Recognition of Prior Learning is a method of assessing whether a learner’s experience and achievements meet the evidence requirements (ie the standard) of a SQA Unit or Units and which may or may not have been developed through a course of learning. For further information visit: SQA RPL Policy
Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to the most commonly asked questions.
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Whether you are a college, school, employer or training provider, our Centre FAQs can help answer most of your questions.
If you are studying or thinking about taking one of our qualifications, our FAQs can answer most of your questions, especially around exam time.
Our FAQs can help with questions you may have about our National Qualifications that support Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence.
Results Services have replaced the appeals service. We have prepared a number of FAQs to help answer your questions about the new Results Services.
These FAQs should help to answer any questions you have about your Scottish Qualifications Certificate.
The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) is a way of comparing the wide range of Scottish qualifications.
If you are interested in having your qualifications or learning programmes included in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) these FAQs are for you.
SQA’s Customised Awards allow you to develop qualifications that are tailored to your needs.
What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)?
Find out the dates of this year’s exams (timetable)?
Check the dates and times of this year's exams using the current examination timetable.
How do I make changes to a candidates' personal details?
You can make changes to your registered candidates' personal details as long as these details are accurate and the proper identification is provided to support this change. If you have any other queries relating to this process please e-mail:
How do I check key dates for submission of entries?
The calendar of key dates for submission of entries is available on our Operational Help Centre.
How do I update my centre’s details with SQA?
You can update your centre's details, including details for the SQA Co-ordinator, either by contacting our Business Development and Customer Support team, or by filling out our online Centre Update form.
How do I provide feedback, comments or make a complaint to SQA?
If you don't already have a named contact within SQA, contact our Business Development and Customer Support team. Our Customer Charter gives further details and information on how to make a formal complaint.
How do I make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request?
I would like to deliver a specific qualification, how would I go about this?
If you know the name of your Business Development Manager/Consultant then you can contact them directly.
Alternatively call 0303 3330330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in touch with the relevant contact.
For more information visit: How do I deliver SQA qualifications - http://www.sqa.org.uk/sandbox/63284.html
How can I access Support Materials?
All support materials are held on the SQA Secure website www.sqa.org.uk/secure
If you need access to the SQA Secure website you should speak to the SQA co-ordinator and they will arrange access.
I have a candidate who requires additional support during their exams, how can I arrange this?
Any requests for additional support needs must come directly from the centre and should be sent to email@example.com or call 0303 3330330
I would like find out how to become an Appointee?
For more information and to apply for Appointee positions please visit: Appluing to be an Appointee
Or contact us by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 2791000
There are a number of communication methods, depending on the nature of your enquiry. Full details are available on our Contact SQA page.
How can I find Past Papers?
How do I order a replacement certificate?
Replacement certificates can be arranged for a fee of £38.00 and this service normally takes between 2-3 weeks.
You can order your replacement certificate online: www.sqa.org.uk/eshop
Or submit a written request by completing our Replacement Certificate Form
Once complete the form can be returned to:
Scottish Qualifications Authority
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
If you have completed the form electronically and are paying by credit/debit card, you can e-mail: email@example.com
The replacement certificate will also show Core skills, SQA Credits & SCQF credit points if these are applicable to your qualification/s.
How can I sign up to receive my results by e-mail or text on MySQA?
Learners studying National Qualifications can sign up to receive exam results by e-mail or text on MySQA.
You register using your Scottish Candidate Number (SCN) and activate once you receive the activation letter – this letter will be sent to the address on our system. After you activate your account you will then have to select exam results by e-mail or text.
Please note: registration for MySQA closes a few weeks before the results are issued.
How do I make a general enquiry to SQA for advice and guidance?
For general candidate support and help, please complete our candidate enquiry form.
How can I get study guide advice and information?
Our Study Guides and videos will give you hints and tips to help you study.
How do I find my Scottish Candidate Number (SCN)?
Your Scottish Candidate Number (SCN) is displayed directly under your name on your certificate.
If you do not have your certificate you should complete the Candidate Enquiry Form, this will allow us to locate your records and provide you with your SCN
Or call us on: 0345 279 1000 and we will confirm your details and then provide you with your SCN Number.
How do I compare my qualifications?
We cannot provide direct comparisons between our qualifications and that of other awarding bodies within the UK or Internationally.
How do I change the name on my record or certificate?
To enable us to process and update your candidate record we are required to obtain the necessary documentation. You must provide two items from the list below. The documents should be the originals, not photocopies.
- Drivers Licence
- Justice of Peace letter
- Birth certificate
- Decree Nisi
- Marriage/Civil Partnership Certificate
- Adoption Certificate
All documentation you send to support your request will be returned to you via secure delivery. If you wish your documents returned by special delivery please post a cheque of £4.50 addressed to the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
Please post to the following address:
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
How do I change my address details?
If you are currently studying your school/college or training provider will have to change your address as this must be done by the centre who have registered you for the qualification you are studying.
If you are no longer studying, we will require more information to allow us to locate your Candidate record, please complete our Candidate Enquiry Form
We will then be able to complete your change of address.
Find out which centres offer courses I’m interested in?
