What qualifications can you take in Scotland?

The exam results of 2013 marks the final year for Standard Grades. They are being replaced by the new national qualifications. Here, is a rundown of the qualifications candidates can take in Scotland.

Standard Grade

Standard Grade had been the main type of qualification in schools for 15 and 16 year olds, and was generally taken over two years in third and fourth year at secondary school. Learners typically studied seven subjects including mathematics and English. There were three levels: Credit (grade 1 and 2, SCQF level 5), General (grade 3 and 4, SCQF level 4), and Foundation (grade 5 and 6, SCQF level 3). Learners usually took exams at two levels - credit and general, or general and foundation, to make sure they had the best chance of achieving as high a grade as possible. Learners who did not achieve a grade 1 to 6, but did complete the course, were awarded a Grade 7. Standard Grades were explicitly designed to offer assessment and certification for all, and this was reflected in the high levels of attainment. The grade was established in 1986 and this is the final year it will be used.

National Qualifications (new)

National 1 to 5 qualifications are being introduced in 2013/14. Access 1 and 2 qualifications are being updated and renamed National 1 and 2. The National 3 qualification is the equivalent of the old Standard Grade foundation level.

National 4 and 5 qualifications are studied over one school year with courses comprising a number of contributing units and coursework. National 4 courses will be assessed by teachers through coursework assessment. There will be no external assessment or grading at this level, but coursework will be assessed using SQA assessments.

National 5 courses will be assessed by teachers through coursework assessment and by an external SQA assessment (an examination, where appropriate). The external SQA assessment will require the learner to apply and/or integrate skills, knowledge and understanding in less familiar contexts and demonstrate deeper understanding and higher level skills. The external assessment will be graded.


Intermediate levels lie between Access and Higher levels. Intermediate 1 Courses (SCQF level 4) are at the same level as Standard Grade General level. They are particularly suitable for learners who have attained Standard Grade Foundation or Access 3. Intermediate 2 Courses (SCQF level 5) are at the same level as Standard Grade Credit level. They are particularly suitable for learners who have attained Standard Grade General. For some learners Intermediate 2 provides a stepping-stone to taking a Higher. Both Intermediate 1 and 2 may be suitable for anyone wishing to take up a new subject that they have not previously studied. A number of learners take Intermediate Courses and Units instead of, or as well as, Standard Grades.


Higher Courses (SCQF level 6) are suitable for learners who have progressed from a level equivalent to Standard Grade Credit or Intermediate 2.

Advanced Higher

Advanced Higher Courses (SCQF level 7) are aimed at learners who have passed Highers. They extend the skills and knowledge gained at Higher and are useful qualifications for entry into further and higher education or the workplace.

Scottish Baccalaureate

The Scottish Baccalaureate is available in four subject areas (Science, Languages, Social Sciences and Expressive Arts) and consists of a coherent group of Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications, and an Interdisciplinary Project. Candidates must attain a pass in at least two Advanced Highers, and one Higher in the eligible courses, as well as a pass in the Interdisciplinary Project.

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