​Scottish qualifications

In Scotland, qualifications are awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the national accreditation and awarding body. A variety of qualifications are offered in Scotland’s schools. These include:

– National Qualifications (including National Units, National Courses and Group Awards)

– Wider Achievement Awards

– Skills for Work Courses

– Scottish Baccalaureates

National Qualifications (NQ)

SQA has designed and developed new National Qualifications to support Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). The National Qualifications – National 1, National 2, National 3, National 4 and National 5 – have been available in schools since August 2013.

The new qualifications help young people to demonstrate the knowledge, understanding and skills they have developed at school or college and enable them to prepare for further learning, training and employment.

National Units

National Units are the building blocks of National Courses and Group Awards. They are also qualifications in their own right, and are normally designed to take 40 hours of teaching to complete. Over 3,500 National Units are available, including National 1 Units, which are stand-alone qualifications.

National Courses

National Courses are available at a number of levels including National 2, National 3, National 4, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

Skills for Work Courses

Skills for Work courses encourage school pupils to become familiar with the world of work. They involve a strong element of learning through involvement in practical and vocational activities and develop knowledge, skills and experience that are related to employment. They are available at a number of levels and are often delivered in partnership with schools and colleges.


Awards provide young people with the opportunity to have the skills that they may have gained in environments outwith the classroom recognised. A variety of different Awards are offered at a number of levels and cover subjects including leadership, employability and enterprise. These awards are designed to recognise the life, learning and work skills that learners gain from partaking in different activities for example sports, volunteering and fundraising.

Scottish Baccalaureates

Scottish Baccalaureates consist of a coherent group of Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications and, uniquely, an interdisciplinary project selected by the candidate in one of four broad topics – languages, science, expressive arts or social studies. The interdisciplinary project is marked at Advanced Higher level and provides candidates with a platform to apply their knowledge in a realistic context. Aimed at high-achieving sixth year candidates, the Scottish Baccalaureate encourages personalised, in-depth study and interdisciplinary learning in their final year of secondary school.

For more information on SQA and its portfolio of qualifications, visit www.sqa.org.uk or follow on Twitter: @sqanews