To achieve NCEA, you need to get 80 credits for each level, but your school will tell you how many credits you need to earn a subject pass for NCEA Japanese at each level. It can be challenging for parents who went to school under the old School Certificate system to help their children navigate the NCEA system.

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What is NCEA Japanese Scholarship and Merit?

NCEA Level 3 is the last year of high school, with many students going to tertiary education after completing this year. For these students, you can receive a financial award of between $500 and $30,000.

If you excel at NCEA Japanese Level 3, you can receive a "Single Subject Award", which is a one-off payment of $500. While the "Premier Award" pays students $10,000 each year for three years of study. This is awarded to the top few students, so competition is very tough.

Scholarship NCEA Japanese is separate from the standard NCEA assessments. So, students are not obliged to reach scholarship level, but the better grade achieved, the more doors get opened.

With all NCEA subjects, each unit standard (subject) have four levels of pass or fail:

  • Not achieved (N) for not meeting the criteria of the standard
  • Achieved (A) for meeting the criteria of the standard
  • Merit (M) for meeting the criteria of the standard to a very good level
  • Excellence (E) for meeting the requirements of the standard to an outstanding level
Japanese scholar writing Hiragana, Katakana, or Kanji
Japanese scholarship will mean you need to study. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Understanding NCEA Assessments

Since NCEA was introduced in 2002, schools have finessed the system to support students to achieve their educational goals. Sitting NCEA is free, although you may have school fees or a school donation depending on the school attended. Students can access past exams free through the NZQA website and can gain access to a range of resources and tutors at varying costs.

The critical thing to remember is that NZQA assessments are designed to help you show how well you understand the topic you have been studying. It is not intended to make you fail. While passing will not be easy, achieving excellence in all subjects can be accomplished with the right resources and study tips.

However, the better achieved in each subject unit, the more endorsements received. This matters when you compete for entry into restricted university courses or are looking to be awarded the financial bonus attached to scholarship awards.

Choosing What Japanese Subjects to Take

The fantastic thing about the NCEA system is that there is room for students to take subjects that interest them. Suppose you want to follow into a career in diplomacy. In that case, you may prefer to focus on the achievement standards that emphasise a spoken presentation. Whereas if you want to work in a scientific environment with Japanese scientists, perhaps written Japanese is more your calling.

NCEA Japanese Level 1 is designed to provide a foundation for the subject. However, not all schools have NCEA Level 1 subjects. Don't worry; your teachers will help you navigate how to approach NCEA Japanese subjects to help get you to your end goal.

However, you can also look at the Achievement Standards each year. Information is available on the NZQA website and will let you look at the type of assessments you will be facing for each NCEA subject and how many credits each is worth.

Describe this plate of sushi in Japanese
Use Japanese language as often as possible. Image by Piotr Zakrzewski from Pixabay

NCEA Japanese Level 1 Achievement Standards

  • Demonstrate understanding of a variety of spoken Japanese texts on areas of most immediate relevance
  • Give a spoken presentation in Japanese that communicates a personal response
  • Interact using spoken Japanese to communicate personal information, ideas and opinions in different situations
  • Demonstrate understanding of a variety of Japanese texts on areas of most immediate relevance
  • Write a variety of text types in Japanese on areas of most immediate relevance

NCEA Japanese Level 2 Achievement Standards

  • Demonstrate understanding of a variety of spoken Japanese texts on familiar matters
  • Interact using spoken Japanese to share information and justify ideas and opinions in different situations
  • Give a spoken presentation in Japanese that communicates information, ideas and opinions
  • Demonstrate understanding of a variety of written and/or visual Japanese text(s) on familiar matters
  • Write a variety of text types in Japanese to convey information, ideas, and opinions in genuine contexts

NCEA Japanese Level 3 Achievement Standards

  • Demonstrate understanding of a variety of extended spoken Japanese texts
  • Give a clear spoken presentation in Japanese that communicates a critical response to stimulus material
  • Interact clearly using spoken Japanese to explore and justify varied ideas and perspectives in different situations
  • Demonstrate understanding of a variety of extended written and/or visual Japanese texts
  • Write a variety of text types in clear Japanese to explore and justify varied ideas and perspectives
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Using Past Exam Papers for NCEA Japanese Study

Going through each of the achievement standards on the NZQA website, you'll be able to access past exams. As well as these students have access to exemplars to give a solid understanding of what is expected.

