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SQA News 17 March 2022

Using SQA past papers and 2021 question papers - reminder

We have received some enquiries about the use of past papers, and the 2020–21 question papers, for gathering evidence of attainment ahead of the National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams.

As a reminder, past papers should not be used in their entirety for in-year assessments such as prelims or class tests. This is because these are not secure assessments and therefore should not be used on their own as evidence of demonstrated attainment.

We informed centres in September that the 2020–21 question papers would not be considered as secure for this year and that they should therefore be used in the same way as past papers (including not using them in their entirety for in-year assessments).

Using selected questions from past papers or the 2020–21 question papers as part of a prelim or class test is acceptable and can be used as evidence of demonstrated attainment if a learner requests consideration under the Exam Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service, or the Appeals 2022 service.

If you have used a 2020–21 question paper in its entirety, please ensure it is supported with other naturally occurring evidence from throughout the year.

Why the 2020–21 question papers are remaining on the SQA Secure website

These question papers were specific to session 2020–21, so we no longer consider them to be secure assessments. However, we are not publishing them on our main website because, for most subjects, these are modified question papers that reflect the modifications to assessment we put in place last session (2020–21). They do not reflect any adjustments that we have made to the modified National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher assessments for session 2021–22 and so they should only be used under the guidance of teachers and lecturers.

In addition, the marking instructions for the 2020–21 question papers have not been standardised based on learner responses. This normally happens during the marking stages of an exam diet before the marking instructions are published on our website alongside past papers.


Please note that the 2020–21 question papers can only be used for learning and teaching purposes within centres. Under copyright laws, the materials must not be copied, reproduced, or published for commercial purposes, or shared on websites or social media channels where they can be accessed by the public.

Further information

If you have any queries about the use of past papers or the 2020–21 question papers, please contact your local Liaison Manager.