Scottish Higher and Standard Grade exam results delivered

Nearly 160,000 pupils in Scotland are waking up to their exam results

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Almost 160,000 students across Scotland are receiving their exam results - with a record number passing Higher exams.

The pass rate for Highers increased from 75.2% in 2011 to 76.9% this year, which represents a rise of 7% over the past decade.

An increased number of students also passed Advanced Highers and Standard Grades.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said the improved results were down to the hard work of students.

Scottish school pupils sit exams ranging from Standard Grades and Intermediates to Highers and Advanced Highers.

Figures released by the SQA showed the overall number of candidates for all exams fell slightly, from 159,755 in 2011 to 158,908 this year.

Analysis

Another year another set of record breaking exam results. This year sees the highest ever pass rates for Standard Grades, the main exam for 15-year-olds, and for Highers, Scotland's gold standard exam, which is the main passport to a place at university.

Success in any qualification represents a real achievement for the individual candidate. But employers and universities who have to run what some term remedial classes in key skills, are left wondering about the value of exam passes.

Scotland's education secretary invites critics to try the exams if they think they are easy. Arguably there is a need for more rigorous research to establish whether kindly moves to help more pupils achieve qualifications have left all with certificates which do not have the status they once enjoyed.

The pass rate for Advanced Highers rose from 79.3% to 80.1% and for Standard Grades the rate was higher too, increasing by 0.4 percentage points to 98.9%.

But students sat fewer Standard Grade exams this year, with a total of 319,986 completed in 2012 compared with 386,857 four years ago.

Of the Standard Grade passes, 48.1% were at credit level, 40% were at general level and 10.8% were at foundation level.

The overall pass rates for both Intermediate Level One and Level Two remained virtually identical to last year, at 75.1% and 80.2% respectively.

Meanwhile, 182 people sat the Scottish Baccalaureate exam - which is available in science and languages - compared with 174 in 2011. But the pass rate for this was down slightly, from 80.5% to 79.1%.

This year also saw an increase in the number of people taking exams such as mathematics, history, geography and modern studies in Gaelic. There were a total of 110 entries completed in this language.

For the first time, the 68 candidates who took these will have Gaelic medium subject qualification titles displayed on their results certificates.

Dr Janet Brown, chief executive of the SQA, said: "The increased number of qualifications achieved by candidates not only reflects their hard work and commitment, but also the value they place on qualifications, particularly in this difficult economic climate.

"I want to congratulate everyone and whether they will be returning to school or college, moving on to higher education or entering the workplace, I wish them continued success."

Results helpline

Education Secretary Mike Russell also congratulated students on their results.

He added: "This has been another successful year which is testament to the hard work that pupils have put into their courses.

"When people ask about the potential for dumbing down, I always ask them if they've looked at the exam papers and tried to sit them because, actually, these are tough exams.

"Although you have an overall rate, there are some subjects in which the pass rate's actually fallen. And I think that indicates the variability."

Mr Russell said help was available for pupils who did not get the results they had hoped for.

"Of course, as well as being a time of celebration for many, this is also a time of uncertainty for others," he said.

Mr Russell said every 16 to 19-year-old was guaranteed a place in education or training through Opportunities for All, and helpline advisers will be on hand from 08:00 on Tuesday to talk young people through the options available to them, should it be further study, a training place or employment.

The helpline number is 0808 100 8000.

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