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Understanding NCEA: A relatively short and very useful guide for secondary students and their parents (2nd ed)

Why read Understanding NCEA?

The newest edition of Understanding NCEA is a must-read for all secondary school students and their parents.

Since the publication of the first edition in 2011, there have been some big changes to NCEA level requirements and to University Entrance.

Don’t get left in the dark.

This second edition explains in plain language just how NCEA works and the updates to it – everything from standards, levels and credits to subject choice. It includes stories drawn from the real-life experiences of more than 100 students who have navigated various NCEA pathways.

This book will help students make the best possible subject choices, avoid potential pitfalls and successfully prepare for further education or training. There’s also a chapter specifically for parents, with the information you need to support your children through NCEA.

The second edition is also available in Samoan.

Written by Irena Madjar and Elizabeth McKinley of The Starpath Project at The University of Auckland. With an introduction by University of Auckland Professor of Education John Hattie.

What has changed since the 2011 edition?

  • Level 1 NCEA literacy and numeracy requirements: increased number of credits, specified achievement and unit standards through which these credits can be met, and provision of an additional way to meet the literacy requirement through “English for academic purposes”.
  • Level 2 NCEA: new requirement for Level 1 literacy and numeracy.
  • Level 3 NCEA: changes and additions to the list of Level 3 approved subjects.
  • University Entrance:  new literacy and numeracy requirements, increase in the requirement of approved subjects and credits, and requirement to have achieved NCEA Level 3.
  • Vocational Pathways provisions: new “qualification” and newly approved “sector related standards” appear on students’ NCEA Record of Achievement when specified number and combination of credits have been achieved.

Additionally, students and parents need to be aware of:

  • The requirements for course and certificate endorsements with merit and excellence and the fact that schools might or might not structure individual subjects to be eligible for endorsement.
  • Changes in ranking scores and subjects needed for entry into specific programmes of study at the University of Auckland (and other universities). 


Digital editions

This title is available in e-book and kindle editions from