Assessment of National Qualifications in 2021-22

Wednesday 18 August 2021

SQA has today set out the key detail on plans for assessment of National Qualifications in 2021-22. This follows confirmation from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills that exams will be held for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses.

The Cabinet Secretary has informed parliament that, 'The central planning assumption is that an examination diet for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses will be held in session 2021-2022. This decision has been informed by the views of stakeholders, including the National Qualifications Group, and by public health advice.'

SQA exams will take place from 26 April to 1 June 2022 with results day on 9 August 2022. While detailed planning for delivering exams is now underway, it is also important that SQA, along with the whole education system, plans for any further disruption that may happen due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are continuing to discuss with the National Qualifications Group* any additional measures that will help the education system respond to further significant disruption to learning or changes to public health conditions.

National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher assessments in 2021-22

Modifications to the assessment requirements for each National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher course were announced in June (a brief overview of these can be found by visiting, selecting a subject and then selecting the ‘Course information 2021-22’ tab). The modifications will help reduce the volume of assessment and ease teacher, lecturer and learner workload, while maintaining the credibility of these qualifications. This will also allow for any lost learning caused by Covid-19 and will support learners as they progress to the next stage of their qualifications.

For most National 5 to Advanced Higher courses, these are the same modifications that were put in place for 2020-21.

In response to feedback from teachers and lecturers, and the recent easing of public health restrictions, SQA has adjusted the modifications in around 70 courses for 2021-22 to give learners more opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

From Thursday 19 August, SQA will start to publish 'modification summary documents' that provide more detail on the 2021-22 modifications and explain the assessment requirements for this year. This will help teachers and lecturers to prepare learners for their coursework and/or exams. All summaries will be available by the end of August 2021.

In the event of further significant disruption to learning

If there is further significant disruption to learning and teaching this session, beyond that experienced in 2020-21, appropriate additional support measures for learners will be put in place to ensure that exams can still go ahead. For some courses this could include, for example, advance notice of some topics which will feature in exams.

In the event of significant changes to public health conditions at exam time

If changes to public health advice mean that large gatherings of people are no longer permitted in April to June, and exams are cancelled, SQA will ask teachers and lecturers to use their professional judgement of assessment evidence to determine learners' grades.

Schools, colleges and training providers will not be required to carry out any additional assessments, as they did in 2020-21. Instead, teachers and lecturers will be asked to determine learners’ grades, based on the work that learners have already completed throughout the year.

To prepare for this scenario, teachers and lecturers should — as they would in a normal year — gather examples of learners’ work and keep a record of any assessments that take place throughout the session, for example prelims, practical performances or class tests that provide an appropriate degree of challenge, integration and application of the key knowledge and skills of each National Course.

Gathering completed assessments as learners progress through the session, will provide a reliable collection of evidence that can be used to determine their grades if exams are cancelled at short notice.

SQA will provide all schools, colleges and training providers, as well as learners, parents and carers, with more information and appropriate guidance on the arrangements for assessing and awarding National Qualifications at the earliest opportunity.

Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive and Scotland’s Chief Examining Officer, said, 'SQA understands the need to provide teachers, lecturers, parents, carers and learners with clear and timely information regarding assessments in 2022. Now that the Scottish Government has confirmed exams will be held if safe to do so, I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the whole education system to deliver credible qualifications for Scotland’s learners.'

National Qualifications Group

*The National Qualifications Group consists of representatives of the following organisations: