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The Scottish Exam System
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The Scottish Exam System

Scotland has its own public examination system administered by the Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA) - which corresponds to the General Certificate of Education (GCE) in England and Wales. SQA and GCE examinations are recognised for entrance to all universities in the UK.

The first public SQA examinations are Standard Grade which are normally taken in the fourth year of secondary school and are recognised as the equivalent of the GCSE examinations in England and Wales. Standard Grade courses are taken in a broad range of subjects across the curriculum.

After Standard Grade, students usually follow a two year programme at Higher and Advanced Higher levels in fifth and sixth year. The programme offers a broad range of subjects, academic and vocational. There are five levels in all - Access, Intermediate 1 & 2, Higher and Advanced Higher. The system is modular and units may be taken on a free-standing basis or grouped together into courses at appropriate levels.

Highers are normally taken in fifth year in four, five or six subjects, giving pupils breadth, depth of study and individual choice. In the sixth year pupils can improve on their Highers, take more Highers or continue in selected subjects to Advanced Higher. Highers and Advanced Highers are recognised for entrance to universities throughout the United Kingdom. Achievements in core skills - communication, numeracy, information technology, problem solving and working with others - are also recognised, normally within the subject-based courses of the Higher Still programme. Some schools also offer AS and A Levels which are run by the examination boards in England. In Scotland, AS and A Level courses may be offered with the Scottish Higher and Advanced Higher programme in some or all subjects. The following chart sets out the key stages of the Scottish qualifications system and the broadly equivalent stages in England.

14/15 Senior 3/4 Standard Grade Courses 4th/5th Year GCSE Courses
15/16 Senior 4 Standard Grade Exams 5th Year GCSE Exams
16/17 Senior 5 Higher Grade Exams Lower/Upper 6th AS / A- Level Courses
17/18 Senior 6 Higher Grade/ Advanced Higher Exams Upper 6th A-Level Courses

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