Higher English

Course Specification

Explains the structure of the Course, including its purpose and aims and information on the skills, knowledge and understanding that will be developed.

Past Papers and Marking Instructions

Access all past papers by subject/level

Specimen Question Papers

Illustrates the standard, structure and requirements of the question papers candidates will sit (includes marking instructions).

We have republished the specimen question papers in new templates for session 2018-19, and we have made some minor changes to wording to ensure the information is clearer and easier to understand. We have also given the documents new codes.



This section provides information on marking instructions and/or the coursework assessment task(s). It includes information that centres need to administer coursework and must be read in conjunction with the course specification.

Information on the production and submission of SQA-assessed coursework for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

Understanding Standards (Feb 2022)

Additional resources session 2021-22

New – New materials not previously published

Updated – published in 2020/21 but amended for 2021/22

Carried forward – published in 2020/21 carried forward to 2021/22

The materials below can be found on SQA's secure website, you can access these through your SQA co-ordinator.

  • Carried forward - Webinar recording - Guidance on marking and how to apply marking principles
  • Carried forward - Webinar presentation - Question paper 2 Critical reading

Please note: For session 2021-22 there are modifications to this course. Understanding Standards materials should therefore be viewed along with the National Course modification summary available in the Course information 2021-22 section.

Examples of candidate evidence with commentaries

Course assessment overview

English webinar (changes to course assessment academic session 2018-19 onwards)

Changes to understanding standards materials

Please note: Understanding Standards materials are regularly reviewed to ensure they remain up to date.

Higher English performance - spoken language Understanding Standards materials

Login required Please speak to your SQA co-ordinator to access these materials.

Course reports

Provides information on the performance of candidates - which is useful to teachers, lecturers and assessors in their preparation of candidates for future assessment.

Course Reports

2021 Key Messages

The Alternative Certification Model included a national quality assurance activity, carried out in May 2021.

This report provides information on any common themes and key points from the evidence submitted.

Verification Reports

In 2019, a single qualification verification summary report replaced the verification key messages.


Additional CPD support

Where any particular areas of concern are identified, which are not addressed by our Understanding Standards events or support materials, we will offer free continuing professional development (CPD) training, subject to request. CPD support is subject-specific and can be tailored to cover one or more qualification level. To find out more about this service visit our CPD page.

Scottish Texts in English Courses

Scottish text list for National 5 and Higher English courses.

In 2016, we carried out a consultation with teachers and other key stakeholders on the refresh of the Scottish set text list for National 5 and Higher English courses. Based on the findings of this consultation, we have refreshed the Scottish set text list for use from session 2018-19 onwards. The report below details the findings of our consultation.

Ushare open learning resources