Highers are only one of several Scottish Qualifications. Most students also study Standard Grades, roughly equivalent to GCSEs. Increasingly, some schools are replacing Standard Grades with Intermediates (Int 1 or Int 2, the latter being the more difficult) as they are said to offer a better springboard to Highers. Intermediates are also available alongside Highers as an easier option. Advanced Highers are the level above Highers, often involving large projects or pieces of coursework.
Standard Grades are almost always studied over two years - the third and fourth in secondary school - with exams at the end of the second year. Most school pupils will study around eight Standard Grades in this period. This figure of 8 subjects is adhered to more strictly than in England, with almost no one taking more than 9. Even amongst those who do study 9 SGs, one of them is usually one in which they have an unusual advantage, eg Italian for someone who is fairly fluent, or Music for someone who already plays two instruments at the required level.
Standard Grades are split into three levels - Foundation, General and Credit - with a separate exam paper for each. Pupils all sit the General paper and either the lower Foundation paper or higher Credit paper depending on their ability. Grades go from 1 (highest) to 7 (lowest). 1 and 2 are Credit grades, 3 and 4 are General, and 5 and 6 are Foundation. Grade 7 is awarded if the course was completed but the exam not passed. This means that someone sitting General/Credit can achieve a 1,2,3,4 or 7 and a Foundation/General student can achieve a 3,4,5,6 or 7.
Get help with your Standard Grade exams with our revision notes.
Intermediates can be taken instead of Standard Grades, alongside Highers or as a way in to a new subject. Intermediate 1 is equivalent to a General level Standard Grade and Intermediate 2 is equivalent to Credit level at Standard Grade. The structure of Intermediates are like Highers, i.e. one year course, split into units with NABs, etc. However, if taken instead of SGs, the course will usually be split across two years, as there will be around 8 subjects instead of 5.
Please read the main Scottish Higher guide for details on this qualifications.