What is NCEA??

What is NCEA?

NCEA which stands for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement is the main qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand and can be gained in three levels (1, 2, 3). NCEA is the most common qualification you will be working towards in Years 12 and 13.


Why should I work towards NCEA?

NCEA and other nationally recognised certificates are regarded by employers and used for selection into courses by universities and other tertiary institutions. NCEA is also accepted by employers and universities overseas. Independent research has shown that if you do well in NCEA, you are likely to do well in your first year at university.

Achieving NCEA

You can watch a short animation on How NCEA Works. NCEA is gained by building up credits. Credits are awarded for each standard you achieve in the courses you are studying.

  • Standards are the skills or knowledge that you are expected to achieve or know in a course.  For example, a Mathematics standard is: Apply numeric reasoning in solving problems.
  • Assessments measure how well you meet these standards. Assessments can be internal (a test, activity, brief or assignment) or external (an end-of-year exam or portfolio).
  • When you achieve a standard, you also achieve the number of credits for that standard.
  • When you achieve a certain number of credits, you gain NCEA.  At Glendowie College we offer two different levels of NCEA (Levels 2, 3), usually done at Years 12 and 13.

How do I enter for NCEA?

Your school will enter you for NCEA. NCEA is administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). You can use your unique National Student Number (NSN) to look up information NZQA holds about you sent in by your school, including your entries, results and Record of Achievement. For more information see www.nzqa.govt.nz/ncea or phone NZQA on 0800 697 296.


NCEA Levels

Glendowie College does not offer NCEA Level 1, apart from numeracy standards. NCEA Level 2 is the minimum qualification you will need for some jobs and tertiary programmes. NCEA Level 3, along with the University Entrance (UE) award, is what you will need to enter most university and tertiary programmes.

Most students work at Level 2 in Year 12 and Level 3 in Year 13. It’s not unusual 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 study another course at Level 3 because they are good at it.

Recognising High Achievement with 'Endorsements'

When students perform consistently above the 'Achieved' level, their result(s) can be 'endorsed' to reflect that high achievement.  This can occur at either the Certificate or individual course level. 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. 

Course endorsement provides recognition of student achievement in an individual course. Students will gain an endorsement for a course if, in a single school year, they achieve 14 or more credits at Achieved or Merit or Excellence, and at least 3 of these credits come from externally assessed standards and 3 credits from internally assessed standards. 

More information on endorsements

University Entrance

University Entrance (UE) is the minimum requirement to attend a New Zealand university. To qualify for UE, you will need all of the following:

  • NCEA Level 3.
  • 14 credits in each of three approved subjects at Level 3. Check the NZQA website for the list of approved subjects.
  • UE Literacy – 10 credits at Level 2 or above, made up of:
    1. 5 credits in reading
    2. 5 credits in writing.
  • UE Numeracy – 10 credits at Level 1 or above (the same as the requirement for NCEA numeracy).


Scholarship is a monetary award to recognise top secondary school students. Scholarship exams are externally assessed and are an additional set of exams. They do not attract credits, nor contribute towards a qualification, but the fact that a student has gained a Scholarship appears on their Record of Achievement. Glendowie College has, over the years, had great success preparing our students for these rigorous examinations. More information is on the NCEA Scholarship page

Vocational Subjects

Vocational subjects provide alternative pathways to achieve NCEA Levels 2 and 3, and enhance progress to further study, training and employment. In choosing subjects for their NCEA Level 2 qualification, students must remember that these vocational subjects are NOT University Approved subjects. Consequently, credits earned in these subjects will not contribute to university entrance requirements (only contributes to respective NCEA qualification).

Vocational courses available at Glendowie College vary from year to year, but may include:

  • Building Construction (BCATS).
  • Hospitality.
  • Outdoor Education.
  • New Zealand Tourism.
  • Skills for Life.