Frequently Asked Questions
The New National Qualifications
Will some of the exams that pupils are sitting just now
determine whether they will be going for National 4 or
National 5?
The pupils are not currently taking exams but they are
engaging in Unit Assessments. These assessments act
as checkpoints for the teachers and are a way for us to
track progress. How a learner performs in the Unit
Assessments will help a teacher decide which level best
meets the needs of the learner. We work hard to
support learners to achieve the most they possibly can.
What is the final date when we will know for sure what
level our child will be presented at? March 31st, 2014
If some pupils are borderline between National 4/National 5 just
now, when will parents be contacted to enable support
mechanisms to be put in place at home to enable them to sit
National 5?
Staff are able to raise concerns about a pupil at any time. At
present, staff have been asked to complete Review of Progress
sheets for any learner they are concerned about. This triggers a
meeting between the learner and their guidance teacher and
house link DHT. You will receive notification of this via a letter
and in some cases, an email or phonecall.
It is important to remember that for some learners, even after
support mechanisms have been put in place, National 4 will be a
more suitable level of course for them to follow.
For National 5 courses, what is the % split between course
assessment and final exam?
The Course Assessment part of National 5 is the “final exam”.
This exam, however, may take a variety of different formats –
traditional exam papers, assignments, aspects of practical
activities or performance. Some Course Assessments are
comprised of a series of exam papers and a folio. Some
learners will have started working on their folios or
assignment already.
All weightings can be found on the SQA website. Go to a
specific subject, click on National 5, click on Course
Assessment Specification:
Can pupils ‘crash’ a Higher in a subject which
they have not taken if they obtain good pass
marks at National 5 in a similar subject?
This is not advisable. We suggest that learners
select Highers from the National 5 subjects
they have taken. In some circumstances, it
may be possible to pick up additional “crash”
Highers in S6, but not S5.
If you are awarded a National 4 in S4, can you sit Higher in S5?
No. Lines of progression are clear – National 5 level work
prepares a young person directly for Higher. National 4
learners may take National 5 in S5 then progress to Higher in
S6. It is likely that a learner who gains a D at National 5 will
find the leap to Higher extremely challenging, as learners who
get D at Intermediate 2 currently do. In this case, it may be
advisable to resit National 5 to allow for another year to
develop the skills and knowledge required before attempting
Higher in S6.
Can you explain how Highers and Advanced Highers will
What % of the mark at Higher is made up of assessments/final
Higher Subject Implementation Events are taking place from
November-March for each subject. Staff will attend. Final
specifications for the new Higher and Advanced Higher
courses are out now and available at this link:
You will need to select specific subjects from the menu then
click on Higher or Advanced Higher.
• Are children in S1-3 treading water rather than preparing
for the Nationals?
No. Teachers begin to deliver Experiences and Outcomes
throughout the Broad General Education that ensure a
smooth transition to the Senior Phase. Depending on each
indiviual learner, work is done at CfE 2nd level, 3rd level or 4th
level as best meets the needs of the pupil. Some learners will
do CfE 4th level work in S3 which equates to National 4 level
work. They would then progress naturally through the
hierarchy into National 5 in S4. Remember, there are many
different learner pathways through the Broad General
Education and the Senior Phase.
• Will parents be informed of N4/5 levels for each
subject before Christmas?
• Parents will receive S4 full reports on Friday 6th
December. The report will indicate a current level
of presentation. The comment box narrative will
outline progress and areas for development. No
final decision on presentation level will be made
until 31st March. Your child already knows which
levels of assessment they have been taking and
how they have done on them.
• Will parents be able to buy past paper/ study guide
• Yes. There are a variety of these available through
Hodder Gibson and Leckie and Leckie. The links are: and
• The BBC Bitesize website is very useful and has been
completely rewritten in line with the new Nationals.
The link is:
• What prelims will be in January? Will there be
any in November?
• The S4 prelim diet runs from Monday 13th
January- Friday 17th January. There will be no
study leave for this diet. Music practical prelims
will take place in late November. This is the only
subject with an element outwith the January diet.
National 3 and 4 courses do not have exams. Final
exams run this year from Tuesday 29th April –
Friday 6th June.
• Can you get lower than a D at National 5? What happens if a pupil
fails National 5?
• A D pass tells us that a pupil has achieved between 45-49% overall.
This suggests that a pupil requires more consolidation at National 5
level before they attempt a Higher. (It should be noted that this has
always been the case for pupils achieving a D at Intermediate 2 and
seeking progression to Higher.)
• If a pupil gets below 45%, they will get no award. Any Unit
Assessment passed at National 5 will appear on certification and
will stand, however, failure of the Course Assessment means that a
learner has an incomplete award. They would need to resit
National 5 again.

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