A-level and GCSE exams will not be held this summer due to Covid-19, Education Minister Peter Weir has said.
Instead, grades could be based on measures such as teachers' predictions and the results of mock exams. Schools will close from Monday.
Mr Weir said: "Our priority is that students receive fair grades that reflect hard work."
He said CCEA awarding groups would develop a "robust" process for awarding grades.
The closure of schools has left parents scrambling to make childcare arrangements.
Some schools could stay open to allow health service workers to attend their jobs.
Qualifications body the CCEA welcomed clarity around closures and cancellation of the summer examinations timetable.
It said: "The CCEA has a range of tried and tested methods for awarding grades which we will explore alongside other options with counterparts across the UK.
"We will prioritise final solutions for A-level examinations, then GCSE terminal examinations, the AS qualifications and finally modular GCSE.
"In parallel, we will work with other awarding organisations so our approaches are similar.
"We will also work with vocational qualification providers to ensure there are solutions for those qualifications.
"We can assure everyone that we will be guided by examination experts and will ensure that our solution is fair and reliable."
SDLP education spokesman Daniel McCrossan MLA said the measures announced by Mr Weir would stretch schools, teachers, parents and pupils but were necessary to protect people from the spread of coronavirus.
"Our school communities need clarity and certainty in the days ahead," he added.
"We need to know what facilities will be available to key workers and their children.
"We need to know how remote learning will operate and how it will take account of variable internet access across the North and, importantly, the process for awarding GCSE and A-level grades.
"The Education Minister has an immense challenge ahead, but I want to assure him and assure our school communities that we will provide support and be a constructive influence in the time ahead."
Earlier this week First Minister Arlene Foster announced the "unplanned and long-term" closure of schools here from Monday in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Yesterday Mr Weir told BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show that a limited number of schools with a skeleton staff would be open from Monday for healthcare workers' children.
He added that the scheme would be expanded to the children of other key workers after next week, saying that work was under way to establish a comprehensive list of key workers.
The minister also said that education would continue, despite the likelihood that schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
"While we said that pupils will not be in (schools), teachers will continue to work, largely through schools, some because of self-isolation from home," he explained.
"Education will continue to be delivered. They will be teaching through online resources and through packs."
"The aim throughout this process is for teaching to continue and teaching to continue up to the end of the academic year."
Last night Employers for Childcare, a charity that works on behalf of parents, employers and childcare providers, said that "a number of providers are working directly with the Executive and elected representatives to explore innovative solutions to some of these issues".
Aoife Hamilton, policy and information manager at Employers For Childcare, praised the childcare sector for "stepping up to the mark" during what she described as a "challenging time".
Ms Hamilton also called on the Government "to ensure that financial support is guaranteed to support parents, employers and childcare providers".
She added: "This is essential to mitigate the severe impact the temporary closure of childcare settings will have on families and the economy both now and when social isolation measures are no longer required, and the risk of collapse to our vital childcare sector."