All Columba College students work towards achievement in the national secondary qualification, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA):
Level 1 in Year 11
Level 2 in Year 12
Level 3 in Year 13
Scholarship in Year 13 (though Year 12 students may sit Scholarship)

Students usually study six subjects for Levels 1 and 2 though five subjects may be studied which gives a daily supervised study period. Five subjects is the norm for NCEA Level 3 but it is possible for an able student to study six Level 3 subjects provided she is committed and well-organised.

NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement)

NCEA was introduced in 2002 and replaced School Certificate, Sixth Form Certificate, and Bursary.

NCEA was designed to recognise a broad range of achievement and record that achievement in a way that is more informative to learners, parents and employers. It provides a comprehensive record of what students achieve while they are at school.

Columba College NCEA Student Handbook.

Standards Based Assessment

NCEA is a standards-based qualification. This means that standards of performance have been established for all work done by students that needs to be assessed or tested. Generally, a traditional school subject (English for example) is divided into 5 to 7 Standards, representing particular topics, skills or pieces of knowledge. These Standards were developed after extensive consultation with teachers, and are linked to areas of learning identified in the New Zealand Curriculum.

Internal and External Assessment

Students may be tested in several ways: they may sit an examination that covers a set of Standards, they may be assessed internally in a series of tests covering individual Standards, or, they may be tested using a combination of these approaches. This means that students, parents, and employers know what parts of a subject have been passed – and students don’t just get a single mark for an entire subject.

Achievement Standards and Unit Standards

There are two types of Standards – Unit Standards and Achievement Standards. Unit Standards are internally assessed and students either reach the required standard of performance and achieve the Standard, attaining an achieved grade in their results, or they do not achieve the required standard and receive not achieved.

Achievement Standards are either internally assessed by teachers at schools or externally assessed at the end of year in national examinations.  In most subjects students will be tested using both these methods. For Achievement Standards, students will get a not achieved grade if they do not meet the standard, but if they pass they can get achieved (for a satisfactory performance), merit (for very good performance) or excellence (for outstanding performance), depending on how well they answer. Standards are worth a set number of credits – generally between 2 and 5 credits.  The level of achievement of the Standard does not change the number of credits for that particular Standard. From 2008 students have been able to gain a merit or excellence endorsement in a particular subject.

NCEA Certificates

To gain NCEA certificates, students must reach a set total number of credits at each level, made up from Achievement or Unit Standards or a mix of both.  The NCEA can be awarded at Levels 1, 2 or 3. To gain an NCEA Level 1 certificate students must earn at least 80 credits.  For Levels 2 and 3 certificates, 60 credits at the relevant Level are required plus 20 other credits from any other Level.  Students can gain NCEA certificates with an overall merit or excellence endorsement according to the number of these grades they attain overall.  NCEA is used for university entrance selection and for entry to some limited entry courses at tertiary level.

For further information visit:


University Entrance

Students will use this new university entrance (UE) to be considered for entry to degree-level programmes from 2015.



10 credits from Level 1 or above from specified Achievement Standards or 3 specific numeracy Unit Standards.


5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing at Level 2 and above from specific Standards.

Level 3:

Achievement of NCEA Level 3: 60 credits at level 3 + 20 credits at Level 2 or above. Students must gain 14 credits from each of 3 approved subjects*.

Approved Subjects:

Accounting, Agriculture and Horticulture, Biology, Business Studies, Calculus, Chemistry, Chinese, Classical Studies, , Construction and Mechanical Technologies, Cook Islands Maori, Dance, Design (Practical Art), Design and Visual Communication, Digital Technologies, Drama, Earth and Space Science, Economics, Education for Sustainability, English, French, Geography, German, Health Education, History, History of Art, Home Economics, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Mathematics, Media Studies, Music Studies, Painting (Practical Art), Photography (Practical Art), Physical Education, Physics, Printmaking (Practical Art), Processing Technologies, Religious studies, Samoan, Science, Sculpture (Practical Art), Spanish, Social Studies, Technology, Te Reo Maori, Te Reo Rangatira.

To Gain Admission to a Degree Course at a New Zealand University:

1.You must meet the University Entrance standard
2. You may be required to attain a “rank score” to gain entrance to most Universities in NZ
3. You may need to meet other requirements, depending on the degree you intend to study (e.g. you may be required to study certain subjects while at school and gain a specific number of credits in these subjects, have an interview or complete a portfolio, audition, or CV). Students need to visit relevant tertiary websites to check selection criteria. Hard copies of prospectuses are also available from the Careers office.
4. Discretionary entrance refers to the entry standard required of Year 12 (NCEA level 2) applicants to university.

NZQA Scholarship Awards

New Zealand Qualifications Award’s Scholarship is a monetary award to recognise top scholars throughout the country. It is a challenging and rigorous examination with only 3% of those entered for NCEA Level 3 gaining the award.

This assessment extends the best secondary students and enables the top scholars throughout the country to be identified and acknowledged. Students are expected to synthesise and integrate concepts, and to apply higher level thinking based on in-school and independent learning. Scholarship is an award and as such does not generate credits towards the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.

All students who gain a scholarship will receive a monetary award.

The scholarship awards are:

5. Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence: The top student in New Zealand in the Scholarship examinations.
6. Premier Award: The very top five to ten scholars who achieve outstanding scholarships in three subjects – $10,000 each year for three years. The number of recipients for this award is restricted.        
7. Outstanding Scholar Award: The next top 40-60 candidates who achieve three scholarship subjects with at least two outstanding performances or more than three scholarships with at least one at Outstanding – $5,000 each year for three years.
8. Scholarship Award: For those students who achieve scholarship standards in three or more subjects – $2,000 each year for three years.
9. Top Subject Scholar Award: The top subject achiever in each scholarship subject – $2,000 each year for three years
10. Single Subject Award: Candidates who achieve the scholarship standard in up to two subjects – a one-off payment of $500 per subject

Student Commitment

Students at the College presenting for New Zealand Scholarship are expected to have a high level of commitment to their study and be prepared to complete additional work beyond their timetabled classes. Scholarship demands that students synthesise and integrate concepts and apply a higher level thinking than that required at Level 3 of the NCEA. They must be self-directed and take responsibility for their learning.

Scholarship tutorials before or after school are available in most subjects.

To be eligible for the top national awards candidates must sit all Scholarship examinations in the same year.

Any person awarded a Scholarship must be enrolled in tertiary study in New Zealand in the years they receive monetary awards and maintain a ‘B’ grade average.