Rise in pass rates of SQA exams in Scotland

Young people in Scotland have receive their SQA results today, with a rise seen in pass rates at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

With exams cancelled for the first time ever due to Coronavirus, the results are based on a combination of teacher judgment and national moderation by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

The results show that the National 5 pass rate was 81.1% (compared to 78.2% last year); the Higher pass rate was 78.9% (compared to 74.8%); and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9% (79.4%).

For those that did not get the grades they were expecting, SQA will be operating a free appeals process this year.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney: “Scottish exams have never before been cancelled. I am immensely grateful to all teachers and lecturers who worked incredibly hard to assess achievement this year, and to the SQA for developing the certification model - without either, young people could not have received qualifications.

“There was a rise in pass rates at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. While comparisons with previous years need to be considered carefully, given the disruption to learning this year this is a good set of results for our learners. I am pleased to see the number of skills based awards, that teach vital knowledge and experience valued by employers, rise by 18% to 64,221.

“This year’s results also show there has been a narrowing of the attainment gap at grades A-C between the most and least disadvantaged young people, which is now narrower this year for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher than last year, or indeed the average for the last four years.

“All exam systems rely on an essential process known as moderation to uphold standards. This ensures an A grade is the same in every part of the country, making the system fair for everyone, and across all years.  As the national exams body, only the SQA can maintain the consistency and the integrity of our qualifications. This year, by necessity, the moderation model is different and has been subject to additional scrutiny.

“Teachers and lecturers applied their judgements against national standards and today’s data shows that three out of every four grade estimates were not adjusted by the SQA.

“133,000 entries were adjusted from the initial estimate, around a quarter of all entries. 6.9% of those estimates were adjusted up and 93.1% were adjusted down, with 96% of all adjusted grades changed by one grade.

“Without moderation, pass rates at grades A-C compared to last year would have increased by 10.4 percentage points for National 5, by 14 percentage points for Higher and by 13.4 percentage points for Advanced Higher - annual change never been seen in Scottish exam results. I know teachers and lecturers will always want the best for their pupils but I believe that teachers have acted professionally.

“I know that learners who did not achieve what they were expecting will be disappointed, however the SQA will be operating a free appeals process this year. The appeals process is an integral part of awarding this year, and will play an important role in giving schools and colleges the opportunity to present evidence in support of teacher and lecturer estimates. The SQA has ensured that sufficient resources are in place to support this process and priority will be given to learners who need their grades to meet a conditional university or college offer.

“This year has been exceptionally challenging but these robust processes mean we have upheld standards so that all learners can hold their heads up and move onto the next phase in their life, whether that be further study, employment or training.“

Read more