About NCEA Level 3

(To view this video in other languages like Te Reo Māori, Samoan or NZ Sign Language go to How NCEA works on the NZQA website)

This is one of three National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) designed to recognise the general achievement of 16 to 19 year old learners. The NCEA Level 1-3 are qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework.

NCEA (Level 3) is designed to:

  • acknowledge achievement across a range of learning fields,
  • act as a learning goal; and
  • attest to the ability to participate in, and benefit from, further study thereby promoting lifelong learning.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement (Level 3) is designed to enable access to the skills required for employment. People certificated at Level 3 have typically shown themselves able to integrate knowledge and skills to solve unfamiliar problems; access, analyse and use available sources of information; and work independently in undirected activity. The qualification also provides a more advanced foundation for further study and acquisition of knowledge.

Both Achievement Standards and Unit Standards can contribute credit toward NCEA.

Credit Requirements

  • Level 3 or above credits: 60
  • + Level 2 credits: 20
  • Minimum total credits: 80
  • + Level 1 Literacy & Numeracy

Requirements for Award of Qualification

National Certificate of Educational Achievement (Level 3) will be awarded to people who are credited with a minimum of 80 credits, of which a minimum of 60 credits is at level 3 or above plus 20 credits from Level 2 or above, from Achievement standards and/or Unit standards registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Students must also have achieved Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy.

Please note: NCEA qualifications have components for which there are automatically transferable credits. Credits gained for NCEA - Level 2 may be used towards meeting the requirements of the NCEA - Level 3 as well as other qualifications registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.


Students can gain NCEA qualifications with Merit or Excellence endorsements.

  • For a certificate to be endorsed with Merit, 50 credits at Level 3 or higher must be achieved at Merit or Excellence level.
  • For a certificate to be endorsed with Excellence, 50 credits at Level 3 or higher must be achieved at Excellence level.

Course Endorsement

Secondary school students are able to gain further recognition of their achievements by Merit and Excellence endorsement in course areas.

Students will receive an Excellence course endorsement if they gain 14 or more credits at Excellence level, while students gaining 14 or more credits at Merit (or a combination of Merit and Excellence) will gain a Merit endorsement.

At least 3 of the 14 credits must be from internally assessed standards, and 3 from external assessment (national examinations), to demonstrate competence in both forms of assessment. Physical Education, Religious Studies and Level 3 Visual Art are exempt from the external assessment component.

For course endorsement the credits must be gained within one year.


Scholarship is a monetary award to recognize top students. It does not attract credits nor contribute towards a qualification but the fact that a student has gained a Scholarship will appear on their Record of Achievement.

Scholarship examinations enable students to be assessed against challenging standards, and will be demanding for the most able students in each course. Scholarship students will be expected to demonstrate high-level critical thinking, abstraction and generalization, and to integrate, synthesise and apply knowledge, skills, understanding and ideas to complex situations.