The National Certificate Of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is now the major qualification for New Zealand Secondary School students. Subjects are now broken down into a number of standards, with each standard having a credit value as opposed to a mark. Students will be able to achieve credits towards their NCEA qualification at Level 1, 2 and 3 through both Achievement Standards and Unit Standards. Once a total of 80 credits has been achieved, students are eligible to receive an NCEA Certificate for that level of study.
Students who have gained credits in unit standards in previous years will be able to count them towards the NCEA.
The achievement of students in subjects will be assessed through Achievement Standards . These identify the learning outcomes students must achieve, plus the expected national standards of work. Some of the standards will be assessed internally by subject teachers during the year and some will be assessed by external examination at the end of the year. There are four possible grades students can be awarded: Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit or Excellences. Each Achievement Standard is typically worth about 2 - 4 credits and there are approximately 24 credits per subject that can be achieved.
Subjects that do not have Achievement Standards are assessed through Unit Standards, which are internally assessed. Some courses/subjects have a mix of both Achievement Standards and Unit Standards, while subjects which have a high practical content (such as Hospitality or Automotive) are often assessed by Unit Standards. There are two possible grades students that can be awarded for Unit Standards - either Not Achieved or Achieved. Like Achievement Standards, Unit Standards also have a credit value that count towards the NCEA.
In January, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority will issue students with an NCEA Record of Learning for each subject. On it will be recorded:
The Achievement Standards and /or Unit Standards the student entered
The credit value of each
Whether they are internally or externally assessed
The grade achieved
The number of credits gained in each standard
The student's Grade Average for the Achievement Standards entered in a subject which is expressed as a mark out of 100.
The type of endorsment, none, merit or excellence.
Any subject endorcment the may have achived.
There are three NCEA qualifications - Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.
For a student to be awarded NCEA Level 1 they must achieve 80 credits. Of these, 8 credits must be in literacy standards and 8 credits in numeracy standards.
For a student to be awarded NCEA Level 2 they must achieve 80 credits, 60 of which must be from Level 2 standards. There are no literacy or numeracy requirements for this qualification.
For a student to be awarded NCEA Level 3 they must achieve 80 credits, 60 of which must be from Level 3 standards. There are no literacy or numeracy requirements for this qualification, although there are Level 2 literacy and Level 1 numeracy requirements for entry to degree courses at University and Polytechnics.
NCEA Endorsment
There are two types of endrosment a student  can atleast achive under NCEA.
1) Subject endorsment, 14 credits, at either merit or excellence. At least 3 credits must be internal and at least 3 credits are external. Excellence credits count also for merit. These are awarded in a single year.
2) Certificate endorsment students may achive a subject endorsment with at least 50 credits at merit or excellent. These can be gained over more than one year and at more than one level (as long as that level is higher). 
From 2005 there will be a new New Zealand Scholarship qualification. This will be assessed through additional examinations.
One of the positive features of NCEA is that it encourages multi-level study - that is, it is now very common for students to study courses at more than one level of NCEA at the same time according to their achievement profile.