To find out more about our courses contact your local school/college/training provider or visit: www.myworldofwork.co.uk
If you would like information on a specific course we offer then please complete the Candidate Enquiry Form.
What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)?
Recognition of Prior Learning is a method of assessing whether your experience and achievements meet the evidence requirements (ie the standard) of a SQA Unit or Units and which may or may not have been developed through a course of learning. For further information visit: SQA RPL Policy
What are the long-term benefits for learners who study National Qualifications?
The current National Qualifications have been designed to support the aims, values and purposes of Curriculum for Excellence – Scotland's national curriculum for young people aged 3 to 18. Learners will benefit from qualifications that support the curriculum and will experience a more connected, personalised and progressive educational experience.
National Qualifications will enable learners to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to face the challenges of the 21st century. They have been designed to reflect changes in technology and the increasing demand for a skilled and experienced young workforce.
Learners will also have the opportunity to study Courses that have been introduced to support young people in their progression to further study or employment in areas of industry growth, such as Environmental Science and Engineering Science.
What skills will learners develop when studying National Qualifications?
Our National Qualifications recognise the importance of equipping learners with the skills they will need when they go out beyond the classroom.
Learners will develop practical skills like data collection, literacy and team-working; Core Skills like communication, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), numeracy problem solving; and Skills for Learning, Life and Work (SfLLW) such as employability, independent thinking, and enterprise and citizenship.
How are literacy and numeracy skills developed?
Literacy and/or numeracy skills are developed within all National Courses, though how this takes place varies depending on the subject area.
Some National Courses contain National Literacy Units and some contain National Numeracy Units. These Units can also be taken on a freestanding basis for learners who want or need certification of their literacy and numeracy skills. Further information is available on our Literacy and Numeracy page.
What support is available in National Literacy Units for disabled learners and learners with additional support needs?
We have produced a quick and easy guide to supportive practices for National Literacy Units, which can be accessed from our literacy support page.
Do learners choose their subjects?
Yes. Learners choose which subjects they want to study at National 2, National 3, National 4 and National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher levels.
To find out when learners will make their subject choices and how many they will choose, please speak to the school or college.
Are learners who take 5, 6 or 7 subjects in S4 likely to be disadvantaged compared to those in other schools who take 8?
No learner should be disadvantaged by the number of subjects they study in S4.
We are working with universities, colleges and employers to make sure that they are aware of the different patterns of qualifications learners in different schools may take. In particular, Scottish Universities remain committed to fair admissions policies that allow equal consideration of candidates regardless of the number of subjects they have studied.
How are National Qualifications graded?
National 1 to National 4 are not graded; they are assessed as pass or fail.
National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher Courses are graded A to D or 'No Award'. Grading is based on the learner's performance in the Course assessment.
Are grades in National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher Courses banded?
Yes, however this information does not appear on the candidate's qualifications certificate. The certificate will simply state that the candidate has achieved grade A, B, C or D.
If a candidate wishes to find out which band they have achieved, they will need to contact their school or college. The school or college will be provided with details of which band the candidate achieved their grade at; for example, where a candidate has achieved an A, if they achieved an A (upper) at Band 1 or an A (lower) at Band 2.
What are grade boundaries and how do they work?
Grade boundaries are the marks required to achieve a particular grade within a Course.
For each National Course, the Course assessment (whether question paper or coursework, or both) has an intended level of demand and difficulty which reflects the grade descriptors for the Course and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level at which it is set.
If the Course assessment is found to be easier or more difficult than intended, adjustments are made to make sure the national standard of the Course is maintained. In other words, to make sure that the level of difficulty required to achieve an A, B, C or D in the assessment remains unchanged from one year to the next.
We take our responsibility to uphold the high standards of Scottish qualifications very seriously.
What does Grade D mean?
Candidates are awarded National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher Courses at grades A, B, C and D. This grade appears on their Scottish Qualifications Certificate.
Grade D, like grades A to C, is reported on the Scottish Qualifications Certificate as a Course award and attracts both UCAS points and SCQF points. Grade D indicates that the candidate has achieved all the National Units for the Course at that level and has achieved a band 7 in the external assessment - this equates to getting between 45-49% in the Course assessment.
Candidates who score less than 45% in the Course assessment receive a 'No Award' result, and are not awarded the National Course.
Is a Grade D at National 5 higher than a pass at National 4?
Yes. National 5 Courses carry 24 Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) credit points at SCQF level 5, reflected the level of demand and difficulty involved.
National 4 Courses – which are not graded – also carry 24 SCQF points, however these are at SCQF level 4, which has a lower level of demand and challenge.
What is the fallback position for candidates who receive a 'fail' or 'No Award' result?
There are no automatic backup arrangements for candidates, at any level.
Candidates who receive a 'fail' or 'No Award' result will still receive credit for any Units they have achieved and these will appear on the detailed Record of Attainment section of their qualifications certificate pack. The Units will be listed along with the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) credit points they have achieved.
For candidates who do not achieve the National 5 Course assessment, our Recognising Positive Achievement arrangements mean that they could be eligible to achieve the qualification at National 4 instead. Parents, carers or candidates who wish to find out more about Recognising Positive Achievement should speak to their school or college.
