Advanced Higher - unreformed

Advanced Higher

This QIP refers to the unreformed Advanced Higher

Country
  • Scotland
Purpose

Advanced Highers offer increased subject specialisation, enabling candidates to develop subject knowledge and skills (and other transferable skills, as appropriate).

Sitting at the same Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level as the starting point of Scottish higher education (HE), SCQF Level 7, they are designed to provide a greater level of challenge beyond Higher for candidates in S6, particularly where they are seeking entry to HE - including direct entry to second year of a degree.

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.

Education context

In Scotland, secondary school is organised into six school years, S1 – S6 (first year to sixth year).

Advanced Highers are taken in many state schools, some tertiary colleges and most independent schools in Scotland.

Since the introduction of Curriculum for excellence (CfE) in 2010, there has been greater flexibility in the provision of qualifications. As a result, schools will follow varied patterns of provision, enabling candidates to take Advanced Highers across S4-S6, depending on the learner journey that they are undertaking.  In some cases, for example due to timetabling limitations, a learner may not be have the opportunity to take Advanced Highers at their school or college.

The current Advanced Highers will lapse after the 2014/15 academic year and will be replaced by the new Advanced Highers. SQA has indicated that the standard of reformed and unreformed Highers and Advanced Highers is the same.

SCQF Level 7 is the starting level for Scottish higher education on the SCQF. Applicants to HE may be awarded direct entry to the second year at Scottish HEPs for certain degree subjects based on specified achievement in two or three Advanced Highers.

Awarding organisation
  • SQA
Structure

Advanced Highers are made up of National Units totalling 24 SCQF credit points (240 notional learning hours), usually including three Units each worth 8 SCQF credit points. However, smaller and larger Units make up some Advanced Highers, depending on fitness for purpose.

An additional eight SCQF credit points (80 notional learning hours) are achieved through the added value provided in the course award, which is the externally assessed component(s) from which the grade is wholly derived. This combines different skills, knowledge and understanding from across the course into a synoptic external assessment (which may be made up of one or more components). Learners are required to pass the external assessment in order to achieve the Advanced Higher course.

Most Advanced Highers do not contain optional Units, but a small number do (see the Arrangements Documents by subject at www.sqa.org.uk/NQ for further information).

All Units are levelled at SCQF Level 7.

All Advanced Highers are developed according to SQA’s Design Principles for National Courses and the SCQF level descriptors in order to ensure the consistency of standards, validity and reliability across subjects.

Subject areas
  • Accounting
  • Applied mathematics: mechanics
  • Applied mathematics: statistics
  • Art and design: design
  • Art and design: expressive
  • Biology
  • Business management
  • Cantonese
  • Chemistry
  • Classical Greek
  • Classical studies
  • Computing graphic communication
  • Drama
  • Economics
  • English
  • French
  • Gaelic (learners)
  • Gàidhlig
  • Geography
  • German
  • History
  • Home economics: health and food technology
  • Information systems
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Mandarin (simplified)
  • Mandarin (traditional)
  • Mathematics: mathematics 1, 2 & 3
  • Modern studies
  • Music: performing with technology
  • Music: performing
  • Physical education
  • Physics
  • Product design
  • Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies (RMPS)
  • Spanish
  • Technological studies
Levels
  • SCQF Level 7

SCQF Level 7 sits across Levels 3 and 4 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

SCQF Level 7 is the starting level for Scottish higher education on the SCQF.

Applicants to HE may be awarded direct entry to the second year at Scottish HEPs for certain degree subjects based on specified achievement in two or three Advanced Highers.

Grading

A, B, C, D.

Assessment

Unit assessment is usually taken at the end of the learning and teaching of each Unit and is not graded.

Assessment of Units is usually through closed-book assessment under supervision.

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

Course assessment combines different skills, knowledge and understanding from across the course into a synoptic external assessment (which may be made up of one or more components). 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. Learners are required to pass the course assessment in order to achieve the Advanced Higher course.

Course assessment may have one or more components, which may include, for example, an external examination paper and an assignment or performance piece. 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.

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

The Arrangements Documents specify the nature of both Unit and course assessment for each subject: www.sqa.org.uk/NQ.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Grading is derived from the added value (externality and synoptic assessment) in the course assessment.

Units which contribute to the course are not graded and do not therefore contribute to the final grade.

The course grade is based on the total marks for all components of the course assessment (for example, a question paper and a dissertation). Where there is more than one course assessment component, the weighting (marks/percentage) between them varies from subject to subject. See the subject Arrangements Documents for specific information: www.sqa.org.uk/NQ.

Resit arrangements

SQA offers one annual opportunity for course assessment each year. Candidates may resit the course assessment in a subsequent academic year and retake any course assessment not passed previously.

Any Unit assessment already achieved need not be resat if the course is being retaken.

All components of course assessment must be resat if the course is being retaken.

Resitting an Advanced Higher would be particularly rare, with it only likely to occur if a candidate either attempted an Advanced Higher in S5 and either did not pass it or did not achieve the grade they required; or if they took a resit in a tertiary college after S5 or S6.

For candidates who resit an Advanced Higher, SQA’s Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) records each achievement at grade D or above.

Guided / notional learning hours
notional learning hours: 320 hours
Guided / notional learning hours notes

32 SCQF credit points

UCAS Tariff points

Scottish Advanced Higher

Grade Points
A 56
B 48
C 40
D 32
Key issues for UK HE admissions

SCQF Level 7 qualification (sitting across Levels 3 and 4 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales).

SCQF Level 7 is the starting level for Scottish higher education on the SCQF.

Applicants to HE may be awarded direct entry to the second year at Scottish HEPs for certain degree subjects based on specified achievement in two or three Advanced Highers.

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

However, most Scottish HEPs also make offers based on the achievement of two to three specific Advanced Highers for entry to the second year of certain undergraduate degrees.

In most cases, candidates will enter for one or two Advanced Highers. 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.

Some courses, such as medicine and dentistry, often stipulate that a candidate must have a GCSE equivalent entry requirement, such as a National 5 qualification in English. In the event that an applicant has bypassed their National 4 and 5 qualifications, the university or college will normally require that the qualifications are achieved at Higher or Advanced Higher.

Timing of assessments and results

Advanced Higher examinations are taken from late April to mid-June.

Results are published in early August.

Qualification date
Until 30 Jun 2015 (This is a legacy qualification.)
Qualification dates notes

The unreformed Advanced Highers lapsed after the 2014/15 academic year and were replaced by new Advanced Highers, introduced at the start of the 2015/16 academic year. The unreformed and new Advanced Highers were not dual-run.

Certification information

Almost 20,000 Advanced Highers were awarded at grades A – D in 2014.

Grade distributions vary across subjects.

Advanced Higher entries and achievement rates, including by age and stage, along with grade distributions and trends in pass rates by year are available at: www.sqa.org.uk/statistics.

Further information

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.