Study Pathways

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Study pathways from secondary to tertiary education

Secondary Schools

Secondary schools (high schools and colleges) offer education from Year 9 to Year 13 level (ages 13 to 18 years). International students can enrol at a secondary school at any level including Years 12 and 13 as preparation for entry to tertiary level (University, Polytechnic or Private Training Establishment).

However, students are encouraged to enter at junior levels in Years 9 and 10 as this provides a solid foundation in both English and other academic subjects for tertiary level.


All high schools provide an English language programme for English second language students through which they can meet university and polytechnic English language requirements.

The New Zealand Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA) Levels 1 to 3 are taken in Years 11, 12 and 13. About 60 New Zealand secondary schools offer Cambridge International Examinations and 21 offer one or more of the International Baccalaureate programmes.

ISENZ Secondary Schools

English Language Schools

At University Level

International students graduating from high school may meet English language requirements for direct entry into a university (or other institution) without attending a language school.

If a secondary student achieves the necessary academic qualifications from a secondary school to enter a tertiary institution but fails to achieve the necessary English language requirements, then the student can attend an English language school to study for IELTS and university preparation courses to achieve the necessary English language requirements to attend university.


New Zealand universities require an IELTS score of 6.0 (with no band less than 5.5) for undergraduate admission, and 6.5 (with no band less than 6.0) for postgraduate. Some nursing programmes require an IELTS score of 7.0.

At Secondary School Level

If a secondary student arrives in New Zealand and their English language requirements are not up to the level to study in mainstream classes then the school may request that the student attend an English language school so that they can improve the student’s academic English and general English to the standard required for their secondary school courses.

English language schools offer a variety of English language courses from beginner to advanced academic English, concentrating in developing writing, reading, listening and spoken English language skills.

English language schools can offer secondary students holiday programmes with a combination of English language classes and activities to keep them busy during school holiday periods.

ISENZ English Language Schools

Tertiary Institutions

Entrance to an undergraduate programme of study in a New Zealand university from secondary school requires 42 credits at NCEA Level 3 and 8 credits at NCEA Level 2 in English and 10 credits at NCEA Level 2 in Mathematics. Some New Zealand universities may require students to have specific subjects and grades for programmes that have restricted entry.

International students entering university (or other tertiary institution) directly from another country will need to provide certified copies of their high school academic record and passport, as well as evidence of their English language proficiency (IELTS or TOEFL certificate).

ISENZ Universities
ISENZ Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology
ISENZ Private Training Establishments


Related Links

Study in New Zealand Official Website
Pathways: Your New Zealand education pathway

Find out more

For more information about study pathways and entry requirements into NZ schools and institutions, please contact us.