Scottish Highers and GCSEs: What to do if you don’t get the exam results you need

Teenagers in Scotland will get the results of their Highers today, the first set of qualifications decided by teachers rather than by sitting exams because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What does it all mean for students if they don’t achieve what they need?


More than 130,000 young people across Scotland are receiving the results for their Nationals, Highers, Advanced Highers, and a whole series of other courses, certificates, and awards.

Those that don’t get the grades they want have a number of options.


This year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, if you’re on a National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher course, you can make a free appeal if your grade is lower than the estimate grade issued by your school, college or training provider in May.

It must demonstrate you were performing at the level of your estimate grade.

All appeals must be made by the school. So if you’re unhappy, the first step is to speak to them.

The school must make sure you understand the process and the three possible outcomes and appeals are signed off by a head teacher, principal or their representative.

You may be awarded a higher grade or your grade may stay the same.

It’s also possible you may receive a lower grade, but the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has said this will be rare and the outcome will be discussed with the school.

The work assessed can include classwork, prelims, past papers or class tests.

Your school, college or training provider will discuss this with you and must have your consent before appealing

Once the authority receives this evidence from your school or college, a senior examiner will review the evidence along with any other evidence it already holds, such as unmarked coursework submitted before the exams were cancelled.

Based on the evidence available, the SQA examiner will decide if your grade should be changed.

The appeals process opens 4 August and those wishing to confirm a college or university place will be informed of the outcome by 14 August.

For all other appeals, students will be informed by 21 August.

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