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NZCEL is a New Zealand Certificate In English Language (IELTS equivalent) that is officially recognised by the NZQA. If you have not reached the required IELTS Academic score for admission to a university, then you may consider pathway training – the NZCEL course. Successful completion guarantees admission to the main diploma program only in New Zealand educational institutions.



Level 1 – Beginner level

Level 5 – Academic English.

Depending on the chosen program of study at a New Zealand university, you will need NZCEL Level 3, 4 or 5. Each level requires a full course of study in order to obtain an NZCEL certificate. Usually, the duration of one level is 17-19 weeks.

From the 3rd level (NZCEL Level 3), courses are in both General and Academic formats. From the 4th level, there is usually only Academic format.


  • NZCEL Level 1-2 (Beginner Level)
  • NZCEL level 3 Academic = IELTS Academic (equivalent to 5.0 – 5.5) is required for admission to level 4 programs (certificates)
  • NZCEL level 4 Academic = IELTS Academic (equivalent to 6.0 – 6.5) is needed for admission to Bachelor’s programs, Graduate Diploma and diploma programs at levels 4-6
  • NZCEL level 5 Academic = IELTS Academic (equivalent to 6.5 – 7.0) is required for admission to Postgraduate Diploma, Masters, PhD programs

* A table of equivalent points for language certificates is given here


There are usually no requirements for enrolment in the General module at levels 1-2.

To enrol in the Academic module of level 4-5, you need to pass the previous NZCEL level or provide an IELTS certificate. The standard requirement is the presence of IELTS with a score 0.5 lower than is required for the entrance for the diploma program.

It is assumed that for one NZCEL level the student raises their level on the IELTS scale by 0.5 points. That is, if a student wants to enter NZCEL Level 4, they must either have an NZCEL level 3 certificate or an IELTS Academic certificate with an overall score of 5.5.


  • NZCEL Level 3 – IELTS Academic 4.5
  • NZCEL Level 4 – IELTS Academic 5.5
  • NZCEL Level 5 – IELTS Academic 6.0


Usually, the course costs about NZ$ 7-8K which is about NZ$ 350-400 per week.


NZCEL courses are mainly offered by all state institutes and some universities in the country. Among private institutes, it is in Aspire2, AIS. The course can also be taken at language schools in New Zealand.

All universities in New Zealand accept NZCEL certificates for admission to the corresponding diploma program. This is the official equivalent of IELTS.

The start dates for the NZCEL course are fixed, they need to be checked on the website of the university, language school or with your Kiwi Education manager. It is important to correctly calculate the start and end dates of each NZCEL level and the start date of the diploma program in order to correctly apply for a visa and take into account the timing of both training programs.


If you plan to continue studying on a diploma program after completing the NZCEL course, you must first apply for a visa only for the NZCEL course, then again for a diploma program (two applications for a student visa).

Important things when applying for a visa for the NZCEL course:

  • It is necessary to base the strategy on the diploma program as the ultimate goal. Depending on the level of the diploma program and its start date, you need to choose the level of the NZCEL course, one or several, calculate everything in terms of time, check the entry requirements for NZCEL.
  • After receiving an offer of place to NZCEL and a conditional offer of place to the diploma program, we apply for the first visa for the NZCEL course.
  • Ideally, the student show funds both for the NZCEL course and for a further diploma program.
  • For the NZCEL course, as well as for a regular English course, a limited visa can be given. That means that at the end of the program, the student must leave New Zealand for a third country to apply for a new visa.
  • There is an opportunity to get a Pathway student visa immediately to NZCEL + diploma program. To do this, you need to check whether the selected university passes the Pathway education provider category. Usually, NZCEL and the diploma program are chosen at the same university. Pathway visa will be issued for the ENTIRE course of study.
  • If a student does not complete the NZCEL course on time and does not have time to enrol in the diploma program (the visa deadlines failed), then in order to extend the English course, they will need to reapply for a visa. Therefore, the terms for the Pathway visa must be strictly observed so that this situation does not arise.

We hope this article was helpful to you. In order to correctly compose the entire learning path from start to finish, contact Kiwi Education!

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