New Zealand Certificates in English Language (Levels 1-5)

New Zealand Certificates in English Language (NZCEL) qualifications are intended for learners of English as an additional language. These qualifications are available to all parts of the English language sector: secondary, tertiary, community, and for permanent and temporary residents, and international students.

COVID-19 update: Online assessment

Guidance for online assessment for NZ Certificates in English Language, English for Academic Purposes and English Language unit standards (PDF, 106KB) is available.  It addresses conducting assessments under test conditions and ensuring authenticity of learner performance.

Any enquiries regarding the online assessment guidance, and interpretation of the qualifications and standards can be sent to


NZCEL Guiding Document

This is a companion document which gives detail to the learning outcomes of the NZCEL qualifications and provides guidance to programme designers and teachers to support consistent assessment practice.

Guidance includes:

  • NZCEL pathways
  • conditions related to the assessment of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills
  • sufficiency statements to indicate text type, text length and vocabulary level
  • language skill and control descriptors for each NZCEL qualification level
  • types of discourse for academic, general and employment contexts
  • unit standards aligned to the NZCEL qualifications
  • relevant website links e.g. English Language descriptors / frameworks.

The NZCEL Guiding Document (PDF, 460KB) was republished in May 2019 with new information.

A brief summary of the main changes (PDF, 106KB) is now available.

Programme approval

Existing programme developers

All education organisations with approved programmes leading to the existing English Language qualifications will need to review their own programmes to evaluate alignment with the reviewed English Language qualifications.

All programmes need to clearly map to the graduate profile outcomes of each qualification. If the mapping requires any change to an existing programme, the education organisations will need to refer to the NZQA Guidelines for programme approval and provider accreditation at levels 1-6 on the NZQF (PDF, 912KB) to determine the nature of the change/s, and make the appropriate application to NZQA. This may be a programme change or a new programme application.

New programme developers

Any education organisation wishing to develop a programme leading to any of the Certificates in English Language suite of qualifications must apply through the usual application process using their education online profile and following the NZQA Guidelines for programme approval and provider accreditation at levels 1-6 on the NZQF (PDF, 912KB)

Secondary schools

Schools wishing to provide a programme of study leading to a New Zealand Certificate must apply to NZQA for programme approval and/or accreditation:

Consistency reviews

Any organisation that has graduates from English Language qualifications, which are listed on the consistency review schedule, will need to attend a consistency review.

Unit standards aligned to NZCEL

Unit standards may be incorporated into programmes of study by organisations with consent to assess to use as assessment evidence towards achievement of parts or all of the NZCEL qualification outcomes.

English Language standards

English Language unit standards are designed for people for whom English is an additional language. This suite of standards was reviewed in 2018 to align to the graduate profile outcomes of the 2017 NZCEL from Foundation to Level 4. More information on the review can be accessed at Review of English Language unit standards.

Assessment Support Material (ASM) for a range of Levels 1 (Foundation) - 4 unit standards is available to provide guidance for teachers and assessors.

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) standards

Level 4 EAP unit standards are designed to assess a candidate's readiness to study at undergraduate level. These standards are mandatory for NZCEL (Academic) (Level 4) [Ref: 1883]. They were last reviewed in 2017.

Level 3 EAP unit standards were developed in early 2018 as a pathway onto Level 4 EAP study.  They can be used to assess parts of the NZCEL (Applied) (Level 3) [Ref: 3667].

Assessment support material for EAP Level 3 and 4 unit standards is available to provide guidance for teachers and assessors.


If you wish to receive email updates, and/or make contact regarding the NZCEL qualifications, English Language or English for Academic Purposes unit standards, please email

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