Why are there no external exams in National 4 Courses?
National 4 Courses have been designed to provide flexibility in timetabling and assessment. Internal assessment is more suitable for Courses at National 4 level and will help to build learners’ confidence in preparation for progression to National 5.
Do internally assessed qualifications hold less weight than those with externally marked assessments?
No. All internally assessed qualifications will be subject to robust quality assurance by SQA, to ensure that the qualifications are being assessed at the national standard.
National 4 follows a similar model to other existing qualifications such as the Higher National Certificate (HNC) and the Higher National Diploma (HND), which are both internally-assessed but quality-assured by SQA. Many people use these qualifications to progress into employment or to get into higher education, often with advanced standing (where the university accepts the qualification as credit towards completing an undergraduate course, enabling the student to enter the course at a more advanced stage, eg entering at second year instead of first year).
Do all learners sit prelims?
No. It is for individual schools or colleges to decide whether or not to use prelims. Prelims do not form part of the formal assessment process for National Qualifications and are not a requirement.
Prelim papers are set and marked by the school or college.
How is SQA ensuring that national standards are met and maintained?
We have robust quality assurance arrangements in place to support internal assessment in National Qualifications. We use a combination of approaches to externally verify assessments to make sure they continue to meet national standards. More information is available from our Quality Assurance page.
Is SQA providing support to teachers and lecturers to help them understand the national standards required?
Yes. We are currently running an Understanding Standards programme to help teachers and lecturers develop their understanding of the standards required for assessment. Further information on this programme can be found on the Understanding Standards webpage.
If schools and colleges are allowed to develop their own Unit assessments, how does SQA ensure that they are fit for purpose?
For schools and colleges that devise their own Unit assessments or significantly change our Unit assessments to suit their particular local needs, we offer a prior verification service. This is a free service where the assessment is submitted to us and it is scrutinised by an SQA Appointee to make sure it is fit for purpose. This service gives the school or college additional confidence that their proposed assessment is fit for purpose and meets national standards.
What is Results Services?
There are two Results Services:
- Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service
This service supports candidates who have been unable to attend an externally assessed timetabled examination, or whose performance in an externally assessed timetabled examination may have been fundamentally affected as a result of an incident beyond their control.
It is only available before the results are published, and exists to support only those candidates who have suffered an exceptional circumstance, such as bereavement or a medical condition.
This service is available for all examinations that appear in the examination timetable. If a school or college believes a candidate has been affected by exceptional circumstances it will inform SQA and submit alternative evidence of attainment demonstrated by the candidate such as coursework, class assessments or mock exams.
It is always recommended that a candidate sits the examination where possible. Sitting the examination does not exclude the candidate from having an exceptional circumstances request submitted on their behalf.
This service operates after candidates receive their exam results. If a school or college is concerned by a candidate’s result and believes the final mark does not reflect expectations then they can request a priority marking review, clerical check or a marking review of the exam paper and other externally assessed components, such as a portfolio.
If the clerical check or marking review leads to a change of grade (either up or down), this will be amended on our computer system and a new certificate will be issued to the candidate.
There will be no consideration of ‘alternative evidence’ with this service. If the original grade remains unchanged following the check/review, the school or college will be charged for this service.
What is a clerical check?
If a school or college submits a request for a clerical check, SQA staff will check that all parts of the exam paper or other externally assessed component, such as a portfolio, have been marked, that the marks given for each answer have been added correctly, and that the correct total mark or result was entered into SQA's computer system.
If a clerical check results in a change to a candidate's grade, SQA will issue a revised certificate to the candidate.
Schools and colleges will be charged a fee for using this service where there is no change to the original grade following the clerical check.
What is a marking review?
If a school or college submits a request for a marking review, a clerical check will first be carried out by SQA staff.
Next, an SQA Senior Examiner, not the original marker, will review the marks awarded in the candidate’s exam paper or other externally assessed component. This is to ensure that the original marking was in line with the national standard.
The candidate’s school or college will be informed of the result following the review. If a marking review results in a change to a candidate’s grade SQA will issue a revised certificate to the candidate.
Schools and colleges will be charged a fee for using this service when there is no change to the original grade following the marking review.
What is a priority marking review?
Schools and colleges can only request a priority marking review if a candidate’s place in further or higher education depends on the outcome of the review. The review will be undertaken by one of our Senior Examiners, not the original marker, to ensure the approved national marking scheme has been applied to the agreed national standard. A clerical check is also carried out.
We will guarantee to review marking and provide a final result to the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) by 31 August, providing the request is made to us by our published closing date.
What is meant by alternative evidence?
As part of the Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service, where a candidate is unable to sit the exam, their school or college will submit alternative evidence for SQA to consider. This evidence needs to demonstrate the ability of the candidate - giving our Examiners a clear picture of how the candidate performed during the Course. The alternative evidence can be coursework, class assessments and mock exams.
What type of evidence will SQA accept to support a candidate with exceptional circumstances?
The Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service allows us to accept a wide range of evidence.
