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Dual Qualifications Pathway

Students entering Form 3 at Auckland Grammar School must realise that this year is the start of a five-year programme which will lead to University Entrance and further study at tertiary level.

A small number of students will leave at the end of Form 5 or Form 6 for a variety of courses and reasons, but essentially the Senior School Programme at Auckland Grammar School should be viewed as a three-year commitment, beginning at Form 5.

The success of Auckland Grammar School students in external academic examinations is well known and we regard it as our first priority to ensure all students achieve the best examination results of which they are capable.

Students must be prepared to work hard and tackle the requirements of the rigorous, advanced courses on offer; in return the School is committed to giving students at all levels the very best in teaching, guidance and support to ensure all students achieve to the best of their abilities.

Dual Qualifications Pathway

NCEA and Cambridge qualifications are available for students in Forms 6 and 7. They offer students two pathways to tertiary entrance. 

The NCEA Pathway is:

  • Pre-Q/Limited NCEA Level 1 (Form 5)
  • NCEA Level 2 (Form 6)
  • NCEA Level 3 (Form 7)

The Cambridge Pathway is:

  • Pre-Q (Form 5)
  • Cambridge AS (Form 6)
  • Cambridge AS and A2 (Form 7)

In Form 5 the majority of students will study a Pre-Q-based course. Students in a number of classes from 5K-5R will study a limited number of NCEA Level 1 English and Mathematics Achievement Standards. Selected students (primarily from 4P and 4R) will study a full NCEA Level 1 course tailored to their specific learning needs.

Students commencing Form 6 study must decide which qualification pathway they will pursue, the Cambridge Pathway or the NCEA Pathway. Forms 6 and 7 should be regarded as a two-year programme.

Students commencing Form 7 study will, in most cases, remain on their selected Cambridge or NCEA pathway. However, a number of students will be required to change to the NCEA Level 3 pathway in Form 7. This is because they will not be able to gain sufficient marks to gain A Levels, due to very poor performance at AS Level (which is the first half of a two-year course of study).

The course planning section that follows provides important information and guidance for students selecting courses.

The Dual Qualification Pathway is as follows:

  • 4A and 4B- Pre-Q Mathematics
  • 5A and 5B – AS Mathematics for most students. Pre-Q in all other subjects except Latin and Te Reo Māori
  • 5C to 5I – Pre-Q in all subjects except NCEA Level 1 Latin and Te Reo Māori
  • 5J to 5N – Pre-Q in all subjects except NCEA Level 1 Latin and Te Reo Māori. Students will also do a number of NCEA Level 1 English and Mathematics Achievement Standards.
  • 5P and 5R- this selected cohort will study a tailored full NCEA Level 1 course
  • 6A and 6B – Cambridge A Level Mathematics (optional); Cambridge AS Level in all other subjects except NCEA Level 2 Japanese, Latin and Te Reo Māori *
  • 6C to 6I – Cambridge AS Level in all subjects except NCEA Level 2 Japanese, Latin and Te Reo Māori. NCEA Level 2 ESOL (if necessary) *
  • 6C1 to 6I1 – NCEA Level 2 in all subjects
  • 7A to 7I – Cambridge AS Level and A Levels in all subjects except Latin (and NCEA Level 3 ESOL if necessary) *
  • 7C1 to 7H1 – NCEA Level 3 in all subjects

Note: Highly able Form 6 and 7 students may also elect to enter NZQA Scholarship examinations.

Requirements for the Auckland Grammar School Honours Board

To be eligible for consideration for recognition on the School’s Honours Board, students must be studying in Form 6 or Form 7 and attend and make a genuine attempt in all Cambridge, NCEA and NZQA Scholarship examinations entered this year.

