Secondary school qualifications prior to 2002

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) was phased in from 2002.

  • NCEA Level 1 replaced School Certificate in 2002.
  • NCEA Level 2 was introduced in 2003.
  • NCEA Level 3 and New Zealand Scholarship replaced University Entrance, Bursaries and Scholarships in 2004.
  • Schools offered Sixth Form Certificate (Transitional) instead of NCEA in 2003 and 2004.

If you have one of these older qualifications, you can apply for a Certified Statement of National School Qualifications Results, which lists your results. Complete the Secondary and Tertiary Records online application.

More details about the previous national secondary school qualifications are given below.

School Certificate

School Certificate was usually taken in year 11 (Form 5), but many secondary students at other levels also entered.

School Certificate was awarded in single subjects. Most students took five or six subjects, or combined one or two School Certificate subjects with other courses offered by their school.

Many School Certificate subjects were a mix of internal and external assessment. Some subjects (such as Art, Music and Design Technology) were fully internally assessed by the school and verified by NZQA moderators.


The School Certificate result notice (mailed to candidates in January) showed the results for each subject with external examination and internal assessment marks shown separately. The internal assessment marks may have been adjusted, or scaled, to make them consistent with those from other schools nationwide. External examination results were not scaled.

The actual certificates were mailed to candidates in May, after all results had been finalised, and showed the grades for each subject. Grades were as follows:


80% - 100%


65% - 79%


50% - 64%


30% - 49%


1% - 29%

Students taking School Certificate te reo Māori received a different set of grades showing their achievements on a 1 to 5 scale in both tuhituhi (written) and korero (oral).

Candidates who received five or more A grades received a special certificate acknowledging their outstanding achievement.

Sixth Form Certificate

Sixth Form Certificate was generally taken by students in year 12 (Form 6). Most students took five or six subjects. Many studied Sixth Form Certificate subjects along with School Certificates or University Bursaries subjects. Sixth Form Certificate required at least four hours of supervised study per week in each subject. Students had to meet reasonable assignment and attendance requirements.


There were national Sixth Form Certificate subjects and many hundreds of locally-developed subjects, generally by individual schools. Both national and local courses were approved and moderated by NZQA, and both had the same status. Sixth Form Certificate results did not distinguish between the two types of course.


Sixth Form Certificate was internally assessed. Students were assessed by schools at appropriate points throughout the year. Sixth Form Certificate was graded from 1 to 9. Grade 1 represented an excellent level of achievement and Grade 9 a low level. Grades were distributed nationally across all Sixth Form Certificate subjects as shown below.

For consistency across the country, NZQA allocated a grade pool to each school on the basis of the overall performance of its candidates in the previous year's School Certificate examinations. There were arrangements to add grades for students who did not have recent School Certificate results.

For example, a school may have been allocated ten grade 1, 15 grade 2, 30 grade 3, 54 grade 4, etc. Each school allocated its grade pool to individual students in all Sixth Form Certificate subjects. Minor adjustments could be made to this allocation to ensure fairness to all students.

University Entrance, Bursaries and Scholarships

Students generally sat University Entrance, Bursaries and Scholarships (commonly known as Bursaries) at the end of years 12 and 13 (Forms 6 and 7). Students could qualify for entrance to university, gain monetary awards (bursaries), and be awarded scholarship grades for very high achievement. Results were used by tertiary education providers to decide entrance and selection for tertiary courses, and by employers.

Students could sit up to six subjects. In many subjects, there was a combination of internal assessment from work completed during the year, and a national examination. Physical Education was fully internally assessed by the school and externally moderated by NZQA. In Practical Art subjects, a folio of work was submitted for assessment by a national marking panel.


Results were mailed directly to candidates in January. The result notice showed the mark and grade for each subject. Internal assessment marks may have been adjusted to make them consistent with those from other schools nationwide. Final results may have been adjusted to enable comparison between subjects and from one year to the next. This comparability was important because results were added together for A and B Bursaries. Certificates were mailed to candidates in May, after all results had been finalised, and showed the grade for each subject. Grades were as follows:


66% - 100%


56% - 65%


46% - 55%


30% - 45%


1% - 29%

Qualifying for university

Entry to any university in New Zealand required an A or B Bursary, or three C grades or higher in University Bursaries, as well as Higher School Certificate. For students who were assessed against unit standards on the National Qualifications Framework, 13 level 3 credits in a Bursaries subject were deemed to be equivalent to a C grade in Bursaries for university entrance.

For more information on the current requirements, see University entrance.

A and B Bursaries

Bursaries provided cash payments for tertiary study and were awarded on the total marks in University Bursaries. Marks for up to five subjects were added together. An A Bursary was awarded if the total was 300 or more; a total of 250-299 gained a B Bursary. Marks towards a Bursary could be accumulated in different subjects over a number of years.

Payment of an A or B Bursary was not automatic. It was applied for during enrolment at University.


Scholarship grades were awarded for high performance in individual Bursaries subjects. In general, the top three to four percent of candidates in each subject were awarded scholarship grades. Candidates must have entered three or more Bursaries subjects to be eligible for any scholarship grades. There were no monetary rewards for individual scholarship grades, but as part of the Top Scholar awards, candidates who gained five or six scholarship grades received monetary awards.

Top Scholar awards

Every year, monetary prizes were awarded to top achievers in the Bursaries qualification. There were prizes for candidates who gained top marks in each subject, and for the top overall male and female candidates. There were also prizes for the top overall Māori and Pacific Island male and female candidates.

For more information on current awards, see Scholarship.

Higher School Certificate

Higher School Certificate was a record of the satisfactory completion of five full-time years of secondary education. Students had to study at least three subjects in advance of Sixth Form Certificate. In addition to the University Bursaries subjects, NZQA approved 17 Higher School Certificate subjects.

There were no external examinations, no grades or marks, and Higher School Certificate was not awarded in individual subjects. It was part of the university entrance requirements.

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