complete a reassessment task/opportunity when s/he has already gained at least an "Achieved" or "Merit" for an achievement standard?

If the grade earned already is "Achieved" or "Merit", then our advice is to think very carefully before deciding to complete the reassessment task. The main aim with reassessment is to give another opportunity to those who were awarded "Not Achieved" in the first assessment. Where a reassessment opportunity is offered anyone who wishes to can complete it. Do remember that this reassessment opportunity is completed on top of the course's expected workload.  

Students may be disappointed and believe they could get a better grade (e.g. a "Merit" or an "Excellence") by completing a completely new task where there is a reassessment opportunity offered. However, the time spent completing the reassessment opportunity may be at the expense of getting a better grade with the next achievement standard due for completion.

Feel free to seek advice from Heads of Departments, the appropriate Dean or the Deputy Principal before any decision is made.

What incentive is there for students to go for any more than "Achieved" with their Achievement Standards when they get the credits once they attain "Achieved"?

While it is true they get the same number of credits towards their NCEA Level 1 certificate whether they are awarded "Achieved", "Merit" or "Excellence" there are very good reasons why we should be encouraging our students to achieve as well as they can personally. Please also note that attaining the grade "Achieved" will be a pleasing result in many situations.

Students should be striving for “Merit” or “Excellence” grades so that they can be awarded NCEA endorsed with Merit or Excellence.

A student can also be awarded an endorsement in a particular subject, so there is plenty of reason for a student to strive for the best results possible. The Achievement Standards grades are now the important signs as to whether or not the student is likely to achieve at the next level.

In the course outlines on the College website all NCEA Level 1 subjects indicate what the pre-requisites are for Level 2 courses. This varies from subject to subject and may include a range of "Achieved" grades or an indication that "Merit" in a particular Achievement Standard will be likely to be needed to succeed at the next level. As well we expect that now that students know explicitly what is required to gain each of the standards that they will be motivated to set goals and challenge themselves to try to be awarded the best standard they possibly can. 

How significant are the "practice" assessments for the external examinations held later in the year?

These “practice” assessments are held throughout the year and during the suspended timetable towards the end of Term 3. We expect and hope our students will study well and treat these opportunities really seriously. They provide the chance to see how much they know already in terms of understandings, skills and content. The "estimated" grades they receive give them an indication of where they are at currently. In addition, students receive valuable feedback from teachers about what they still need to learn and work on. These practice opportunities also assist them to become more assured and confident about their examination skills. The results from these “practice” assessments may be required should a student be unable to sit the NZQA exams in November.

In each subject what is the proportion of Credits that are externally assessed as opposed to internally assessed?

The weighting of internal to external varies from subject to subject. Check out each course your child is enrolled for on Edge to see how many standards are internally assessed and how many are externally assessed. Please note - some courses have no external achievement standards and have internal achievement standards only - e.g. Physical Education and Religious Education.  

What must a student do if she or he is ill on the day of an external examination?

It is imperative that the College is phoned at the beginning of the day (before 8.30am) and that you ask that this urgent information is to be passed on to Mr Waterworth, our NZQA Liaison person. In addition, a Derived Grade Form must be picked up from the school office, completed by a medical practitioner and then returned as soon after as possible. "Compassionate Consideration" is then taken into account. This involves NZQA asking the College to produce the student's internal examination results and this is then considered for the grade s/he is awarded. Please note - forgetting the time of an exam and not turning up results in no grade at all for that examination.

What are the minimum requirements for literacy and numeracy for students to be awarded the certificate for NCEA Level 1?

Numeracy & Literacy co-requisites

The Level 1 Certificate will not be awarded until students have also gained either (A) or (B):


     10 credits in Literacy (English)

     10 credits in Numeracy (Mathematics) OR

(B) Passed the online Numeracy & Literacy co-requisite assessments run in early June and November at school.

To be awarded NCEA Level 1, students must achieve 60 credits in addition to either (A) or (B) above.

Our Year 11 NCEA Level 1 students should be doing all they can to achieve the literacy and numeracy requirements so that they are eligible to be awarded their Level 1 certificate as soon as they achieve 60 credits. 

School Contacts

Deputy Principal, Steve Read: Ext. 207 or

NZQA Liaison (Principals Nominee), Mike Waterworth:

Year 11 Dean, Naomi Tupa'i: 477-3408  or

Year 12 Dean, Laura Cooney: 477-3408  or

Year 13 Dean, Erica Ward: 477-3408 Ext. 260 or



More information about NCEA can be found on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) website ( or by phoning NZQA on 0800 623243.