Units (Elements at Standard Grade) are combined to form Courses.

Standard Grades

Standard Grades are generally taken over two years of study in third and fourth year at secondary school. The Courses are made up of different parts called 'Elements', usually with an exam at the end. There are Standard Grades at SCQF levels 3, 4 and 5. Our names for these are:

A young person's attainments in their Standard Grades will often be used to guide their choice of what they study in the future. Generally, candidates progress from Standard Grades to National Courses.

National Courses

National Courses are available at these levels:

Most National Courses (except Access 2 and 3) are made up of three Units plus an external assessment - usually an examination. The purpose of the external assessment is to get candidates to show that they have mastered the Course content and can apply it to new situations. The examinations are marked and checked by professional examiners appointed by SQA. At Access 2 and 3 there is no external examination and candidates must pass all three Units to achieve the Course.

Candidates are awarded grades A - D, on the basis of how they did in their external assessment. They also have to pass all the Units. There is a comprehensive appeals system for candidates who do not perform as well as expected.

Most young people who qualify for places at college and university do so on the basis of the Highers and Advanced Highers.

Skills for Work Courses

Skills for Work Courses encourage school-age candidates to become familiar with the world of work. They develop knowledge and skills that are important to employment and life.

Skills for Work Courses offer candidates practical experiences that are linked to particular careers. They are normally delivered by a school and college working in partnership. The candidate gets an early taste of college and the chance to work on practical skills that are directly related to work, and this provides real benefits by offering positive learning experiences in a real-life situation.

Skills for Work Course are assessed by the teacher or lecturer, and have no final exam. Marking is checked by SQA.

Curriculum for Excellence

SQA is developing the new National Qualifications to support Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). You can find out more about the new qualifications and a timetable for implementation on the dedicated website:

Group Awards

A Group Award is a combination of Units gathered together to form a coherent qualification. For information on our Group Awards, see Our Products and Services > Products.