Students must also achieve EITHER:

  • A place in the top 10% of the cohort studying Form 7 Cambridge pathway and Form 6 students studying A Level Mathematics, based on Cambridge exam 6-credit1 mean mark results2; AND
  • At least 2 NZQA Scholarships in this year’s NZQA examinations


  • Three or more passes in NZQA Scholarship subjects this year

Exceptions will only be considered for Form 7 students who fulfil the following criteria:

  • Place in at least the Top 10% of the total number of students studying the Form 7 Cambridge pathway, based on Cambridge exam five-credit mean mark results, AND
  • Study a subject that is not offered by Cambridge and is NCEA, AND
  • Receive an Excellence endorsement in the NCEA subject, AND
  • Receive an NZQA Top Scholar subject award in the NCEA subject

1: An AS result = one credit; an A2 result = two credits. To obtain a six-credit mean mark, Form 6 students must be studying A Level Mathematics this year, so most Form 6 students not eligible via Cambridge marks.
2: For November 2021 Cambridge examinations this was a six-credit mean mark of at least 92%.

Auckland Grammar School Pre-Qualifications Programme (Pre-Q)

Pre-Q is a pre-qualification curriculum and assessment programme, which aims to prepare students rigorously for study in the Senior School (Forms 6 and 7) and for high levels of academic achievement in Cambridge AS and A Level and NCEA Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications.

The School introduced Pre-Q for Form 5 students at the beginning of 2019, replacing Cambridge IGCSE, and the majority of Form 5 students will study Pre-Q subject courses.

Identified students will also study a number of NCEA Level 1 Achievement Standards and a selected group of students (predominantly from 4P and 4R) will study a full NCEA Level 1 course tailored to their particular learning needs.

The aims of the Pre-Q programme are:

  • To help students to acquire the fundamental knowledge of specific subjects.
  • To promote deep understanding of subject content with a depth and a rigour appropriate to progression to, and success in, Senior School external qualifications.
  • To reduce the gap in content and rigour that existed between previously prescribed Form 5 course requirements and the significant demands of Cambridge AS Level and NCEA Level 2 courses.
  • To increase the amount of teaching and learning time for Form 5 students by rescheduling examinations later in Term 4.

Pre-Q Programme Structure and Syllabus/Course Design

Form 5 Pre-Q courses are designed to suit the whole student ability range in terms of accessibility and level of challenge. Courses are differentiated so that they are more accessible to students who might have previously struggled as they began NCEA Level 2 or Cambridge AS Level in Form 6, while also including more capacity to stretch and challenge the most able, so that they are ready to perform strongly at Cambridge AS Level.

Departments offer Pre-Q courses containing core subject material designed to assist in preparing all students for Cambridge AS Level and NCEA Level 2. Some departments also offer Pre-Q Advancing courses containing additional content which will enable students to begin Form 6 courses with a strong foundation of knowledge and skills.

Pre-Q courses are constantly under review to ensure that they achieve their objectives. Form 4 courses are also constantly being redesigned to provide a smoother progression for students in terms of course content and levels of expectation from Form 4 to Form 7.

There are no major changes to the options or timetable structures for Form 5 students for 2023, and students will study six subjects, comprised of compulsory English (or ESOL) and Mathematics and four option subjects which they will select.

Pre-Q Assessment, Reporting and Passing Form 5

Pre-Q assessments replicate the internal and external assessment modes currently in use by external examination providers at Form 6 and 7 level, in order to prepare students for the format of Cambridge and NCEA examinations and assessments.

End-of-year examinations are a major part of the Pre-Q assessment system. For most courses, the Pre-Q mark is 100% derived from the Term 4 examination, although a number of Pre-Q courses will also have a coursework component (particularly in subjects which have a coursework or practical assessment component at Cambridge AS and A Level and NCEA Level 2 and Level 3).

As is currently the case for all form levels, Form 5 students will sit School examinations in three examination sessions during the year and receive a weighted aggregate mark (15% for the Term 1 examination, 35% for the Term 2 examination and 50% for the Term 4 examination).

This aggregate will be reported upon and used for Form 6 class placement and will be used, in conjunction with Pre-Q marks, to determine whether a student can progress to Form 6.

However, whether a student is able to gain automatic entry to the Cambridge or NCEA stream, or whether he is able to gain automatic entry to restricted Form 6 courses will be wholly determined by his Pre-Q results (in most subjects this is 100% derived from the Term 4 examinations, as above).

