Didn’t get the NCEA results they wanted?

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Every January students almost break the internet rushing to check their NCEA results online. Parents, teachers and especially students themselves are anxious to check the results they worked so hard for. Students in their final year will be hoping to have gained enough credits to enter their chosen course, apprenticeship or job.

But what happens when things don’t go to plan, and a student hasn’t gained enough credits or done as well as they hoped? There’s often more than one path to a desired career. Here we explore some of the possibilities. 

Students returning to school without the results they wanted

If students don’t achieve Level 1 in a subject, it may impact on what they can study the following year. For example, before a student can study statistics or calculus at Level 2, they need to achieve Level 1 mathematics. They can still study at NCEA Level 2 next year, but they’ll need to include NCEA Level 1 mathematics.

Some students won’t have done as well as they’d hoped and may want to change their subjects altogether. The best thing for them to do is talk through options with their school – they may find they are able to make up credits or swap subjects. Remember, subjects might have an impact on what young people do later on, so it’s important they consider their future career when making decisions.

Keep in mind it’s a good idea for students to continue with core subjects like mathematics, science and a language-rich subject like English, as they provide basic background knowledge and skills essential for most careers and training options.

Did you know Careers New Zealand has a subject matcher tool that matches subject choice to potential jobs? This can help students work out where their subjects will take them. 

If a student has an idea of what job they want to do, they can search for it in our jobs database. They’ll find out what NCEA subjects they need, the range of entry points and training options.

Students leaving school without enough credits for their chosen course

If a student wants to study at a university, polytechnic, institute of technology or wānanga, they will need a certain number of credits to gain entry. Here are five options they can consider if they didn’t get enough credits for their chosen course.

1. Talk to the school about completing credits

NZQA will usually accept NCEA results up until late February. Some schools may allow students to do work to gain additional NCEA credits when they reopen. The students complete the work and their school sends it to NZQA.

2. Review results

If a student only just missed out on the credits required for entry into their chosen course, it’s worth them checking their exam papers and internal marks from the year. Are they correct? If it’s possible there was a miscount, students can check with their school or apply to NZQA for a review or reconsideration of results.

3. Talk to the course provider about exceptions

Sometimes a course or training provider may make an exception if a student doesn’t have enough NCEA credits. They will assess the student’s NCEA history and time at school. Call the course provider’s student advisers to discuss this possibility. 

4. Consider a bridging or foundation course

A student can talk to the tertiary provider to see if there are any bridging or foundation course available. These courses can build up skills and help people meet the minimum entry requirements for a degree course. Some tertiary providers have foundation year scholarships available, so check eligibility. 

5. Explore other options

Students should also consider other options open to them – maybe they won’t be a dentist, but they could be a great dental assistant. Polytechnics, wānanga, apprenticeships and workplace training may offer alternatives – it’s worth investigating options other than universities. 

Students leaving school before completing NCEA Level 3

Students with enough credits to leave

Some students are ready to leave school once they have achieved NCEA Level 2 or have met the requirements for acceptance into a certificate or diploma at levels 4–6. With a certificate or diploma they can prepare for work in a trade (like hairdressing), a technical role (like a computer technician), or another skilled occupation (like an electrician). 

Students who want to leave early

Some students may decide that school is no longer right for them and want to leave early. If they really don’t want to stay, there are a variety of options available to them. 

1. Study a related course

If a student doesn’t have enough NCEA credits to get into a nursing degree, for example, they could look at studying a certificate in health studies to earn enough NCEA credits to reapply for that nursing course. This approach can work for many courses. 

2. Continue NCEA through an alternative provider or take a gap year

While secondary school isn’t for everybody, if a young person is keen to continue with NCEA they can study credits through Te Kura, do a national certificate via distance learning, or take a gap year and work. 

3. Look into apprenticeships, cadetships and workplace training

Many apprenticeships don’t have any NCEA requirements, but some industry training organisations (ITOs) recommend studying NCEA maths and English to at least Level 1 or 2. Employers and the New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme usually require people to have studied subjects relating to the trade they want to get into. It’s best to contact the relevant ITO to find out about specific NCEA requirements for the trade.

4. Flexible Partnerships – 3+2 programme 

Students can see if their school offers Flexible Partnerships – where students who are 16 years or over are enrolled part time at school and also enrolled part time with a tertiary provider, or in an industry training agreement. 

Career plans are constantly evolving

People’s careers change and evolve. We work out what we enjoy by trying different jobs and training. It’s perfectly okay to change plans.

We’re here to help. Our understanding career advisers are available free of charge to give expert career advice on the phone or by online chat.