Introduction to NCEA

NCEA stands for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, and is part of the National Qualification Framework.

How do students gain an NCEA?

The NCEA can be awarded at Levels 1, 2 and 3.  High achieving Year 13 students can also enter the Scholarship examinations.

Each subject is divided into standards, each standard being worth a number of credits with most subjects offering about 20 credits.  The standards may be achievement standards or unit standards.

The results for achievement standards are given as:

  • Excellence

  • Merit

  • Achieved

  • Not Achieved

[Please note:  The number of credits available for an achievement standard is fixed.  Students are encouraged to strive for Excellence and Merit results even though these do not earn students extra credit.]

All unit standards are internally assessed. The results for unit standards are given as:

  • Achieved 

  • Not achieved


An NCEA certificate will be endorsed with Merit if the student gains 50 credits at Merit or Excellence at the Level they are studying or higher.  An NCEA certificate will be endorsed with Excellence if the student gains 50 credits at Excellence.


At all three NCEA levels, students will be able to gain a Merit or Excellence Endorsement in a course (subject).  A student must gain 14 credits or more in a course, in the school year, to get the endorsement.  A Merit Endorsement can be made up of Excellence credits, i.e. 8 Excellence credits and 6 Merit credits will equal a Merit Endorsement.

At least 3 of the 14 credits must be from internally assessed standards and 3 from externally assessed standards (national exams).  PE, and Level 3 Visual Arts will be exempt from this rule.

Students can study at different year levels in a course, but the standards being used towards an endorsement can only be used once, and will be awarded at the lower level course