These above criteria are consistent with the Form 6 general and specific pathway and course entry criteria set in previous years (refer to Passing Form 5 and Form 6 at Auckland Grammar School on page 13 of the Course Handbook for specific details).

Students will receive a Pre-Q Results Certificate with a single percentage mark for each subject.

National Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA)

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) provides three senior secondary qualifications (NCEA Level 1, NCEA Level 2 and NCEA Level 3) and the NZQA Scholarship award which are generally studied at the following form levels:

  • NCEA Level 1 – Form 5
  • NCEA Level 2 – Form 6
  • NCEA Level 3 – Form 7
  • NZ Scholarship – Form 6 and Form 7

Important features of NCEA include:

Each year-long course of study of an NCEA subject at Auckland Grammar School is assessed against five to nine Achievement Standards.

All assessment is standards-based and:

  • Standards describe what a student knows and can do;
  • Standards describe the level of work that students need to produce;
  • Assessment criteria establish the level of performance required for the award of Achieved, Merit or Excellence grades; and
  • Achievement Standards generally have between one and four assessment criteria.

Each Achievement Standard is assessed either internally or externally:

  • Internal assessment generally involves common tests or assignments during the School year.
  • External assessment usually takes place during three-hour, end-of-year examinations.

Students may successfully meet the Achievement Standards at one of three levels: Achieved, Achieved with Merit, Achieved with Excellence or no marks are allocated.

Each Achievement Standard has a credit value. In most cases each course will provide the opportunity for students to gain a maximum of 24 credits. Typically, a student studying five subjects will be able to gain a maximum of 120 credits.

NZQA maintains a Record of Achievement for each student throughout their time at secondary school which records the credits that they gain by passing Achievement Standards.

Students can download their Record of Achievement from the NZQA website and a record of all Achievement Standards which a student is currently entered for is available on the Parent Portal.

Students who achieve 80 credits at a level are awarded a National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Note the following:

  • To be awarded an NCEA Level 1 Certificate students must have in their 80 credits at least 10 credits of Numeracy standards and 10 credits of Literacy standards. Numeracy credits are primarily gained from Mathematics standards and specified standards in a range of other subjects. Literacy credits are gained from English standards and specified standards in a range of other subjects
  • A maximum of 20 credits from a lower level can be combined with 60 credits to earn an NCEA certificate. That is, 20 credits gained at Level 1 can be added to 60 credits gained at Level 2 to earn a Level 2 Certificate and 20 credits gained at Level 2 can be added to 60 credits gained at Level 3 to gain a Level 3 Certificate
  • Students must achieve the Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy requirement to be awarded a Level 2 or Level 3 Certificate.
  • These certificates show that students have achieved a general level of educational achievement. It is the Record of Achievement that shows exactly which Achievement Standards students have achieved in detail
  • Course Endorsements enable students with strong performances in individual courses (in most cases this means subjects) to gain Excellence or Merit endorsements in those courses. Students will receive an Excellence endorsement for a course, if they gain 14 credits at Excellence level, while students gaining 14 credits at Merit level or above (Merit and Excellence) will gain a Merit endorsement. At least three of the 14 credits must be from internally-assessed standards, and three from externally-assessed standards
  • Certificates can also be achieved with Merit or Excellence endorsements

For a certificate to be endorsed with Merit, 50 credits at Merit or Excellence is required; for a certificate to be endorsed with Excellence, 50 credits at Excellence is required.

Unit Standards may also contribute credits towards NCEA. At Auckland Grammar School, Unit Standard assessment is currently limited to Career Studies courses, some Technology courses and Form 6 and Form 7 ESOL courses. There are only two grades available under Unit Standard assessment, Achieved or Not Achieved.

Note that, while the above information regarding NCEA was correct at the time of printing, a significant national review of NCEA has been conducted since 2018, and this will result in significant changes to the structure and format of NCEA assessment during the next five years.

Please note that in 2020 and 2021, Learner Recognition Credits were applied for students in Auckland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of printing the Course Handbook, there is no indication that any changes will be made to the requirements outlined above for 2022.

Further information on NZQA and NCEA can be found on the NZQA website.

