New Zealand Grading System

High School Grade Scale

In New Zealand, secondary education (high school) grades often use a combination of letter grades, percentage ranges, and Grade Point Averages (GPAs) to assess student performance. The grading system might vary slightly from school to school, but a general scale is as follows:

New Zealand GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeGPA
NNot Achieved0-49%0

Some schools might use ‘+’ and ‘-‘ to provide more nuanced feedback within these categories (e.g., M+ for high merit).

College / University Grade Scale

At the tertiary level (college/university), New Zealand uses a more detailed grading scale. This scale can vary among institutions, but a common format includes:

New Zealand GradesComparable English TermsEquivalent Percentage RangeGPA
A+High Distinction90-100%9.0
B+High Merit75-79%6.0
C+Achieved Plus60-64%4.0
ELow Fail0-29%0.0

Variations in grading scales across different colleges and universities are common, and some institutions may include additional grades like ‘D-’ for borderline failures or use different percentage ranges for their grading system.

In both high school and tertiary education, these grades not only reflect a student’s understanding of the subject matter but also their ability to apply knowledge, solve problems, and communicate effectively. The use of ‘+’ and ‘-‘ alongside the basic grades allows for a more precise evaluation of a student’s performance.

Keep in mind that these scales are meant to serve as a general guideline. Individual schools and post-secondary institutions may have their own specific grading systems, so it’s always a good idea to check with the specific educational establishment for their grading criteria.

Understanding Grades in New Zealand

Grades in New Zealand schools and universities are not just letters or numbers; they convey a student’s proficiency and mastery over the course content. Let’s dive into what each grade typically signifies:

🌟 E (Excellence)

  • High School: Indicates that the student has shown outstanding performance and a high level of understanding. Students have demonstrated comprehensive knowledge and the ability to apply it creatively or think critically.
  • University: Reflects exceptional achievement, far exceeding the standard expectations with profound insights and mastery in skills application.

🎖 M (Merit)

  • High School: Represents very good performance. Students have a solid understanding of the material and can apply their knowledge effectively, though not at the level of excellence.
  • University: Signifies strong comprehension and capability to apply concepts with good reasoning and analysis. Shows higher-than-average competence and understanding.

✔️ A (Achieved)

  • High School: The student meets the basic standard required for passing. They have a satisfactory grasp of the material but with room for improvement in application and understanding.
  • University: Demonstrates a sufficient understanding and ability to apply knowledge at a basic level. It meets the minimum criteria for competence in the subject area.

🚩 N (Not Achieved)

  • High School: Indicates that the student has not met the required standards. Understanding and application of the course material are below the expected level.
  • University: Usually not applicable as tertiary levels often use letter grades (C-, D+, D, E) to indicate varying levels of failing performance.

📈 Plus (+) and Minus (-) Variations

  • These modifiers provide additional context to grades, indicating that a student is at the higher or lower end of the grade’s performance spectrum. For example, a B+ in university suggests a performance closer to an A grade but not quite reaching it, showing a strong understanding with some minor areas for improvement.

Understanding these grades is crucial for students, parents, and educators alike, as they reflect not only the student’s current level of achievement but also areas for potential growth. Recognizing the meaning behind each grade can help in setting realistic goals and strategies for improvement, fostering a positive and productive learning environment.

New Zealand Grade Comparison

Comparing grades across different countries can be challenging due to the variety of grading systems used worldwide. However, here is a general comparison table that relates New Zealand grades with those of the US, UK, India, Australia, Canada, and China. This table is meant to provide a broad overview and should be used as a guideline, as exact equivalences can vary between specific institutions and courses.

New Zealand GradesUS GradesUK Grades (Percentage/Classification)India Grades (Percentage)Australia GradesCanada GradesChina Grades (Percentage)
A+ (90-100%)A (90-100%)First-class Honours (70% and above)O (85-100%)HD (High Distinction, 85-100%)A+ (90-100%)A (85-100%)
A (85-89%)A (90-100%)Upper Second-class Honours (60-69%)A+ (75-84%)D (Distinction, 75-84%)A (80-89%)A- (80-84%)
B+ (75-79%)B+ (87-89%)A (65-74%)C (Credit, 65-74%)B+ (77-79%)B+ (75-79%)
B (70-74%)B (83-86%)Lower Second-class Honours (50-59%)B+ (55-64%)C (Credit, 65-74%)B (73-76%)B (70-74%)
C+ (65-69%)B- (80-82%)Third-class Honours (40-49%)B (50-54%)P (Pass, 50-64%)C+ (67-72%)C+ (65-69%)
C (60-64%)C+ (77-79%)C (45-49%)P (Pass, 50-64%)C (63-66%)C (60-64%)
D (50-59%)C (73-76%)Pass (40-49%)P (40-44%)F (Fail, <50%)D (50-62%)D (60-64%)
E (0-49%)F (<73%)Fail (<40%)F (<40%)F (Fail, <50%)F (<50%)F (<60%)

Please note:

  • The comparison for the UK includes both the percentage system and the classification system used in higher education.
  • The Indian grading system varies significantly among institutions but is generally represented in percentages.
  • Australia’s grading system can vary by state and institution, but common terms like HD, D, C, P, and F are used.
  • Canadian grading systems can differ between provinces and institutions, with letter grades and percentages often used interchangeably.
  • The Chinese grading system is represented in percentages, with variations depending on the level of education and institution.

