Internal and External Assessment

Internal assessment is the process by which the school awards grades to the student. Schools, departments within the schools and teachers themselves are skilled at managing internal assessment. For years prior to NCEA speech performance, science experiments and procedures, and other performances in class have been assessed in schools for national certificate purposes.

Assessment guidelines at a classroom level for internal assessment –

For internally assessed standards, be they achievement or unit standards, it is highly likely there will be stringent guidelines teachers and students must follow. These will ensure that the assessment that is being carried out is fair and valid, that is that it is the students own work and this can be attested to.

These guidelines may include:

  • All work for that assessment taking place in class where the student is supervised by a teacher,
  • All work relating to that assessment is to be left in the teachers care and is not to be taken home

The guidelines for any assessment should be made clear to the student before they take part in it.

Moderation –

There are rigorous procedures put in place by NZ secondary schools and heads of departments to ensure teachers are marking fairly and consistently. This will include a process of moderation. Moderation is basically check marking that takes place within a department once the students work has first been assessed by the classroom teacher. Moderation often takes place in the form of a meeting in which all teachers who have classes being assessed by the same standard will discuss the results they have in their class. This is an opportunity to ensure all students are being assessed in the same manner.

Moderation also takes place on a national level. Just as it is important to have teachers within the same school all ‘working from the same page’, it is important that all schools are delivering and assessing students in the same way. It is important that all schools mark standards on the same basis and under the same guidelines. For this reason checks take place across the nation to ensure schools are consistent in their awarding of credits. Schools will be called on to send examples of students work for particular standards to NZQA with an assessment statement outlining what grade the students work has received and the reasoning behind it. This process highlights any glaringly obvious issues with schools who may be working in a different way or who are achieving consistently different results.

Opportunity for reassessment –

It is common practice where Unit standards are concerned to give students a further opportunity to achieve a standard they may have only just ‘missed the mark’ on. This means that without any further teaching input, students are able to have a second go at achieving the parts of the assessment they missed out on achieving. Some schools will allow students unlimited opportunities to achieve a unit standard.

Internally assessed achievement standards allow student a limited opportunity to do the same thing. Most schools will offer students one further opportunity to achieve a standard if they are close to achieving the performance criteria.

This must take place in a teacher supervised environment.

Check with your child’s school for their assessment policies where reassessment opportunities are concerned.

How does external assessment work?

Students have been sitting examinations for years, be they the traditional sit down and write exams or oral exams. This continues to be the case with NCEA.

Students will complete school so that they have study time allowed to them in order to prepare for external exams. They will have been given a candidate number prior to exams. More often than not this will be handed to them on or before the last day of school. It is absolutely essential that they take this slip along to the exams. It is the only way the exam supervisor will be able to identify who they are and they will not be able to sit the exam without it!

Once they have completed the exams, students have a long wait for their results. The marking process is long and drawn out.

Exams are written by staff contracted to NZQA and go through a series of checks to ensure they are

  • error free,
  • align with the standards they aim to assess,
  • easily understood.

The students’ exams are marked by markers contracted by NZQA. These are, for the most part, currently practicing teachers in that subject area. The exam markers attend moderation meetings and are required to send a percentage of the scripts they mark through to a chief marker who moderates one particular standard.

The Kiwi Families Team

This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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  • A nice overview of the NCEA internal system and some of the ‘lingo’ parents may be experiencing, particularly in that first year of NCEA.

    Another helpful tip that parents we’ve worked with in the past have found helpful is to find out when each internal is and to set up a wall planner (or download an app) and enter in when each internal is. Internal assessments are a lot about ‘ticking’ the assessment criteria, and so leaving it to the last minute usually means one of the boxes for a certain grade will be accidentally missed and thus they get a lower grade.

    Reminding them about upcoming internals means they are more likely to start doing it earlier, particularly if they have multiple assessments over all of their subjects.

    Anyway, good resource and keep up the good work!


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