Assessment in secondary schools has been through a huge change in recent years. Chances are it is poles apart from the way you were assessed when you attended school “all those moons ago”.

When your teenager brings assessments home or talks about them with you, you may notice that he/she talks about things like ‘achieved’ or ‘not achieved’, ‘assessment guidelines’, ‘formative assessment’, ‘exemplars’, ‘feedback’, ‘resubmitting’ and ‘NCEA’. These are all terms that refer to assessment in New Zealand secondary schools at present.

Here’s some of the assessment basics and ‘need-to-know’s’:

Assessment Guidelines –

At the beginning of the year you teenager should be given an assessment guideline for every subject he/she is taking. This will cover what assessment there will be within the subject and when they will occur.

Students should also be given assessment requirements at the beginning of every unit of work that has an assessment attached to it.

Formative feedback –

There has been a shift away from using grades and percentages to measure student assessment. Instead teachers now regularly give students formative feedback. This is about giving students an indication on how they are going with the task, where their assessment sits in terms of achieving or not and what steps they need to take next.

Exemplars –

Exemplars are pieces of student work which are deemed to be good examples of a certain level of achievement. They show what students are learning in particular subjects or at particular levels of the curriculum. Teachers use these pieces of work to measure their own students work against and to help students understand what they need to do in order to achieve.

Not achieved, achieved, achieved with merit and achieved with excellence –

These are terms used to refer to how well the student has done in an assessment task. They replace the A, A+, B, D and so on of old.

Different methods of assessment in secondary schools –

There are different methods a school may choose to assess their students by.

Two of these, PAT and asTTle are assessment tools used in Years 9 and 10.

PATs –

PATs (Progressive Achievement Test) are used to assess students from Year 3 through to Year 10. They are used to measure a students reading vocabulary, reading comprehension and mathematical ability. This method of testing gives teachers an indication of how their students individually are progressing compared to their New Zealand peers. They can also provide information for teachers about where they need to focus teaching and what students need to learn next.

asTTle –

asTTle (Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning) is a software programme used to assess students’ reading, writing and maths ability from Year 5 through to Year 10. Students results from this testing can be compared over time to chart and measure their progress.

Senior Assessment

In the senior years at secondary school, Years 11, 12 and 13, NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) is the most common form of assessing students. It is New Zealand’s main secondary school qualification.

NCEA works by assessing students against national standards that are grouped by subject into a course. A course of work will be English for example or maths. If we take the example of English course one step further, it will generally cover standards in reading, writing, speaking, literature, and other skills.

Each course of work will use both external assessment and internal assessment.

External assessment means that the assessment is done by an organisation other than the school. It doesn’t have to take the form of a traditional written exam, though this is the most common form for NCEA. An external assessment could also be an oral exam or portfolio of art work.

Internal assessment is where the students work is assessed by a teacher at the school, and moderated by an awarding body. The awarding body in New Zealand for the majority of qualifications is the NZQA.

A lot of schools now hold information evening for parents at the beginning of the school year. Ask at your teenager’s school if this is offered.

Cambridge Examinations –

When NCEA was rolled out between the years of 2002 and 2004, some secondary schools opted to offer Cambridge examinations as an alternative.

The University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) is the world’s biggest provider of international qualifications for students between the ages of 14 and 19. CIE qualifications are recognised for admission by UK universities, as well as universities in the US, Canada, India, NZ and around the world.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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Kat Patrick

Taking the CIE iGCSE in English? I’m a CIE examiner who offers online crammers for UK students at a time that Kiwi students can attend, too. Check out my August crammer that will run early morning for NZ so you can be sure to hear the inside tips from someone in the know. Please share this. It’s really hard for me in England to tell you all about this in New Zealand http://www.dreamingspiresrevision.blogspot.co.uk

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