There are also Assessment Reports for each achievement standard. These are an invaluable resource and provide detailed information about expectations, recommendations to students on what the assessors are looking for, and suggestions for areas to study. For example, this note regarding Level 1 Japanese 2020:

Candidates struggled with some words where the sound was similar to another word – for instance, えいが・えいご.

roku origami cranes in different colours
Master NCEA Japanese by finding fun ways to use the langauge. Image by emis_amis from Pixabay

How to Study to pass NCEA Japanese

All levels of NCEA Japanese assessment are designed to increase fluency and knowledge of the language that is used in everyday interactions. This means that while studying vocabulary lists and grammar is helpful, being able to read the Hiragana used in newspapers, magazines and manga is the goal.

Using natural media will help students understand the language in context. While looking at tv shows, magazines, music or social media feeds that are of actual interest increase motivation to stick with the slow process of decoding.

As with everything, repeated exposure and practice will help with fluency. While language learning marketing often uses "just 30 minutes a day", 30 minutes of dedicated practice in a language that you don't yet understand is exhausted. So, finding ways to create a more immersive environment can be very beneficial. However, don't play Japanese audio (music, movies etc.) in the background while studying an English text, as your brain will use the audio as white noise, and it will be of no benefit.

Conversational Japanese or an NCEA Tutor

While there is no expectation for a level 3 NCEA Japanese student to have the vocabulary of a native Japanese speaker, aiming to be as fluent as possible is a great goal. For this, students need to use as much of the language as possible.

You can find language exchange partners through school, online sources, and social media. Sometimes, these people want to practice speaking your native language and are willing to help you practice speaking their native language. While language exchanges can be helpful and usually free, Japanese learners need a certain level of knowledge to get the full benefit.

For most NCEA students working with a dedicated tutor is a better option. Whether you are working with a Japanese tutor or a native Japanese speaker with NCEA tutoring experience, you will want to make sure that they are responsible, knowledgeable, and have a good reputation.

A quick online search will provide you with numerous options. Still, obviously, we would recommend working through Superprof to find the best NCEA Japanese tutors. It's not just biased, but Superprof has one of the best review systems, is transparent, and makes it easier for students to connect to the proper language tutor.

Japanese teenagers sitting after practice
Find different ways to be exposed to Japanese language and culture. Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay

Improved Japanese Pronunciation

New Zealanders do some strange things with their vowels that can often make accurate pronunciation of non-English languages a struggle. Luckily for those that have had exposure to te reo Māori the similarity between the vowel sounds in Japanese and te reo Māori can make fluency and accurate pronunciation easier.

If you are struggling developing your Japanese accent, try thinking in a Māori accent and see if that helps you improve. While it can feel strange speaking in a “put on” accent, you aren’t faking anything, what you are doing is trying to accurately pronounce the sounds – and you can’t get that right if you are speaking with a strong Kiwi accent.

Japanese Practice and Revision

Because NCEA assessments are designed to assess the work you have done throughout the year, the first thing you should be doing to revise is actually revise. Go through your notes from class and make sure you understand the information from the beginning of the year. Work your way through the year and make notes about areas you are still unfamiliar with.

As tempting as it may be to spend time "practising" the work you really already understand, the ego boost and sense of achievement this delivers isn't as valuable as the effort of working through the areas you struggle with.

Listen to the recordings of Japanese audio used in previous exams a lot. Putting these on repeat and consciously listening can help you distinguish sounds, words and phrases. You have access to the transcript to check your accuracy and understanding. Still, the more you can understand yourself, the faster your fluency will increase.

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Alison