Schools and colleges will, of course, have to provide evidence of demonstrated attainment, but we may be able to give credit even where this evidence has only a predictive value. In other words, our Examiners will use their professional judgement to determine what the candidate may have achieved, had they been able to complete the exam. The Examiners will review all the evidence provided by the candidate’s school or college, and award them with the grade they deserve.
Mock exams are organised and run locally by schools, colleges and education authorities. SQA will not insist on mock exams as the only form of acceptable evidence, but we do recognise that they are a good example of demonstrated attainment. We envisage that schools and colleges will continue to conduct mock exams as they do now and, therefore, submit these to us as evidence for any candidates affected by exceptional circumstances. However, there are other forms of evidence that could equally demonstrate the candidates’ attainment – these include classwork, class tests, homework assignments, essays etc. These will also be accepted.
Can the candidate's result go down?
Yes. If a school or college requests a clerical check or marking review of a candidate’s script and other externally assessed component, this can result in the candidate's result going up or down. When a result is changed (either up or down), this will be amended on our computer system and a new certificate will be issued to the candidate.
Is there a charge for the new Results Services?
If a school or college requests a clerical check or marking review of the script, and the grade remains unchanged, they will be charged for this service.
The charges are:
- Clerical check £10
- Marking review £29.75
- Priority marking review £39.75
There will be no charge for the Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service.
Do schools and colleges still have to submit estimates for candidates?
Yes, schools and colleges should still continue to submit estimates.
Candidates’ estimates will be given to our Examiners as part of the Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service. The Examiners can use these estimates when judging the alternative evidence that has been submitted by the candidate's school or college. The Examiners may look at how accurate the estimates were for the entire class and use this information as one of the factors when determining the appropriate result for the candidate.
Results Services 2014 summary
Results Services were successfully implemented in 2014. The attached report gives a high-level overview of the services.
Why have Results Services replaced the Appeals Service?
Our Results Services provides better support for candidates and reduces the burden on teachers and lecturers, enabling them to focus more on teaching and learning.
Prior to the implementation of Results Services, eligibility for an appeal was based on the candidate's estimate with only around 15% of candidates being eligible for this service. Results Services does not have these restrictions in place and are open to all candidates who have completed all the compulsory components for a National Course.
Who was involved in the decision for change?
Results Services are the product of a wide-ranging consultation between SQA together with schools, colleges and other education professionals who recognised that a review of the former Appeals Service was required.
SQA engaged with key stakeholders who were already involved in the appeals process. This included Head Teachers, Depute Head Teachers, candidates, parents and Principal Teachers. We also consulted with our Principal Assessors (who lead our examining teams) and SQA Co-ordinators (our main contacts in schools and colleges). Quality improvement officers and advisors from local authorities across Scotland also participated in the consultation.
In 2009 we looked at our Appeals Service and compared it with systems in other countries, and stakeholders’ perceptions of the Appeals process in general. Once this initial research was completed we then undertook further engagement on the expectations of the new services. This took place between May and December 2010.
During this time, the stakeholders we consulted included:
- Scottish Funding Council
- Scotland's Colleges
- Education Scotland (formerly Learning and Teaching Scotland and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education)
- Scottish Government
- Schools (including Head Teachers, Deputes and SQA Co-ordinators)
- Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
- Scottish Parent Teacher Council
- Scottish Parent Councils
- Skills Development Scotland
- Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
When were these changes made?
Results Services were introduced in session 2013-14. So the first exams to go through these new services were those sat in the summer of 2014.
Which qualifications are affected by these changes?
Results Services have been introduced for all National Courses that are externally assessed. ‘External’ assessments are marked by subject specialists appointed by SQA, whereas ‘internal’ assessments are marked in schools and colleges by the candidates’ teachers and lecturers.
The qualifications that Results Services apply to are: Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. (Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, and current Higher National Courses will be offered for the last time at the 2015 exam diet.)
Are any candidates disadvantaged by the new Results Services?
No. With the Post-results Service, if a school or college is concerned by a candidate's result, they can request a clerical check or marking review of that candidate’s exam script and other externally assessed component.
As part of the new Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service, we will continue to consider alternative evidence of demonstrated attainment by the candidate.
Following the consultation exercise, there was wide-spread agreement that the new Results Services are in the best interests of both candidates and teachers. See above for further details of the benefits they will bring.
Frequently Asked Questions
The questions most frequently raised by teachers, candidates and parents during 2014 are attached. All general enquiries should be raised with us at 0345 279 1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can keep up to date on Results Services by checking this web page for updates. You may also find our Beyond the Exam DVD useful:
- Beyond the Exam DVD (publication code BD6716, January 2014)
Your Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) 2015
Find out more information about your Scottish Qualification Certificate.
Non receipt or damaged certificate
Please contact your school or college after the holidays and they will arrange for a new certificate to be issued on your behalf if you did not receive your certificate or if it is damaged.
Incorrect spelling of name or results missing
SQA uses the details your school/college supplies us with. Please contact your school after the holidays and ask them to update/amend your details and advise us to arrange another certificate to be sent to you.
I have received two certificates with different information on them why?
The most likely explanation is that we are holding your results under two different Scottish Candidate Numbers. Please take both certificates to your school or college and ask them to arrange a merge with us to bring the information together into one single certificate.
