Here’s how Scottish exams are being graded this year - and when results come out

Results will be published on 4 August (Photo: Shutterstock)Results will be published on 4 August (Photo: Shutterstock)
Results will be published on 4 August (Photo: Shutterstock)

Thousands of school pupils across Scotland missed out on sitting their exams this year after the coronavirus outbreak caused Highers, Advanced Highers and National 5s to be cancelled for the first time ever.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is due to publish exam results on Tuesday 4 August, but how will pupils’ grades be decided? Here’s what you need to know.

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How are Scottish exams being graded?

As pupils were unable to sit their exams this year, grades for National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers will instead be based on teacher estimates.

Final grades will be built around preliminary exams results and course work that has already been submitted.

Teachers will have to rank pupils, state what grade they think they would get, and place them within a particular band for each grade.

However, somewhat controversially, the previous performance of the school in exams will also be taken into account. Grades provided by teacher judgement may later be moderated if a school’s results differ in “shape and distribution” from previous years.

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SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson explained: “Teachers and lecturers are best placed to have a strong understanding of how their learners have performed and, based on their experience and the evidence available, what a learner would be expected to achieve in each course.

“An estimated grade is not just the result of one prelim or one project, but is an overall judgement based on activity across the year.”

Can pupils appeal their grade?

The SQA has said that schools and colleges will not be consulted within the moderation process, meaning pupils could have their grades changed without their teachers being consulted.

The decision to remove this engagement comes due to the time constraints involved in the grading of papers, with the SQA dealing with more than 20,000 papers.

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However, pupils will still be able to appeal any results that they do not agree with. Priority in the appeals process will be given to requests from pupils who are depending on the results they receive to secure a conditional place at college or university.

Ms Robertson previously indicated the body would look at whether teachers could be consulted before the estimates submitted by schools are marked up or down, but this was later ruled out in a letter to Holyrood’s education committee.

She said: “We have considered the matter very carefully, including further discussions with our board of management, and we have concluded that it will not be possible to include engagement with schools and colleges within the moderation process.

“There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the difficulty of operating a dialogue, which is fair and consistent in its treatment of all centres and candidates.

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“Secondly, it is not possible to enter into a dialogue in the very tight timescales we are working to – reviewing 22,000 datasets across 142 subjects from almost 500 centres – between the receipt of estimates and finalisation of grades which, for awarding purposes, are required by 10 July.”

The SQA website states that only schools and colleges can ask for a review of a pupil’s results. More information on the appeals process can be found here.

When will results be released?

Estimated grades for pupils in Scotland, and the evidence that was used to reach them, was submitted by schools to the SQA at the end of May.

SQA exam results will be released on Tuesday 4 August 2020, and pupils’ Scottish Qualification Certificate (SQC) will arrive by first class post on this date.

Pupils who signed up to MySQA will receive their results by text or email on this day at 8am.