International Qualifications – Cambridge

Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE and Cambridge) examinations are administered by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES). UCLES is one of the world’s leading examining bodies.

Established in 1863, it provides examination services in over 160 countries around the world. Each year, over one million students in over 10,000 schools sit Cambridge examinations. Although Cambridge is based in the United Kingdom, and the structure of the Cambridge awards is similar to the UK awards, its courses are designed for the international community.

Cambridge offers three general secondary qualifications:

  • International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) – not offered at Auckland Grammar School since 2019
  • Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS) – usually taken in Form 6
  • Advanced Level (A Level) – usually taken in Form 7

Cambridge courses are generally assessed through external examinations, although a small number of subjects also have a coursework component. The different course components of each subject are assessed by separate examination papers, including practical work in the Sciences, Physical Education, Music, Technology and Art subjects. Students receive grades and percentage marks for each subject.

Examinations are held twice a year in May/June and in October/November. Students at Auckland Grammar School will generally sit their examinations in the October/November examination series. Students who are currently studying an A Level subject will have the opportunity to re-sit the AS components of their A Level in the May/June series, in a limited number of subjects.

Cambridge qualifications are recognised both nationally and internationally and are highly regarded as University Entrance qualifications in New Zealand (see pages 14-16 of the Course Handbook) and overseas.

Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Levels:

  • Are the first half of a full A Level (the second half is known as A2) and are generally studied in Form 6. Some AS Levels (such as AS Japanese) which have been developed by New Zealand schools, in conjunction with Cambridge, are only available as Form 7 courses
  • Cover the core, foundation aspects of a subject at an advanced level
  • Are worthwhile, stand-alone qualifications that can be used for University Entrance. The minimum New Zealand general University Entrance requirement is three D grades at Cambridge AS Level (see pages 14-16 of the Course Handbook for more details on the specific requirements for University Entrance)
  • Five pass grades are awarded: A, B, C, D and E. Marks below these are Ungraded (U)

A Levels (A2):

  • An AS Level can be carried through to a full A Level by completing the second half of the syllabus known as A2 (there is no such thing as a separate, stand-alone A2 qualification).
  • A2 components are available as Form 7 courses and only to students who have already completed the AS syllabus components the previous year.
  • A Level syllabus offer challenging assessments to stretch the most able students, and a number of restricted entry university courses in New Zealand and overseas will require students to have completed subjects at A Level.
  • Students who have completed their AS components the previous year and are currently studying the full A Level have the option of re-sitting the AS components in order to improve their overall A Level grade in a limited number of subjects.
  • Six pass grades are awarded: A*, A, B, C, D, E. Marks below these are Ungraded (U).

Further information can be found at the Cambridge website.

Passing Form 5 and Form 6

In New Zealand there is no official criterion for ‘passing’ Form 5 and Form 6. In fact, schools determine their own entry criteria to Form 6 and Form 7 courses.

Auckland Grammar School has never practiced social promotion in the Senior School. Instead it has set entrance criteria based on student performance in national qualifications (which have generally been awarded on the basis of external examinations) and in School examinations.

Passing Form 5:

To earn automatic entry to Form 6 in 2023, students must gain the following weighted aggregate mark* in School examinations or Pre-Q examinations:

  • Either 280 in 6 subjects
  • Or 250 in 5 subjects

Entry to the Cambridge Pathway and to Cambridge and NCEA courses with restricted entry is determined by Pre-Q results (except for students doing the full NCEA Level 1 Programme in Form 5).

In order to study a Cambridge course (AS Level), students must meet the course entry requirements.

Students who have studied a full NCEA course must gain a minimum of 60 credits at NCEA Level 1 for automatic entry to Form 6.

Passing Form 6:

The criteria for automatic entry to Form 7 in 2023 are:

  • 6A-6I: a weighted, best four-subject aggregate* of 200 or better in the School examinations or 160 or better in AS examinations
  • 6C1-6I1: a weighted, best four-subject aggregate* of 200 or better in the School examinations and at least 60 credits in NCEA Level 2.