This table is a simplification and should be used as a starting point for understanding how New Zealand grades might translate into other countries’ systems. For specific equivalencies, especially for purposes such as university admissions or job applications, it’s advisable to consult directly with the institution or employer to understand their grading conversion criteria.

Special Grading Considerations

In New Zealand, as in many countries, the approach to grading can vary significantly across different states, school types, educational levels, and even between individual teachers within the same institution. These variations are influenced by local educational policies, the curriculum, and the pedagogical philosophy of each school or tertiary institution. Understanding these differences is crucial for students, parents, and educators to navigate the education system effectively.

Variations Across States and School Types

  • Primary and Secondary Education: While the National Standards provide a framework for assessing student achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics, schools may adopt different methods for reporting progress. For example, some schools might use letter grades, others a descriptive approach, and some a combination of both.
  • Tertiary Education: Universities and polytechnics in New Zealand may have their own specific grading scales, which can differ not only in the range of grades but also in the percentage or GPA required to achieve those grades. For instance, some universities use an A+ to D- scale for grading, with E or F as fail grades, while others may use numeric grades or a different set of letter grades.

Grading Practices and Teacher Differences

  • Teacher Discretion: Individual teachers play a significant role in how grades are assigned. This can include the criteria for awarding plus and minus grades, the weight of different assignments or exams, and the consideration of improvement or effort over the term.
  • Subjective Elements: Particularly in subjects that involve subjective judgment, such as art, literature, or history, grading can reflect a range of interpretations about quality and achievement. Teachers are encouraged to provide clear rubrics or criteria to help standardize grading within these subjects.

Handling of Failing Grades

  • High School: Failing grades are typically addressed by offering additional support to students, such as tutoring, remedial classes, or the opportunity to retake assessments. The goal is to help students achieve the learning outcomes they missed.
  • Tertiary Institutions: Policies for failing grades can include academic probation, where students must improve their grades within a specified period to continue their studies. Some institutions offer supplementary exams or assignments to give students a second chance to pass.

Additional Considerations

  • Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: New Zealand’s diverse student population means that educators often need to be mindful of cultural and linguistic differences that might affect grading. This includes providing additional support for English language learners and respecting cultural perspectives in assignments and assessments.
  • Special Education Needs: Schools and universities are required to accommodate students with special education needs, which may include alternative assessment methods or adjustments to grading criteria to ensure that these students are fairly assessed based on their capabilities.

Understanding these special grading considerations is essential for a comprehensive grasp of the New Zealand education system. It highlights the importance of communication between educators, students, and parents to ensure that grading reflects a fair and accurate assessment of student achievement.


What does an ‘E’ grade mean in New Zealand schools?

  • In New Zealand, an ‘E’ grade at the high school level typically stands for ‘Excellence,’ indicating outstanding performance. In the context of university grading, ‘E’ often signifies a failing grade.

How is the GPA calculated in New Zealand universities?

  • GPA calculation in New Zealand universities varies by institution. Generally, it involves assigning a numerical value to each grade (e.g., A+ = 9), multiplying this by the credit value of the course, and then averaging these scores over all courses taken.

Can grades from New Zealand be easily converted for overseas universities?

  • While there is no universal conversion method, many overseas universities are familiar with New Zealand’s grading system and can perform conversions based on general equivalence tables. However, it’s always best to check with the specific institution for their conversion criteria.

Are there any plus (+) and minus (-) grades in New Zealand’s grading system?

  • Yes, plus (+) and minus (-) grades are used in some New Zealand secondary and most tertiary institutions to provide a more nuanced assessment of student performance.

What happens if I fail a course in a New Zealand university?

  • Policies for failing a course vary by institution. Options may include retaking the course, undergoing supplementary assessments, or, in some cases, academic probation. Support services are often available to help students improve their performance.

Is there a standard grading system for all New Zealand universities?

  • No, each university in New Zealand may have its own specific grading system, though there are similarities across the board. Always refer to your university’s grading policies for accurate information.

How do New Zealand grades compare to those in other countries?

  • New Zealand grades can be broadly compared to those in other countries using general equivalence tables, but exact comparisons depend on the specific country and institution’s grading policies.

Understanding the nuances of New Zealand’s grading system can help students and their families navigate the educational landscape more effectively, setting the stage for academic success and future opportunities.

Additional Resources

For those looking to delve deeper into the New Zealand grading system, or needing specific information directly from the source, here are some official and helpful websites. These sites can provide detailed explanations, guidelines, and resources for students, educators, and parents navigating the New Zealand education system.

  • New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA):
  • This is the official site for understanding national qualifications and the assessment standards in New Zealand. It offers comprehensive guides on the NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement), including how grades are awarded and interpreted.
  • Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara:
  • This website represents all universities in New Zealand, providing information on university grading systems, admission criteria, and course equivalencies. It’s a valuable resource for students considering higher education.
  • Study in New Zealand – Government Site:
  • An official government website that provides insights into studying in New Zealand for international students, including understanding the education system and grading scales.
  • Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao:
  • This site offers resources and support for international education in New Zealand, including guides on the New Zealand education system and advice for international students.

These resources are excellent starting points for gaining a deeper understanding of the grading system and education pathways in New Zealand. Whether you’re a local student navigating your education journey or an international student considering studying in New Zealand, these sites offer valuable information to help you make informed decisions.