Features and Advantages of SQA Qualifications

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Features and advantages of SQA qualifications

Unit-based system

In all three qualifications families, Units are used as building blocks of all our Group Awards (and National Courses), and are recognised and certificated as learning achievements in their own right.

The Unit-based system offers:

Competence-based learning

Units are competence-based, and are designed to show what a candidate can do.  Each Unit contains Outcomes (sometimes called 'Elements') which list the practical skills and the knowledge against which the candidate is assessed.  To achieve the Unit, candidates must demonstrate the required performance against standards for each Outcome.


Assessment is carried out against Unit descriptors (or against National Occupational Standards for SVQs) which give clear statements for both the teacher and candidate of what has to be achieved.  Success has to be demonstrated against all of the Unit Outcomes.  We encourage 'holistic' assessment of Outcomes, whereby assessment can be planned, and assessment instruments can be designed, to cover a number of Outcomes as a whole activity.

Units are all internally assessed (ie assessment by you and/or your colleagues).  SQA provides the standards against which candidates must be assessed, and makes sure that this assessment is carried out in a way that is valid, consistent and reliable (see 'Assessment and Quality Assurance').

Assessment of National Courses involves internal assessment of Units, coupled with an externally-set (by SQA) assessment which tests candidates' retention and integration of the knowledge and understanding acquired while studying the component Units.  This external assessment provides a means of grading candidates' final performance.