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Standard Grades are the most basic 'academic' qualification generally studied by pupils in Scottish schools1. They can be considered broadly equivalent to the GCSE taken in other parts of the UK.

Available in a wide range of subjects, they take two years to study, normally during the third and fourth years of secondary school2. The final grade is contributed to by a coursework component and (usually) some form of exam at the end of the course.

There are 3 levels of study (Credit, General and Foundation), each with a corresponding exam, and 7 grades of final result:-

  • Grades 1 and 2 (Credit)
  • Grades 3 and 4 (General)
  • Grades 5 and 6 (Foundation)
  • Grade 7 ('course completed'- i.e. fail).

To stand a chance of getting a particular grade, you have to sit that exam. Most students will take two of the three exams- either Credit and General, or General and Foundation.

Standard Grades were phased in between 1986 and 1992, replacing the older 'O' Grades (Ordinary Grades). Although 'O' Grades and Standard Grades were once useful qualifications on their own, most students nowadays go on to take 'Highers' (Higher Grades3) and Advanced Highers during their Fifth and Sixth Years of Secondary School4.

1Vocational qualifications at roughly the same level have been introduced in recent years.
2From 13-15, or 14-16 years of age.
3Higher meaning 'higher than Ordinary/Standard Grades'- it is a secondary (not higher) educational qualification. However, it is the most common entrance qualification for many forms of higher education, (including university) in Scotland.
4Recent developments have seen further changes to the Higher and the replacement of the CSYS qualification with the Advanced Higher.


Bibliography and Further Information

  • http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/nq/newnq.asp
  • http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/learners/whichwaynow/qualifications.html
  • http://www.sqa.org.uk/
  • http://www.parentzonescotland.gov.uk/curriculum/nq.asp

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