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.

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.

At each level of the qualification (Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3), students are assessed on the learning attained in their selection of subjects.

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.

Each successful assessment earns credits that contribute to a certificate at Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3. Most subjects offer between 18 and 20 credits.

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 1: 80 credits are required at any level (Level 1, 2 or 3) including literacy and numeracy
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:

Not Achieved 
A Achieved 
Achieved the Standard with Merit 
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 50 Level 1 credits at Excellence they may have their Level 1 certificate endorsed with Excellence. Likewise, if a student gains 50 credits at Merit (or Merit and Excellence) at Level 1 their NCEA Level 1 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 11 student doing multi-level study may achieve both a Level 1 and a Level 2 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
- 5 credits in writing

• Numeracy – 10 credits at Level 1 or above, made up of:
- Achievement Standards – specified Achievement Standards available through a range of subjects, or
- Unit Standards – package of three numeracy unit standards (26623, 26626, 26627 - all three are required).

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


Scholarship is a monetary award to recognise top secondary school students. The scholarship exams are externally assessed and are an additional set of exams. They do not attract credits, nor contribute towards a qualification, but the scholarship result appears on the student's Record of Achievement. 


NZQA provides a number of ways in which current and previous students can access their results, for either national qualifications or standards.

Record of Achievement
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 NSS. If you have a NSN you can use the Learner Login to see all standards and national qualifications achieved.
A Record of Achievement (ROA) is an official transcript of all the national qualifications and standards that a student has achieved. This will show results from each level for which a student has sat NCEA assessments.
The ROA will also show endorsements gained either for an NCEA certificate or a school course.
One copy can be obtained each year at no charge by ordering from:

  • online Learner login – secure site
  • phone: 0800 697 296, or
  • sending in a completed application form.

A student can order additional copies of an ROA, at a cost of $15.30 per copy by sending in a completed application form or by ordering online.

NCEA Annual Results Notice

Printed NCEA results notices will not be distributed to all learners automatically. Learners who require a printed result notice must login and order one before 31 December each year to receive it in mid-January. Later orders will take longer to process. There is no charge.

Results notices show results for all assessed standards entered by the student in the previous year. They also show endorsements gained either for an NCEA certificate or a school course.

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