Highers develop subject knowledge and skills (and other transferable skills, as appropriate).

Highers have a long history of facilitating entry to higher education and also of providing access to employment, further education and training.


A, B, C, D.

There are three ungraded Highers (Beauty, Health & social care and Personal development).


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 activities, 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. Students are required to pass the course assessment in order to achieve the 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 three ungraded Highers are based on internal assessment only. To achieve one of these Highers, candidates must pass the component Units of the course.

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

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 have Advanced Highers.

Under the current system, local timetabling restrictions and size of school can create variations in the pattern of provision on offer, affecting the number of courses, subjects taken, timing and type of qualifications candidates take.

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

In some schools some candidates may take some Highers in S4 or S6 instead of all in S5.

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.

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.

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

SQA’s website is: www.sqa.org.uk.