I have not received a certificate at all how can I find out my results?
Please contact your school or college. They will have notification of your results. You must also check the address details your school or college hold for you. If they have the wrong details they must update your details and notify SQA and arrange for another certificate to be sent out.
Can I have something removed from my certificate?
Your certificate is a record of all your achievements. Items can only be removed if they have been included in error if you think this is the case you should contact your school or college who will liaise with us to resolve the matter.
I have sat my qualifications in Gaelic MySQA, SCQF and UCAS explained
This year, each candidate who has undertaken subject examinations through the medium of Gaelic will receive a single certificate displaying these qualification titles in Gaelic.
At present, the following examinations are available from SQA through the medium of Gaelic:
National 5: Geography, Modern Studies, History and Mathematics, Higher: Mathematics
This year, there are 26 candidates entered for Gaelic medium National 4 courses, 75 for Gaelic medium National 5 courses, and 27 Higher Matamataig (Mathematics).
Qualifications achieved through the medium of Gaelic will be displayed in Gaelic in the abbreviated text message and the e-mails that candidates receive if they have signed up for MySQA.SCQF Points
A qualification undertaken through the medium of Gaelic will attract the same number of SCQF points as its English equivalentUCAS Tariff
A qualification undertaken through the medium of Gaelic will attract the same number of UCAS points as its English equivalent.
I sat my exams in Gaelic but the course title does not appear on my certificate
Course titles and all Units/elements attained through the medium of Gaelic will be reported in Gaelic on the certificate. This includes the exam code element in the Detailed record of attainment. Candidates who do not complete or fail the external assessment (exam) will still see the Units/elements they have attained reported in Gaelic.
Qualification titles and Units/elements that appear in Gaelic on the certificate will be followed by an English translation in brackets (). (An appendix is attached providing details of the Gaelic titles and their English translation.)
There will also be a recognition statement (in English) reported on the Detailed record of attainment to indicate that the course was assessed and attained through the medium of Gaelic. The recognition statement will not appear if the candidate achieves units/elements or the external assessment only ie. does not achieve the complete course award.
Please contact your school to discuss further any questions you may have relating to the failure to complete the course or failing the external assessment.
My certificate does not contain the correct Gaelic spelling i.e. grave accents
The Scottish Qualifications Certificate will display the subject and any associated Units/elements in Gaelic. Due to restrictions with system functionality at this stage, we are unable to produce certain characters, such as grave accents, however this is under review as part of our Gaelic Language Plan commitments.
Can I order a Replacement Certificate in Gaelic?
Replacement certificates can be ordered via the Replacement Certificate Service. Only replacement certificates ordered for candidates who sat exams from 2012 onwards will display course titles and Units/elements in Gaelic. Replacement certificates for years up to and including 2011 will be issued in English only.
What is the SCQF?
The SCQF helps people understand Scottish qualifications. It provides a way of talking about, and comparing, qualifications. This will help people make better choices about learning and help them progress.
The SCQF brings together all the mainstream Scottish qualifications. It gives them credit points, which show how much learning has been achieved, and a level, which shows how demanding the learning is.
What does the SCQF do?
There are many different qualifications - Nationals, Highers, SVQs, HNC/HNDs, degrees - and the SCQF is a way of showing how they relate to one another.
Another reason for introducing the SCQF was to support progression or movement between different qualifications. Learners often have to start from scratch when they move job or start a new qualification, and the SCQF makes it much easier for learning and training providers to recognise what has already been achieved and to give learners ‘credit’ for this. It also helps people to understand the different routes they can take to acquire new skills and qualifications.
Why does Scotland need a Framework of levels and credits?
The Framework shows that qualifications are broadly comparable (though this does not mean that they are equivalent) by describing them using a common language of level and credit.
The SCQF supports the Scottish Government’s lifelong learning strategy and - now that there’s more mobility of learners and workers across the UK, Europe and internationally - qualification Frameworks are the method by which learning will be understood globally. SCQF information will be useful to holders of the Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) so they can explain to employers and training providers how their qualifications compare to other qualifications.
Who will benefit from the SCQF?
The SCQF is beneficial to a wide range of people and organisations such as:
- people of all ages and circumstances who access education and training over their lifetime to fulfil their personal, social and economic potential
- employers, learners and the public who will be able to understand the full range of Scottish qualifications, how they relate to each other and how they can contribute to improving skills
- qualification providers, who will be able to describe programmes of learning that lead to qualifications and make the relationship between qualifications clearer
Other benefits will be to:
- clarify entry and exit points and support the development of routes to progress from qualification to qualification
- maximise the opportunities to transfer credit between qualifications
- assist learners to plan their progress and learning
Who developed the SCQF?
The SCQF is managed by a partnership of SQA, the higher education sector (working through the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland), and the Scottish Government. An industry representative also sits on the SCQF Board. However, a much wider range of stakeholders have overseen the SCQF’s development, including Skills Development Scotland, learndirect scotland, the Confederation of British Industry, Confederation of Scotland’s Local Authorities (COSLA), Federation of Small Businesses, Education Scotland and Communities Scotland.
Is SCQF new?
