The 2021 National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams are cancelled due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means SQA needs a different way to decide your National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher results.
SQA is a member of the National Qualifications 2021 Group*, and together the group has agreed the Alternative Certification Model which will be used to award this year’s National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher results.
The Scottish Youth Parliament, who represent the views of young people from across the country, is also a member of the National Qualifications 2021 Group.
SQA has given schools and colleges lots of guidance for each subject, to help teachers and lecturers assess the skills, knowledge, and understanding you need to demonstrate to achieve your qualifications.
We expected a lot of disruption to learning this year, so SQA has reduced the amount of evidence needed for each of your courses to a minimum while making sure that your qualifications remain highly respected.
Schools and colleges have been given more time to cover the parts of your courses that will be assessed. Schools and colleges decide on how, and when they will assess you, and determine your provisional results.
Everyone at SQA understands that this is a challenging time for learners undertaking National Qualifications, and we thank you all for your continued hard work.
Below you will find answers to questions we have received about how your results will be decided, that we hope you find useful.
Your questions answered…
How results will be decided
Q: My school/college has told me I will soon be undertaking assessments – are these the same as an exam?
A: There are no formal exams this year. However, it will be necessary for you to be assessed to help your teachers and lecturers decide your provisional results.
While the look and feel of some of these assessments may seem like an exam, your schools or colleges will make sure assessments only include parts of your course which you have been taught so far.
How and when you are assessed is decided by your school or college. SQA has also told your school or college which parts of your course do not need to be assessed.
Q: What evidence is required to determine results?
A: This will be different for each of your subjects. That means you might be asked to complete one kind of assessment for one course, and another kind of assessment for another course.
We have given schools and colleges guidance on which parts of each course should be assessed, and we have reduced this as much as possible this year – for instance in PE we are only assessing performance in one sport, rather than two – whilst ensuring the qualification is still highly respected.
More information on the course requirements for each subject is available from our website www.sqa.org.uk/nq2021.
Q: What is demonstrated attainment?
A: Demonstrated Attainment means you have shown the skills, knowledge, and understanding needed to be awarded the course.
For example, in English if you were to hand in a piece of writing, it needs to match specific criteria to show your ability.
It is important that results are based on evidence of learning and skills, so you can have confidence in your results.
Q: How will practical subjects be assessed?
A: We have reduced the assessment requirements this year. For example, in Music learners have the option to only be assessed in one instrument, rather than two as would happen in a normal year.
However, we still require evidence that you have an understanding of key aspects of your learning, to make sure you get the results you deserve.
Q: What is being done to make sure learners are graded fairly?
A: We are working with schools and colleges on this to make sure that your grades are decided in a fair and consistent way.
Schools and colleges can also take further steps to ensure fairness, such as making sure more than one person is involved in deciding your provisional result.
Q: What measures are being taken to ensure learners have appropriate knowledge to move to the next qualification level (eg from National 5 to Higher)?
A: Your teacher or lecturer will be able to offer you advice on your next steps. You can also find information on all SQA qualifications on our website.
My final results
Q: Will learners know their grade before Results Day?
A: Yes, you should be provided with an explanation of how your grades were decided. Teachers and lecturers should have ongoing conversations with you about your progress, including details of your provisional grade once the course is complete.
Q: Will colleges and universities accept my results?
A: Yes. We are working with colleges, universities, and employers so that they understand how your results are being decided this year.
SQA has produced an information booklet for learners which tells you what you need to know about your qualifications in 2021. A printed version has been posted to your home address, and it is also available on our website.
Further information on National Qualifications in 2020-21 is available on our website.
*The National Qualifications 2021 Group includes representatives from the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), Colleges Scotland, Education Scotland, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), School Leaders Scotland (SLS), the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the Scottish Government, National Parent Forum of Scotland, and the Scottish Youth Parliament.