Revision of Higher Human Biology


Revised Higher Human Biology

The current National Course provision at Higher Level in the Sciences (Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry and Physics) was first used by centres during session 1999/2000. Since then, only relatively minor amendments have been made to the Qualifications arrangements.

Although uptake of the sciences remains strong, stakeholder views of the existing qualification arrangements suggested that a decluttering and updating of subject content was urgently required, as well as a move towards an assessment process with more emphasis on skills.

A modern, engaging National Course framework for the Sciences is seen as a key contributor to the development of a greater scientific knowledge and skills base, which is critical to the ongoing development of the Scottish economy, in line with Curriculum for Excellence.

Given the above, and in order that Higher and Advanced Higher provision in the Sciences continues to remain "fit for purpose", meets the principles of Curriculum for Excellence and serves the needs of the young people of Scotland, SQA has been developing Higher Qualification Arrangements in Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The proposals for the Revised Highers in Biology and Human Biology formed part of a national engagement through February and March and since then the Qualifications Design Team (QDT) has been working on the documents, taking on board stakeholder feedback.

Centres who wish to early adopt the revised arrangements documents can do so in session 2011/2012, with the first external examination in summer 2012. The revised arrangements will dual run with the current arrangements.

Key Milestones Date
Summary of response to engagement feedback 1 June 2010
Final draft Content Tables 30 November 2010
Arrangements Documents (709 KB) 30 November 2010
Specimen Question Paper (2.09 MB) 10 May 2011
Unit Specifications 23 December 2010
Available for implementation for early adopters June 2011
NABs produced 30 September 2011  GRAPHIC: Tick
First examination for early adopters May/June 2012

The Higher Human Biology course allows the learner to develop a deeper understanding of fundamental processes within the Human Body. This includes cellular processes, physiological mechanisms, communication between organisms and the biology of populations as they apply to the human species. The course takes into consideration new advances in medical research and sets it in engaging way to develop learners’ skills and knowledge. Resources to support the delivery of the new course can be accessed at:

Centre Feedback

Several centres volunteered to become early adopters for the revised Higher Biology and/or Higher Human Biology. Feedback from these centres has been ongoing and very positive – a selection of their comments is shown below.

Revised Higher Partnership working

Forth Valley College and Stirling High School have formed a working partnership to help students gain the most benefit from being early adopters of the revised Higher Biology and revised Higher Human Biology courses.

These centres are sharing resources such as teaching materials and prelims, producing mutually acceptable, high quality items for use within their classrooms. Pupils from Stirling High School have undertaken practical work at Forth Valley College. The networking and discussion opportunities have been invaluable to pupils and teachers/lecturers from both centres.

This partnership is an excellent example of good practice and one which other centres may wish to emulate. Both centres have been vocal in their enthusiasm for the partnership and the following is a quote from Stirling High School highlighting this:

“They (Forth Valley College) have been a fantastic help and it has been great to have others to talk to about how the course is going, problems, solutions and good things...all been fab!!!”

".....students loved the biodiversity and mass extinction sections...."

“…the way the [Higher Human Biology] arrangements are written allows for a very student centred approach to delivering the materials…”

(Forth Valley College, Higher Biology and Higher Human Biology)

".....We have, so far, found it very interesting to teach and can engage students easily in the content...."

“…Many of the teaching points spark interesting discussions in class and students have had many questions…”

(Ross High School, Higher Biology)

"…the new higher biology course really lends itself to engaging student interest. The research based activities offer flexibility and encourage students to think more for themselves, and promotes good planning skills….”;

“…new content that is up to date and also in the news (eg Stem Cells) allows the pupils to relate their learning in the classroom with biology in the real world, and allows them to keep up to date with scientific research/discoveries…"

(Stirling High School, Higher Biology and Higher Human Biology)

If you would like more information on becoming an early adopter of one or both of the revised Highers, or if you are currently an early adopter and would like to contribute your own comments to this site, and add your name to the SQA Early Adopters mailing list for additional support and resources, please contact Liz Sinclair by email ( or by phone (0345 213 5485).


If you would like further information refer to the following documents: