Higher ESOL

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).




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.


For information on marks scaling please see related information.

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

  • New - Webinar recording with candidate evidence and commentaries for National 5 and Higher Performance can be found on SQA's secure website, you can access these via your SQA co-ordinator.
  • New - Webinar candidate evidence and commentaries
  • Carried forward - Video recording: ESOL Performance Speaking and Writing (this recording can be found on SQA's secure website and you can access via your SQA co-ordinator.). Before viewing the recording, you will need the marking instructions for writing and performance speaking and listening. The writing scripts and commentaries for candidate 1 (Everyday life), candidate 2 (Study) and candidate 3 (Study) from the link below. It will also be useful if you have the speaking and listening commentaries (pdf files) for candidates A&B and C&D from the secure site.
  • Carried forward - Speaking evidence (video) and commentaries (these recordings can be found on SQA's secure website and you can access via your SQA co-ordinator.)
  • Carried forward - Question paper (writing) candidate evidence and commentaries.

New - Webinar recording - Question Paper - Writing - Jan 2022

Carried forward - Assessing ESOL online Webinar recording

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

More examples of candidate evidence and commentaries can be found on SQA¿s secure website and you can access these through your SQA co-ordinator.

ESOL course assessment overview

Video overview of course assessment from session 2018-19

Changes to understanding standards materials

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

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.

Support materials

Higher Learning Support Material

Online resources ¿ practice assessments

These materials are intended to support ESOL candidates in improving their skills in reading, listening, speaking and writing. (You are required to have Flash version 12 or above installed to run these assessments).

SQA Academy

Learning support materials and online learning resources


Evidence for external verification of internally-assessed components of course assessments

ESOL: Quality Assurance - external verification

Ushare open learning resources