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A quick look into NCEA - Tips from a teacher and tutor!

We are very lucky to have qualified teachers working at Tovah's Tutoring Company Ltd. This means that our NCEA tuition is packed with relevant and purposeful material that aligns with NCEA assessments. Our online tutor teachers know NCEA like the back of our hands, and many of us are still working in a high school classroom, so we offer confident NCEA support that is current and effective.

NCEA tuition is packed with relevant and purposeful material that aligns with NCEA assessments

This is beneficial, as you may have some idea of NCEA already, however, NCEA is currently going through another re-vamp (so to speak) so there are new rules which will come completely into effect in 2024.

A more concise run down of the changes can be viewed here:

As well as from here:

It is important to note expert information on NZQA and NCEA is readily available on their website or through contacting them directly:

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Our online tutor teachers can support students with NCEA exams.

What is NCEA?

It is New Zealand's version of a high school level qualification. It offers a variety of levels within each subject. The main levels are level 1, 2 and 3. However, some NZQA subjects offer level 4 and 5, depending on what the subject is.

You can also receive NCEA if you are training outside of school in specific trades such as, but not limited to, construction, coffee barista and hair dressing.

When do students begin NCEA?

Within high school, students usually sit level one at year 11 (form 5), level two at year 12 (form 6), and level three at year 13 (form 7, the last year of high school). However, there are many schools who encourage extension options for younger students and may offer level one credits as early as year 9.

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Out online tutors know lots about NCEA and are confident teaching it.

What is an NCEA assessment?

Just like a typical high school experience, students are expected to learn skills and then show the teacher they have learned them through submitting an assessment (NCEA assessment). Each assessment is packed with criteria that must be met from every student undergoing the assessment. The criteria are nationwide criteria, so in other words, students in the North Island will be expected to meet the same standard as students in the South Island. There is no difference within what school students attend, the expectations are the same nationwide.

I will reiterate that an NCEA assessment is an assessment which is available for any NZ high school student.

They are divided into subject areas and are also allocated a reward points system, known as 'credits', the amount is based on how hard the assessment is.

What are NCEA credits?

Credits are like a points system, and each assessment they pass will provide them with a small number of credits.

Depending on the depth of the assessment, will determine how many credits the NCEA students are able to achieve.

By the end of each year, students should have reached a total of 80 credits*.

*See further info on this matter here from a former blog under the 'How many credits do I need to pass?' section.

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Students feel more confident about NCEA when they ask our tutors questions.

What does Merit or Excellence mean?

NCEA students can receive a higher grade than Achieved if they produce work that is of a higher calibre / higher than the national standard for their year level. If this is the case, then they can be rewarded a Merit or Excellence. Here are the added grades above achieved:

HA / High Achieved

LM / Low Merit

M / Merit

HM / High Merit

LE / Low Excellence

E / Excellence

HE / High Excellence

High Excellence is the best mark a student can obtain in NCEA. It symbolises an impeccable performance and demonstration of the skills learned.

It is important to note, even if you have achieved a high or low version of the grade, the mark which appears on the student's record will be either Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit or Excellence.

Is 'E' a good mark to receive for an assessment?

If you were to look at Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit and Excellence like the old grading processes, D/E/F would equate to Not Achieved, C would be Achieved, B would be Merit and A would equate to Excellence.

It is common to mistake A's for Excellences and E's for failed or incomplete assessments, however, 'E' is actually the highest grade you can receive!

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Online tutoring with us allows students to ask questions in the comfort of their own home

What does Endorsing with Merit or Excellence mean?

NCEA students are able to be endorsed with Merit or Excellence.

They must receive 46 credits at Merit or Excellence, for their overall level. E.g. A student may receive level one endorsed with excellence


They can achieve this by receiving 14 or more credits at Achieved or Merit or Excellence in a subject. But they also need at least 3 external exam credits at this level too, to achieve this endorsement.

This applies to most subjects except, Physical Education, Religious Studies and Visual Arts (Level 3).

Having this award means their skill levels are above the National learning standard for their age level throughout the entire subject or year level.

What does 'N' / Not Achieved mean?

This means they have failed / not passed the assessment and have not met the year level they are in, for that specific area of work.

'N' can also be used for incomplete work. Upon occasion, a student may have started, attempted or enrolled in an assessment, but if they have not completed it within the time frame, they will receive a 'Not Achieved' mark.

Fret not though - if a student at least attempts an assessment, they can ask their teacher for a chance for re-assessment. If this is approved, then the student can re-do the assessment.

This will be at the discretion of the circumstance, timing of the request, and/or can be discussed with the teacher or NZQA specialist at the school.

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Our tutors are experts in NCEA Maths, NCEA English, NCEA Science, NCEA Drama and/or NCEA Dance.

How do teachers know how to grade work similar to grades from other schools?

Teachers have received extensive training in marking NCEA assessments. They have had school professional development and/or attended courses or conferences to practice and learn more about it.

Another way for teachers to be sure and to mark fairly, is through something called 'moderation'. Read more about this from my former blog under the 'How do teachers know how to grade work similar to grades from other schools?', which you can read more here.

What if a student feels they are unfairly graded for an assessment?

It is common for students to feel upset about a mark they have received for work they have put time and effort into. This is why teachers moderate work with other colleagues from their departments or from same subject departments in other schools. Students are allowed to request moderation to be re-done as long as there are clear justifications attached to the request.

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We are all teachers who have taught in real classrooms for many years!

How many credits do I need to pass?

In short, 80 credits. In 2024 and beyond, 60 credits. Read more about it here or below:

Currently, students need a total of 80 credits at or above the NCEA level they are sitting to pass the NCEA level. If the student is sitting level two or level three, then they are able to carry 20 credits over from the former year. This means they will only need to achieve an extra 60 credits to pass the level.

It is important to note that from 2024, the ability to carry over credits will no longer be allowed, yet students won't need to obtain 80 credits to pass. Instead, they only have to achieve 60 credits to pass the NCEA level.

How many credits do I need to receive University Entrance?

You need 14 credits in two University Entrance Approved subjects and 12 credits in a third University Entrance subject. You will also need to receive NCEA Level 3 and meet literacy and numeracy requirements.

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What are the pro's of NCEA?

To be put briefly, NCEA caters to interests, abilities and learning types.

That's it for now...

I hope this has provided you with some clarity on understanding NCEA as a whole.

You can book in online tuition with any of our expert NCEA teachers to help support you in the areas you need support with.

We can help students with a variety of subjects, including the core subjects:

  • NCEA English

  • NCEA Maths*

  • NCEA Science*

*This includes Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

As well as two Art subjects:

  • NCEA Drama

  • NCEA Dance.

Tovah O'Neill

Tovah's Tutoring Company Ltd

To book:






This blog was written with some assistance from Canva's AI. Some sentences will include both verbatim and my own personal writing. I write this statement below to acknowledge and reference Canva's AI.


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