Update on National Qualifications 2023-24

Thursday 7 March 2024

Following our update in March 2023 regarding National Qualifications for 2023-24, we can confirm the services that will be available for learners and the approach to grading this year. We remain committed to protecting the standard of Scotland’s National Qualifications while supporting learners and the wider education community.

Exceptional Circumstances

We recognise that there are times when learners cannot sit an exam for reasons outwith their control. The Examination Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service (EECCS) will continue to be available this year, meaning those learners with exceptional circumstances can have alternative assessment evidence reviewed to help determine their grades. The EECCS is a pre-certification service and will be available to learners who are unable to attend an exam as well as those whose performance in the exam may have been affected by a personal circumstance, or an unplanned incident on the day, which is beyond their control. This includes, but is not limited to, a medical condition or bereavement, or disruption on the day of the exam reported by the Chief Invigilator.

To be eligible for the EECCS, learners must have completed all the compulsory non-question paper components of their course, such as performances and portfolios. They must also have an estimated grade submitted by their centre.

If a learner is eligible for the EECCS, an SQA-appointed subject specialist will review all the available assessment evidence, including the alternative assessment evidence submitted by their centre, to determine their grade. Heads of Centre will be responsible for ensuring SQA’s criteria are applied when deciding whether the EECCS is the best option for individual learners. The EECCS is not available to learners who have underperformed on the day of the timetabled exam unless they have suffered an exceptional circumstance.


In 2022, following the return of exams, we adopted a generous approach to grading. This meant, where required, significant adjustments were made to grade boundaries compared to in a normal year. Our method to setting standards and grading in 2023 continued to be sensitive to the extent of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Last year we returned to full course assessment in the current session (with the exception of a handful of courses where the retention of the modifications was found to be beneficial to learners). This includes the return of coursework across a range of courses.

In 2024, we will therefore consider any impact on learners completing coursework for the first time, as part of their SQA assessments, in our grading decisions. These considerations will be incorporated into our well-established grading processes. This will provide fairness and safeguards for learners and help to provide assurances across the wider education community.

We will share more detailed information on our approach to grading when we issue the 2024 results in August.


Learners will be able to appeal any of their final grades by requesting a review of their SQA-marked assessment components. In keeping with last year, the service will continue to be free and available for learners to access directly. Alternative assessment evidence will not be required and SQA appointees have told us that this will ensure fairness for all learners. The appeals service will include a priority service for learners with conditional offers for further education, training or employment. We continue to work closely with UCAS to ensure the outcome of priority appeals will be released ahead of their deadline.

Evaluation of the approach to assessment and awarding in 2022-23

An extensive evaluation of assessment and awarding in 2022- 23 was carried out with 4,600 learners, teachers and lecturers reflecting on their experiences and providing their feedback on last year. This represents a significant increase in participation levels.

Our analysis of the evaluation is almost complete. Initial analysis of the findings shows that the appeal service in 2023 was a fair process for learners, including learners with additional support needs. This has informed our decision to keep the appeals service consistent this year.

As expected, a mix of views is evident among learners and educators, including SQA appointees on exceptional circumstances and appeals.

SQA will take time to understand these findings and use them to shape future approaches.

Communicating with learners and their parents/carers

SQA will share information about these services with learners, parents and carers via social media and our website over the next few months.

Learners will be provided with a copy of the Your Exams booklet which includes information on EECCS, appeals and general tips and advice on revising for and sitting exams. Your Exams will be distributed to learners, via their centre, later this month.

We will also publish dedicated results information on our website from June.

Further information

We have published an Equalities Impact Assessment and a Children's Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment for the EECCS and Appeals service.

For these services to work effectively and efficiently we need everyone involved to play their part. Guidance on how to use both the EECCS and appeals services, including roles and responsibilities for appeals, will be published before they go live.