Highers are the primary qualification used for progression to higher education (HE) by Scottish domiciled students.

The new Highers will help 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 HE while developing candidates with a more mature approach to study that will help sustain success at degree study and beyond.


A, B, C, D.

Skills for Work Ungraded Highers are Pass or Fail. (Beauty & Health and social care).


Unit assessment may be undertaken at the end of the learning and teaching 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 two Skills for Work Ungraded Highers are based on internal assessment only. To achieve one of these Highers, candidates must pass the component Units of the Course.

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

Highers are the standard entry requirement for Scottish applicants to Scottish HEPs and many HEPs in the rest of the UK.

Most Scottish HE applicants will have four or five Highers. A smaller number may also have Advanced Highers.

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.

Some candidates will take Highers in more than one school or college in the same academic year in order to access a wider range of subjects.

Not all schools offer full Advanced Higher provision, so some candidates in S6 may take further Highers instead of, or in addition to, Advanced Highers.

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

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

SQA’s website is: www.sqa.org.uk.

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