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National Qualifications (NQs) are qualifications studied in secondary schools and colleges of further education in Scotland. There are three types of National Qualification - Standard Grades, National Courses and National Units.
Standard Grades are mainly studied over two years during the third and fourth years of secondary schooling. There are three level in Standard Grade - Credit, General and Foundation - with Credit passes normally being required before pupils can expect to have a reasonable prospect at success if they decide to study at Higher level in that subject the following year.
National Courses and Units
National Courses were originally introduced as the step following on from Standard Grade and were offered at Higher level, but also at lower levels than Higher to allow further opportunities for pupils to progress. Immediately below Higher level is Intermediate 2 which is broadly the level of Credit at Standard Grade; below that Intermediate 1 which is broadly the level of General at Standard Grade; below that Access 3 which is broadly the level of Foundation at Standard Grade, and below that Access 2 and Access 1 for those pupils who found Foundation level too much of a challenge.
Above Higher level is Advanced Higher which would normally be studied by pupils who have passed a group of Highers but have decided to study at Secondary school for a sixth year before going on to University.
To pass a National Course (such as for example, Higher Mathematics), students have to pass a number of National Units that are internally assessed, as well as pass a final externally assessed examination. Unit assessments are unseen and should a student fail an assessment opportunity, only one re-sit opportunity is provided using a fresh unseen assessment. (A second re-sit opportunity is only allowed in exceptional circumstances.) Failure to pass a National Unit at Higher level would mean that a student would be unable to pass the National Course at Higher level that year, though they may successfully complete a number of National Units.
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