Derived grades for an unexpected event

Derived grades for an unexpected event

NZQA may invoke the derived grades at scale (previously called unexpected event grade) process for affected students in approved schools, as per the Assessment (including Examination) Rules for Schools, 7.1.6: "NZQA reserves the right to apply a derived grade at scale where a group of candidates is significantly disadvantaged by extraordinary circumstances beyond their control.”

Derived grades at scale, will generally be applied to groups of students affected in a similar way by a common single event.

Circumstances beyond the students’ control means they

  • are prevented from attending an external assessment, or
  • have their performance in an external assessment impaired, or
  • are prevented from completing an external assessment.

This could include situations that involve a natural event, technical failure or public health emergency. For example:

  • external assessments are not held because the school is closed after an earthquake until buildings are declared safe
  • some students are prevented from attending the external assessment due to flooding, blocked roads or by order of the Medical Officer of Health
  • students are unable to complete the external assessment as a power cut stopped a digital session.

Schools should ensure the affected students know that derived grades at scale have been submitted on their behalf so nothing additional is expected of them.

Principles used in the awarding of derived grades at scale:

  1. Derived grades at scale can only be applied with the approval of the NZQA Chief Executive.
  2. Where the student attends the external assessment, the better of the derived grade, or external assessment grade, will be awarded.
  3. For the purposes of derived grades at scale, a grade of Not Achieved must be reported where the student has an entry in the standard and had an adequate opportunity for assessment.  
  4. Derived grades at scale can be applied irrespective of external assessment attendance.
  5. Students can appeal a derived grade at scale using the school’s appeal process.



Students are only eligible for consideration for a derived grades at scale in standards for which:

  • the school has evidence of the event and the effect on students; and
  • approval has been given by the NZQA Chief Executive; and
  • a valid entry in the affected standards exists at the date of the external assessment; and
  • the school holds authentic, pre-existing, valid, standard-specific evidence that has been subject to a quality assurance process.

Derived grades and quality assurance processes

Information about how to derive and quality assure valid, standard-specific grades from school-based evidence can be found here.

Process for derived grades at scale

  • Contact your School Relationship Manager to request that a derived grade at scale situation be declared.
  • If NZQA declares a derived grade at scale situation:
    • Use the Report in your Provider Login Reports to check that the derived grades submitted in your data file are accurate, up to date and that a result is reported for every external entry.
    • Identify the students, for whom the derived grades at scale will be applied, and to which of their respective standards they will be applied.

All candidates with an entry in an externally assessed standard must have a result reported. The possible results are:

  • N – Not Achieved
  • A – Achieved
  • M – Merit
  • E – Excellence
  • Y – Absent
  • V – Void (Standard Not Assessed).

If a student received a result of Not Achieved from the standard-specific evidence held by the school, this grade must be reported to NZQA as part of the derived grade at scale process, as it is a valid assessment outcome.

If the school has insufficient standard-specific evidence for the candidate or none, then a Standard Not Assessed (V) result or an Absent (Y) result should be provided where appropriate.

Note: Not Achieved (N), Absent (Y) or Standard Not Assessed (V) grades are not included on a student’s Record of Achievement (ROA).

Derived grades at scale should be reported for all students with external assessment entries through your student management system (SMS) prior to the start of the external assessment period (Rule 5.5 c).

Web entry schools can enter derived grades at scale directly.  Web entry instructions are in school’s Provider Login.

For a small number of students (e.g. fewer than 10) affected by a single event you may:

  • Contact your School Relationship Manager to request that you submit a normal derived grade application through your NZQA Provider login. If approved, list the reason as "derived grade at scale event of … (brief description of the event)". A Derived Grade Application Form does not have to be completed by the student.

Appealing a derived grade at scale reported result

The student should appeal to the school if their final result was the derived grade at scale and the correct grade has not been reported to NZQA or not been applied. The school's appeal procedures apply, as the school is responsible for deriving the grade and reporting the result to NZQA. The school must email the details to their School Relationship Manager if the appeal is upheld and a change in the grade is required.

Appealing a result where it is not a derived grade at scale

Students should apply for a review or reconsideration in the normal way through their Learner Login if the final result was not from a derived grade at scale. This will occur when the submitted grade was either the same as, or lower than, the grade achieved by the student in the external assessment. In this case the derived grade at scale is not applied. Applications for a review or reconsideration must be made online by the cut-off date following the published process as appropriate.

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