* The weighted aggregate is generated by performance in the three School examinations held during the year. The weighting is as follows:

  • Term 1 examination result = 15% of total
  • Term 2 examination result = 35% of total
  • Term 3 (for Form 6) or Term 4 (for Form 5) examination result = 50% of total

Form 6 and 7 class placements for 2023 will be based on weighted aggregate marks of all subjects studied in 2022. Students were informed of this policy at the Academic Briefings in Term 1.

University Entrance:

To qualify for University Entrance (UE) at a New Zealand university, students must meet three requirements:

  • A Numeracy standard
  • A Literacy standard
  • A general subject standard

These requirements can be met through either NCEA or Cambridge qualifications but not through a combination of both for the general subject standard. That is, while students can gain University Entrance Numeracy and Literacy from a mix of Cambridge and NCEA Standards, the general subject standard must be attained by meeting the Cambridge or NCEA requirements.

This is why students need to select either the Cambridge Pathway or the NCEA Pathway from Form 6 onwards.

The University Entrance requirements for both NCEA and Cambridge qualification pathways are shown on the next page. In general, students are expected to enter university after they have completed Form 7. Universities have entrance procedures in place to admit students who have only completed Form 6, however, these usually require higher grades. Neither the School nor the universities encourage students to seek Discretionary Entrance. Most students cope better with university life and gain higher grades when they have completed a Form 7 course and five years of secondary education.

The University Entrance Standard

Students gain entrance to university under the standard below:

Standard NCEA Cambridge
Numeracy Minimum of Numeracy 10 credits at Level 1 or higher (from Mathematics or specified standards in a range of subjects) Any Mathematics subject passed at AS Level (or as prescribed for NCEA UE Numeracy).
Literacy Minimum of Literacy 10 credits at Level 2 or higher (from English, or specified standards in a range of subjects), including (or as prescribed for NCEA UE Literacy) – at least 5 credits in Reading and at least 5 credits in Writing Minimum grade of E in AS Level English.
General Subjects NCEA Level 3 (80 credits, including up to 20 credits carried forward from Level 2) and a minimum of 14 credits in three subjects from the approved list *

Minimum of 120 points on the NZ Cambridge University Entrance Tariff (NZ CUET)** table (see below) and a minimum ‘D’ grade in at least 3 subjects (at AS or A Level).

* With the exception of Career Studies, ESOL and Trades and Construction, all Level 3 and Cambridge AS/A Level subjects are on the approved list.

** The NZ Cambridge University Entrance Tariff (NZ CUET) is a system which converts AS and A Level grades into points for entry purposes (formerly known as the UCAS Tariff).

Grade A Level AS Level
A* 140
A 120 60
B 100 50
C 80 40
D 60 30
E 40 20

Please note: in 2020 and 2021, changes to the University Entrance criteria were made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of printing the Course Handbook, there is no indication that any changes will be made to the standards published above, for School leavers in 2022.

Admission to Limited Entry Courses:

In 2010, the University of Auckland established limited entry to all degree courses and universities, including Massey, Otago and Victoria, have also introduced limited-entry criteria. The selection process is based on the number and standard of credits (Achieved, Merit or Excellence) students have achieved in NCEA, or the NZ Cambridge University Entrance Tariff (NZ CUET) points students have achieved in Cambridge. A student’s rank score is based on the total points score for up to six subject units at AS Level (one subject unit) or A Level (two subject units).

More detailed information about University Entrance via the Cambridge Pathway and the NCEA Pathway, including criteria for admission to degree programmes at the University of Auckland, can be found in the Departments and Faculties section of the School website. More details can be also found on all university websites.

Points of note:

  • Students intending to study at universities outside of Auckland or overseas should find out what the entrance criteria are for selective entry courses, in terms of the levels of qualifications and subjects that are required. Cambridge students seeking admission to overseas universities are strongly advised to complete three A Levels and should note that English Language (Literacy) requirements may be higher than the New Zealand general University Literacy requirement.
  • Maori and Pacific Island students should note that they may be eligible for the admissions schemes established for them in many faculties and departments.
  • The University of Auckland has additional requirements for selection into many of its programmes for International Students.