SQA response to Higher Maths coverage

Dr Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development, said: "SQA would like to reassure candidates and their parents or carers that it is satisfied this year’s Higher Maths examination was fair and balanced, and offered an appropriate degree of challenge for candidates at A, B and C level.

"The Higher Maths exam always has a balance of questions appropriate for candidates at C grade and a smaller number of more difficult questions at A/B grade. The more difficult A/B questions are spread across the two examination papers and make up around 35 per cent of the total. In addition, the two papers contain a good spread of questions across the topics and units of Higher Maths.

"The exam paper is subject to a range of quality assurance checks prior to being signed off, including vetting and scrutiny by maths practitioners independent of those who set the paper. 

"The fair and balanced nature of this year’s Higher Maths paper has been backed up by the feedback SQA has received from teachers and schools. SQA gathers qualitative feedback on all exams through online surveys - one aimed at candidates and another aimed at teachers and lecturers.

"Additionally, all markers have to complete a report to identify if there were any problematic questions in the examination. During the marking process, SQA gathers quantitative statistical information for all candidates across all questions. This allows SQA to see if the examination papers - and individual questions - have performed as expected. For example, have any C grade questions proved to be more difficult than expected or have any A/B grade questions been easier than expected?

"SQA uses all of this quantitative and qualitative data to inform where it sets the grade boundaries. If the exam has been harder than planned, grade boundaries are adjusted down. If the exam was easier than previous years, grade boundaries are adjusted up. This ensures that standards are maintained from one year to another, so that someone who got an A, B or C grade last year would get the same grade this year."