What’s the least that you need to do to get NCEA level 3 so you can go to university?


This is a question that home school parents ask. Being a home school parent, I’ve been asking myself this question…

Here’s the answer, or at least what I think the answer is based on a talk I listened to last night. Bear in mind that this is the absolutely minimum and I haven’t cross checked this with NZQA or other sources. Do your own due diligence if you’re interested.

In reality, someone might do more than this just because of the way the credits are allocated, or because they enjoy a particular subject they are studying.

  1. NCEA Level 1: You need 10 credits from each of literacy and numeracy. These can be unit standards or achievement standards. It doesn’t matter which. But be aware that they are different. So 20 credits total. I’m working on a set of generic templates for the literacy side of things at the moment.
  2. NCEA Level 2: You need 10 English credits, e.g. 5 from each of reading and writing, but it looks like there are plenty of possibilities to mix it up with other content. You also need at least another 10 credits to make a total of 20 credits. These can be from anywhere, but you should really be focusing them on what you want to be working on in level 3. See below.
  3. NCEA Level 3: You need a total of 80 credits and 60 of these must be at level 3 with at least 14 credits in a minimum of 3 approved subjects each. There’s a list of approved subjects somewhere that I’ll post later.

So… about a 100 credits all up across three levels…

And all of this is different to the idea of “passing” NCEA at a particular level. If you want to pass NCEA at any level you’ll need 80 credits including the literacy and numeracy from level 1.

Of course, if you want to get into medicine or another high stakes course at university, you’d also better focus on getting Excellence at NCEA level 3 as well.

This minimal credit approach is not designed to get people to “pass” each level, but rather create a path to completing NCEA level 3 to get into university with the least amount of work and credits – or at least to allow you to wrap your own stuff around it (which is what homeschoolers tend to do).


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

5 thoughts

  1. Hi Graeme,

    while you can do the 10 credits at level 1 and 2, you can also do the credits at level three if it works for the student….with lots of choices to tick off the literacy and numeracy requirements on the way through.

    1. Hi Valda.

      Thanks for the comment. I’m not quite sure what you mean…

      My understanding is that the requirement for 10 credits of literacy at level 1 and 10 credits of numeracy at level 1 (so 20 credits total) has to be met in addition to the 80 credits you need for Level 3 NCEA (that’s 60 actually at level 3 plus another 20 at level 2 or above)

      Have a look here: http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/qualifications-standards/qualifications/ncea/understanding-ncea/how-ncea-works/ncea-levels-and-certificates/

      According to the NZQA website: at Level 3 60 credits at level 3 or above are required + 20 credits from level 2 or above, and from this year you have to have the Level 1 literacy and numeracy standards as well.

      You can certainly tick off other literacy and numeracy standards along the way through levels 2 and 3, but it looks like the requirement for Level 1 literacy and numeracy is compulsory. The way I read the requirement is that the NZQA wouldn’t allow you to request your NCEA level three qualification unless you could tick the box on those 20 credits at level 1

      If you could point me to something on the NZQA website that says something different, I’d be most interested to read it.

      I doubt that the 20 credits of LN is going to go away any time soon. Especially given the poor performance of NZ youth students on the literacy and numeracy assessment tool that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) collects data from.

      My prediction is that at some stage these 20 credits will get tougher and require the students to also gain a score on the TEC assessment tool of Step 4 for Reading and Step 5 for numeracy (Step 6 is the highest).

      The reason I think this is that high school teachers around the country seem to sign off on the literacy and numeracy standards on just about any standard of evidence. When those kids move into tertiary study at polytechs, private training providers, and into apprenticeships they are required to take this assessment and it often shows that they are at a lower level than the NCEA level 1 literacy and numeracy unit standards. I expect the Ministry of Education to take a stand on this at some stage.

      Cheers, G

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