The SCQF is managed by a partnership of SQA, the higher education sector (working through the Quality Assurance Agency and Universities Scotland), and the Scottish Government. The Association of Scotland’s Colleges have recently joined this partnership. However, a much wider range of stakeholders have overseen the SCQF’s development, also including Careers Scotland, learndirect scotland, the Confederation of British Industry, Confederation of Scotland’s Local Authorities (COSLA), Her Majesties Inspectorate of Education and Communities Scotland.
Visit the SQA Ready Reckoner to see where SQA qualifications are placed in the SCQF
What does ‘level’ mean??
The level of the qualification shows how demanding it is. There are 12 levels in the Framework, level 1 being the least difficult and level 12 the most demanding.
Are qualifications that have the same level equal?
No. The SCQF level shows that qualifications at the same level involve the same complexity of learning, but each qualification may differ in terms of the subject, purpose and size. For example; qualifications on the same level may have a different number of credit points, which will show that more time is needed to achieve the qualification. For example, an Advanced Higher is at SCQF level 7 and has 32 credit points, while a Higher National Certificate is also at SCQF level 7and has 96 credit points. Not only are the qualifications different sizes, but they are also different types and serve different purposes.
How do ‘credit points’ work? What do they mean?
Credit points are based on the amount of time an ‘average’ learner would take to complete the qualification. As well as including the time spent learning in school/college it includes self-directed learning - ie study at home or the library, etc.
The number of SCQF credit points shows how much learning has to be done to achieve the qualification. One SCQF credit point represents about 10 hours of learning. For example, if a learner achieves a Higher Course (level 6) with 24 SCQF credits, they will have done about 240 hours of learning.
Are all credit points worth the same?
Yes. (And no.) SCQF credit points are all allocated on the basis of one SCQF credit point to 10 learning hours. This means that the six SCQF credit points for a Higher Unit and the six credit points for an Intermediate 2 Unit each represent 60 hours of learning. However, the credits for Higher have been gained at level 6, while the credits for Intermediate 2 have been gained at level 5. This means that the learning at level 6 is more complex than level 5.
Do I aim to get as many credits as possible, or as many qualifications at the highest level?
You should aim for the programmes of learning that are best for you at different times of your life. For example, at school you might try for Highers (level 6). Later on, you might want to learn a new skill as a hobby, and that qualification could be at SCQF level 5; or during your working life you might take an SVQ at SCQF level 7.
Do credits entitle me to study for another qualification or job?
Individual universities and colleges set entry requirements for their courses, so it is up to them to determine how relevant your learning is compared to their requirements. However, the SCQF level and credit points of your qualifications help them to make this decision.
Employers are normally more likely to be interested in the SCQF level of your qualifications than the number of points achieved. However, credit points indicate the amount of learning you have achieved at an SCQF level, and will tell the employer how big the qualification is.
- helps qualification-providers describe programmes of learning that lead to qualifications and makes the relationship between qualifications clearer
- clarifies entry and exit points, and supports the development of routes to progress from qualification to qualification
- maximises opportunities to transfer credit between qualifications
- helps learners plan their learning and progress
Where will I see the SCQF?
Information about the SCQF appears on your Scottish Qualifications Certificate. Many colleges and universities mention the SCQF in their prospectus or on their website. Local authorities have been using SCQF since 2001 to report on school attainment.
Who uses the SCQF?
SQA, colleges and universities have been working with the SCQF for some years. In Scotland, universities use the SCQF to describe their qualifications and all degrees offered by universities have been placed on the Framework. This helps learners to move and progress between programmes and institutions.
What other qualifications are in the SCQF?
The Framework already includes some non-mainstream qualifications. For example, Midlothian Council has had its Crèche Worker training course placed on the Framework, and qualifications offered by the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland and the Scottish Police College have been included in the SCQF Framework too.
Will SCQF replace qualifications like doctorates, degrees and HNC/Ds?
No. You will still be awarded a degree or a Diploma. The Framework doesn’t replace qualifications - it simply shows how one qualification broadly compares with another.
Does the SCQF award qualifications?
No. Awarding and accrediting qualifications is done by SQA and other organisations like universities, colleges, statutory and professional bodies. Additionally, colleges can credit rate their own or other organisations provisions.
Does the SCQF measure the quality of teaching?
No. That is not part of the SCQF’s purpose. The Framework is a new way of comparing and understanding Scottish qualifications. Education Scotland reviews the quality of learning and teaching in Scotland.
Does the funding that schools, colleges and universities get depend on the SCQF level of the courses they teach?
No. This is not part of the SCQF’s purpose. Funding is reviewed by other organisations such as the Scottish Funding Council, local authorities and Scottish Enterprise.
What SCQF information is shown on the Scottish Qualifications Certificate SQC?
The certificate has three sections:
- The summary of attainment, which lists all of the Group Awards, Courses and stand-alone Units that you have achieved and shows SCQF levels of the qualifications which have been credit-rated
- The detailed record of attainment gives more detail about the qualifications you’ve achieved since the last certificate was issued, and will include SCQF levels and credits
- The profiles section shows your current achievements in Core Skills and SCQF credits
Why is the SCQF shown on the certificate?
