NCEA Information

New Zealand students must attend school until they are 16 years old. Study at secondary school begins when students are 12 or 13 years old and lasts for about five years, from Year 9 to Year 13. Secondary school is also known as high school or college 

To recognise the disruption caused by COVID-19 there are some changes to NCEA for 2020. 

New Zealand's National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) are national qualifications for senior secondary school students. NCEA challenges students of all abilities in all learning areas, and shows credits and grades for separate skills and knowledge. It enables students to gain credits from both traditional school curriculum areas and alternative programmes. 

NCEA and other national certificates are recognised by employers and used as the benchmark for selection by universities and polytechnics. NCEA is also readily accepted overseas, including by universities. When applying for employment, prospective employees can create a summary of their results from their Record of Achievement. 

Many students are also completing NCEA – often at Level 2 – in attempting new qualifications while undertaking tertiary study. 

Employers need to understand the secondary qualifications system in New Zealand, in order to understand the information that prospective employees present them with.

Since its introduction in 2002, the NCEA qualification system has progressively been improved through a number of initiatives.

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

NCEA is actually three certificates: it can be awarded at Levels 1, 2 and 3. Students usually begin studying for their NCEA Level 1 in Year 11 and continue through Years 12 and 13 (from ages 15 through to 18).

Many vocational qualifications are also offered in secondary schools. These include, for example, the National Certificate of Tourism, the National Certificate in Computing, and the National Certificate of Motor Engineering.

Read useful advice for Choosing a course or subjects at school.

You can find out more about how NCEA works at How NCEA works.

NCEA is well-recognised overseas.  For more information, see International recognition of NCEA.

You can also download brochures about NCEA, or watch a short animated video on how NCEA works, on our brochures and videos page.

If you’re an international student, you can also download the ‘Study in New Zealand’ booklet on the brochures and videos page. The booklet is available in English and translated into six languages.  To find our brochures or videos, see NZQA brochures and videos.

A New Zealand Scholarship award recognises high-achieving students. Students attempting this separate assessment are usually in Year 13.  For more information, see New Zealand Scholarship. 

Watch a Video explaining how NCEA works

NCEA Mobile App Guide

2023 Term Dates

Term 1

Tuesday 2nd February (staggered start) to Thursday 6th April  

Term 2

Monday 24th April -  Friday 30th June 

Term 3

Monday 17th July to Friday 22nd September

Term 4

Monday 9th October to Wednesday 15th December 


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