Scottish exam results: Higher pass rate down from last year - but remain above 2019 levels

The Higher pass rate is down from last year but remains above 2019 levels, as thousands of pupils across Scotland receive their exam results.

Figures from the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) show attainment of A to C grades was 78.9%.

It had been 87.3% in 2021, 89.3% in 2020 and 74.8% in 2019.

There was a similar trend at Advanced Higher level, with those attaining A to C grades at 81.3%, down from 90.2% in 2021 and 93.1% in 2020. The pass rate was 79.4% in 2019.

Students (from left) Claire McNab, Tegan Adair, Craig McGowan, Aaron Boyack, Niall Jowitt, Aaliyah McLaine and Mia Baillie at Auchmuty High School in Glenrothes, Fife, celebrate their results as high school pupils across Scotland find out their exam results. Picture date: Tuesday August 9, 2022.

As students across Scotland receive their exam results, the percentage of A grades at Higher level was 34.8% this year.

This represents a decrease of 12.8 percentage points from 47.6% in 2021, when a different assessment method was used.

It is an increase of 6.5 percentage points from 28.3% in 2019.

For Advanced Higher level, the percentage of grade A was 33.7% in 2022. This was a decrease from 51% in 2021 and an increase from 31.8% in 2019.

For pupils in the fifth most deprived areas of Scotland, the Higher pass rate was 70.2% this year, down from 83.2% last year.

In the fifth least deprived areas, the Higher pass rate stood at 85.1%, down from 91% last year when teacher assessments were used.

It means the attainment gap between the most and least deprived areas of Scotland has grown wider in this year’s figures compared to last year, from 7.8 percentage points in 2021 to 14.9 percentage points in 2022.

The gap in 2019 was 16.9 percentage points.

The deprivation areas are determined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), which divides the country into quintiles.

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For National 5 qualifications, the pass rate was 80.8%, down from 85.8% in 2021 and up from 78.2% in 2019.

This is the first year exams have returned since the outbreak of the pandemic, though a package of support was included to reflect ongoing disruption from coronavirus.

Scotland’s Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “This is one of the strongest-ever sets of results for any exam year, which is particularly impressive given the significant challenges learners have faced as a result of the pandemic.

“Pass rates for National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers have increased compared with 2019, with A passes also up, and skills-based qualifications are close to the highest-ever figure.

“It is important to note, though, that although 2022 saw a return to exams, it was not a return to normality. The approach to exams reflected the disruption to teaching and learning that young people faced and a wide-ranging package of support and modifications was put in place.

“I am confident that the approach, which was informed by views from across the education system, as well as learners, has delivered a credible, consistent and fair set of results.

“Indeed, universities have assured learners that they support the 2022 approach to assessment and industry leaders have spoken publicly about how much they value this year’s qualifications.”

Fiona Robertson, SQA’s chief executive and Scotland’s chief examining officer, said: “Many congratulations to the 138,000 learners receiving their certificates today. They have demonstrated what they are capable of and should be proud of their achievements.

“Learners can be confident that their qualifications provide a solid foundation for the next stage in their learning, training or employment.

“This is the first time that exams have taken place since 2019 but this year does not mark a return to normal – learners have faced further disruption from Covid-19, on the back of the two previous years of disruption from the pandemic.

“That is why SQA, teachers, lecturers and partners across the education system put in place a wide-ranging package of support this year – everyone has pulled together to help mitigate the impact on learners and to give them the best chance of performing to the best of their abilities.

“Together, we have delivered fairness for learners while maintaining national standards – and learners can have confidence in their grades.”