The SCQF is used in Scotland’s schools, colleges and universities and employers are becoming more aware of the SCQF. With more and more qualifications being placed in the Framework, it is therefore appropriate to include SCQF information on learners’ certificates.
Knowing your SCQF information can help you make decisions about what to do next. It also helps colleges and universities make decisions about entry or progression. For example, some universities and other higher education institutions give credit transfer for HNCs and HNDs onto the second or third year of a degree programme.
Why do I need to know about the SCQF?
The SCQF can help learners to negotiate their way through the lifelong learning journey. They need to know that they can use their SCQF credit points towards new qualifications, and that there are different paths they can take. For example, many learners who have achieved an HND have used this credit towards a degree - instead of entering a university in year 1 they enter into year 2 or 3. This will become even more important as more and more qualifications are included in the Framework.
How do I work out the total SCQF credits I have?
On your Scottish Qualifications Certificate there’s a profile page that gives you a breakdown of all the credit points you have gained and their SCQF levels.
How were grades 1 – 6 in Standard Grades shown in the SCQF?
The grades 1 – 6 showed how well the learning had been achieved within one of three levels:
- grades 1 or 2 were awarded at Credit Standard Grade - SCQF level 5
- grades 3 or 4 were awarded at General Standard Grade - SCQF level 4
- grades 5 or 6 were awarded at Foundation Standard Grade - SCQF level 3
Why do grades A, B, C and D get the same number of credit points in National 5, Higher, Advanced Higher and Intermediate 1 and 2 ?
The SCQF level is a guide to the general level of knowledge and skill needed to achieve that award. The number of SCQF credit points gained doesn’t change depending on your grade - the SCQF credit points reflect how much learning you’ve achieved, not how well you’ve learned it. Your grades show how well you have done.
Does the SCQF make a difference to my exam results?
No, the SCQF has no effect on exam results. Level and credit are gained when you achieve individual Units and external assessments. The grading you get in an exam does not affect the SCQF level. Please see the above question above 'Why do grades A, B, C and D get the same number of credit points in National 5, Higher, Advanced Higher and Intermediate 1 and 2?'.
What if I sit a number of qualifications at the same level?
It makes no difference. Each individual qualification is allocated an SCQF level and you will be awarded each qualification, even if these are at the same level. For example, National 5 and Intermediate 2 are both at level 5. If you achieve these you will be awarded both qualifications and gain SCQF credit points for each. These examples have 24 credit points each, giving you 48 SCQF credit points at SCQF level 5. It’s the same if you achieve two National 5s - you get 48 points at level 5.
What support will candidates have to help them understand all of this?
All candidates receive the flyer 'About Your SQC' with their certificate. As well as explaining your results, this tells you what the SCQF is, how it works, and what it means for you.
All SQA centres (schools and colleges for example) have received a short guide to the SCQF called 'Achievement Counts', which is designed to help learners understand the SCQF. It is available to download on the SCQF website, www.scqf.org.uk. All SQA centres also have supplies of 'Your Exams' and 'About your SQC'.
Copies are also available from the SCQF office, by e-mail: email@example.com or telephone: 0141 225 2927.
All SQA Centre Co-ordinators have a Resource Pack containing copies of presentations, guides and leaflets to help explain the SQC and the SCQF to colleagues, parents and learners.
If you have any questions on the new SQC, please contact SQA’s Business Development & Customer Support Team on: 0303 333 0330 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there an easy way to see SQA qualifications in the SCQF?
Please download our Ready Reckoner of SQA qualifications in the SCQF.
How does SCQF relate to UCAS points?
It doesn’t. SCQF credit points are not the same as UCAS tariff points and do not relate to the tariff. UCAS tariff points relate to the type of qualification, the subject and the grade achieved, and are allocated on that basis. SCQF credits are a measure of how much learning needs to be done to achieve a qualification, regardless of the grade achieved.
Will the SCQF help candidates get a college or university place?
Not directly. Entrance into college or university is at the discretion of the institution, and normally relies on learners’ grades and subjects. However, the SCQF will help colleges and universities understand what learners have achieved. As more qualifications are allocated an SCQF level and credit points, the SCQF information will become important to the institutions to help make entry and credit transfer decisions.
Will the SCQF help candidates get a job?
Not directly, but the Framework diagram is a useful way to show potential employers what level of learning has been achieved. Work is continually being done to help employers understand how the SCQF can help them recruit the employees they need.
I have heard the terms ‘general credit’ and ‘specific credit’ being used. What does this mean?
The SCQF credit points given to a qualification are ‘general’ credit points. They don’t relate to any subject or any particular purpose - they just help people understand how qualifications relate to one another.
If the holder of an award decided to apply for a different type of qualification, he or she might be able to use some or all of the credits achieved towards the new qualification, but this would depend on the subject match. For example, an HND in Business might provide a large number of credits toward a degree in Business, but only a small number of credits towards a professional qualification in Accounting. Specific credit means credit that would count for a specific purpose - it is usually given at the discretion of the institution you’re applying to.
What if I have enough general credit points but not sufficient specific credit points for progression?
