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Scottish Highers vs A Levels

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

What is the difference between SQA qualifications and GCSES and A Levels?

Did you know, anyone, anywhere in the UK can study SQA National 5 or Higher Maths/English Qualifications with Saturday School. Courses are delivered online via distance learning with live teacher-led lessons and full support. N5 and Higher qualifications are internationally recognised by universities and employers all over the world and are a valuable equivalent to IGCSE, GCSE and A Levels - see here to compare.

Scottish Highers and A Levels are the main qualifications that allow students to progress into higher education or gain employment after secondary school. Nowadays, a lot of people, parents especially, often get confused with the difference between these academic levels. We’ve put together this blog post to cover what these are and what exactly the differences are.

What are Scottish Highers?

Scottish Highers are the courses that students in Scotland sit after passing National 5 courses ("Nat 5s" can loosely be compared to GCSEs). Students typically sit around four to five Highers and start them in the fifth year (S5) of secondary school. Highers can also be sat in sixth year too alongside advanced Highers, allowing students to add to the existing collection they hopefully gained in S5. Achieving the Highers and grades that are required for university at the end of S5 can land students an unconditional offer for a place on a degree course.

Advanced Highers

If students pass higher courses in S5 they can then go on to study for Advanced Highers in S6. The average amount of Advanced Highers students sit are two or three. Advanced Highers aren’t necessary to get into universities in Scotland, however, they can improve chances and help student’s get an unconditional offer. Many Advanced Highers can replicate the level of challenge a young person will face in year one of university - they can be tough!

UCAS points for Scottish Highers