Advanced Highers are not the standard entry requirement for Scottish applicants to Scottish HEPs, but are for several HEPs in the rest of the UK.

Advanced Highers also provide access to employment, further education and training.

The new Advanced Highers build upon Highers, helping to develop candidates’ knowledge and understanding of key concepts; they are also designed to better enable candidates to interpret, critically analyse, evaluate and reflect on information.

There is also greater emphasis on skills development, including higher-order (critical) thinking skills, creativity and innovation, research and investigation skills, extended essay-writing skills and independent study skills.

The aim is to provide a solid basis for progression into higher education while developing candidates with a more mature approach to study that will help sustain success at degree study and beyond.


A, B, C, D


Unit assessment may be undertaken at the end of each Unit or through holistic or combined assessment across two or more Units.

Unit assessment is marked by the teacher or lecturer and is not graded. It is subject to internal verification in the centre and to rigorous external quality assurance by SQA.

Units are assessed according to the Conditions of Assessment appropriate to the subject and the level.

Where appropriate, some Units are assessed through methods such as an assignment, practical activities, performance or portfolio evidence.

Course assessment will usually have two or more components, which will be drawn from the seven assessment methods used in National Qualifications — a question paper (exam) and/or coursework (either an assignment, case study, portfolio, practical activity, performance or project).

Most components of Course assessment are wholly externally assessed, but where appropriate to the skills, knowledge and understanding being assessed, Course assessment may be made up of a combination of externally- and internally-assessed (and externally verified) components which contribute to the grade.

Course assessment combines different skills, knowledge and understanding, usually into two or more synoptic externally-assessed components which assess breadth and/or depth across the Course. The Course assessment measures retention, integration and application of skills, knowledge and understanding as appropriate. Grades are awarded on the basis of the Course assessment only.

To gain a Course award, candidates must achieve a Pass in each of the Units of the Course as well as achieve a grade D or above in the Course assessment.

The Course and Unit Specifications stipulate the nature of both Unit and Course assessment and are available on the subject page. Course and Unit Support Notes are also available for each subject: www.sqa.org.uk/browsecfesubjects.

Further information

Many candidates in S6 receive unconditional offers from Scottish HEPs based on their Highers results in S5.

Historically, where candidates take them, they will enter for one or two Advanced Highers, with around 70% of candidates who take them, only taking one Advanced Higher in S6. Therefore, three Advanced Highers in S6 is not the standard uptake. Local timetabling decisions and size of school may create variations in the pattern of provision; this may affect the number of Advanced Highers offered and taken at a centre.

In some cases, for example due to geography, timetabling decisions or size of provider, a learner may not have the opportunity to take Advanced Highers at their school or college.  Candidates in S6 with limited or no access to Advanced Highers may take further Higher subjects instead of, or in addition to, Advanced Highers. Some candidates may register at multiple centres within the same school year in order to access a wider range of subjects.

Under CfE, there is an enhanced emphasis on ensuring that students undertake their learning journey and the qualifications and assessment which support it, at a pace which best meets their needs, allowing them some personalisation and choice in the overall curriculum they engage with. As such, different patterns of provision and attainment stage among students are likely to emerge.

Candidates may apply to HEPs with a mixture of unreformed and new Advanced Highers.

SQA’s National Qualification Arrangements Documents for each Advanced Higher subject are available at: www.sqa.org.uk/NQ

SQA’s website is: www.sqa.org.uk

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) website is available at: www.scqf.org.uk

SQA’s National Qualifications Course and Unit Specifications and other supporting documentation for each Higher subject are available at: A to Z of National Qualification (NQ) subjects - SQA