Highers and Advanced Highers

Highers and Advanced Highers are the next step for students who have taken Standard Grades.

Group of students studying

Is doing Highers and Advanced Highers for you?

What are Highers and Advanced Highers?

They are post-16 qualifications offered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Highers are normally taken in the fifth year, or S5, and Advanced Highers in S6, the last year of school or college. A wider range of subjects are available at this stage than at Standard Grade level.

What’s the difference between these and A-levels?

British students’ AS-level marks form half of their A-level mark the next year, but a Higher and an Advanced Higher in the same subject are two separate qualifications. The modules for each are not linked, so Higher marks do not contribute to what comes next. This is usually seen as an advantage by Scottish students, because it is possible to get a fresh start and there is less pressure on S5 students.

Although it is not often? recommended, this also makes it possible to do an Advanced Higher without taking a Higher in that subject first.

Can anyone take these exams?

Anyone can take Highers and Advanced Highers if they’re at an institution which offers them. A Credit level Standard Grade, an Intermediate II or a GCSE is usually regarded as good preparation for a Higher in that subject. However, many students in Scotland are now starting to take Highers with no previous qualifications.

But I’ve already left school. Could I still get these qualifications?

People can return to education at any time to take Highers or Advanced Highers. Whether it’s at a local learning centre or a college evening class, learning outside of school is increasingly flexible and accessible. Financial help is also available for adults who wish to gain qualifications. For instance, if you live in Scotland and you’re over 16, you are eligible for a ‘learner account’ with ILA Scotland. Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in Scotland could also help you complete a course at school or college.

Where will Highers get me?

You can either go on to take Advanced Highers or enter onto a Higher National Certificate or Diploma course (HNC and HND). Many Scottish universities will accept applicants who only have Highers for undergraduate degrees, because their courses are usually one year longer than degrees in the rest of the UK.

Where will Advanced Highers get me?

Most English universities require two or three Advanced Highers for entry onto their courses. Most university prospectuses list entry requirements in terms of both A-levels and the equivalent Scottish qualifications to ensure the process is fair. Mick Warwicker from Newcastle University says: “Any student meeting the entry requirement, in Scotland or the rest of the UK, is treated equally.”

In addition, students throughout the UK apply to university through UCAS, and begin on an equal footing. In the UCAS tariff system, an A at A-Level is worth the same number of points as at Advanced Higher, while Highers are worth slightly more than AS-Levels.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015