An institution may ask for a number of credits in a specific subject area at a particular SCQF level, and may ask you to supplement your learning to gain these credits. This may be at a level below or above the general credit points you already have.
Will the SCQF replace recognition for prior learning/experience?
No, but the 'SCQF Handbook' contains guidance on recognition of prior learning that may help to quantify it. This can be found on the SCQF website (www.scqf.org.uk).
Individual institutions will also have their own policies on recognition of prior learning and experience.
Do other countries have their own Frameworks?
The current Frameworks for England and Nothern Ireland are the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The HE sector has the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ). In Wales, the Credit and Qualifications framework Wales (CQFW) incorporates the NQF, QCF and HE Frameworks.
The Republic of Ireland has its own Framework, the National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland which, like the SCQF, includes general qualifications normally taken at school, vocational education and higher education.
The Qualifications can cross boundaries leaflet shows the Frameworks of the UK and how the qualifications within them roughly compare.
Additionally there is a European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The idea behind this Framework is that each European member nation will reference their Framework to the EQF. This may act as a translation device and provide a common currency by which learners and workers will be able to have their learning compared across Europe.
Do stand-alone Units have an SCQF level and credit points?
SQA Units have an SCQF level and credit points. However, not all SVQs have SCQF credit points, as they are owned by the Sector Skills Councils, which are responsible for these qualifications.
The Scottish Qualification Certificate (SQC) issued by SQA reports the level and credit points of each Unit a candidate achieves, in addition to the level of the overall qualification, to which they may contribute.
Will all SQA Group Awards be positioned on the SCQF?
Group Awards are positioned on the SCQF. However, a small number of legacy qualifications do not. These will either lapse or be replaced by SCQF credit rated qualifications.
Are SVQs given level and credit points in the SCQF?
The ready reckoner that shows the mainstream Scottish qualifications in the SCQF shows SVQs notionally positioned. The Scottish Government had previously funded a project to credit rate (the process of allocating SCQF level and SCQF credit points to be placed in the Framework) individual SVQs. This work was led by SQA and involves Sector Skills Councils (who develop the standards that SVQs are based on), and awarding bodies approved to deliver SVQs in Scotland have contributed to this work.
SVQs are made up of different Units, and because of this, the amount of credit they are awarded varies. SVQs are also made up of mandatory and optional Units, and so some people will have the same SVQ at the same level but will have a slightly different number of SCQF credit points, depending on which optional Units they completed.
Many SVQs have been credit-rated, with other SVQs being available for credit-rating as appropriate, such as when they come up for review or revision.
Will SQA quality assure our qualification/learning programme?
SQA will only quality assure the qualification/learning programme once it has been credit rated if you have signed up to our external quality assurance service. This is at an additional annual cost and is carried out by an SQA Officer.
Can a new qualification/learning programme be credit rated?
Organisations can submit an existing qualification/learning programme which learners have already taken part in, or a programme which has yet to run.
Learners in our qualification/learning programme do not sit a final exam, can this still be credit rated?
The way in which a qualification/learning programme is assessed does not affect the submission and as long as the outcomes are formally assessed, and the results recorded then it can be considered for credit rating.
Is there a charge for this service?
As this is a commercial service there is charge. For further details please contact SQA’s Credit Rating Service.
What type of credit does this process refer to?
This will result in general credit and not specific credit being allocated.
Does completing this process mean that we have been accredited?
SCQF Credit Rating will not result in accreditation or validation by SQA. SQA is the credit rating body.
What is a customised award?
Customised Awards are qualifications owned and developed by you. They allow you to decide the content and structure of the qualification with SQA providing assistance on its development, external quality assurance and certification.
Do I need to have existing training in place to create a customised award?
No. A Customised Award can be created with little or no training in place. Similarly, a Customised Award can be created if there is already training in place. A member of our Business Development Team will be able to talk you through your options.
What is the process?
Our five point process for creating a Customised Award can be reviewed on our Customised Awards process page
How long can the process take?
The process to create a Customised Award can vary, depending on the amount of work required. A member of our Business Development Team can give you more information about the length of the process depending on what you are hoping to achieve. Our experience tells us that a development can be completed in approximately 4- 6 months.
Who do I work with?
You will work with a member of our Business Development team. They will introduce you to our Specialist Awards and Services team, who will work with you to create your award. Our Business Development team member will be your first point of contact and will guide you through the process from start to finish.
What are the benefits to my business?
There are several benefits to your business for creating a Customised Award. They can include:
- Creating a truly bespoke qualification
- Accredit your own learning and obtain recognition for it
- Exclusively own your own qualification
- Help you achieve business objectives
- Increase skills levels in your workforce and improving work practices and motivation
- Assist the management and development of human resource functions
- Provide recognition and development opportunities for employees
- Help meet regulatory requirements and demonstrate the competence of your employees to external parties.
Can anyone else use my customised award?
No – not without your permission. When you create your Customised Award, you exclusively own and deliver this qualification, but you are free to allow other SQA Centres to deliver your award.
What other services are available?
What does it cost?
The costs for creating a Customised Award can vary depending on the development time, and your requirements. A member of our support team will be able to talk to you about this and give a full breakdown of costs.