• Introduction
  • Framework for assessment
  • Assessment within Curriculum for Excellence


A range of documents are available to help you deliver the new National Courses successfully on the main SQA website and the secure website.

These include:

  • Mandatory documents (Unit specifications, Course Specifications and Course Assessment Specifications)
  • Advice and guidance documents (Unit and Course Support Notes/Award Support Notes)
  • Assessment support materials (Past paper guidance, Exemplar Question papers/Specimen Question Papers and Marking Instructions, General Assessment Information (Course assessment)
  • Confidential assessment support materials (Unit assessment Support Packs (UASPs), Coursework Assessment Tasks (Course assessment).

In addition, SQA has made available a user friendly guide to qualifications.

Centres have flexibility and professional responsibility to deliver and assess new National Units in a way that suits their learners.

(extract from the SQA publication – Design of New National Courses and Units version 1.0)

The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Unit specifications are flexible and open, allowing scope for assessors to gather evidence of learning in a wider range of ways. This allows lecturers scope to tailor their assessment method and teaching and learning approach to their learners, create greater alignment between teaching and learning and assessment.

The Unit specifications are more skills-based but also still require underpinning knowledge and understanding. All Units and new National Courses are benchmarked against the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework.

Assessors are expected to exercise professional judgement when determining whether learners have developed and demonstrated the required range of skills, knowledge and understanding to meet the expected standards for a Unit pass.

Outcomes and Assessment Standards often have a focus on skills. Outcomes tend to be broad and open and Evidence Requirements are normally flexible to allow for a wide range of evidence to be used for assessment purposes.

(extract from the SQA publication – Design of New National Courses and Units version 1.0)

Framework for assessment

The priorities for assessment within Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in Building the Curriculum 5 are grouped around eight key ideas.

Each should be used to help shape and form the approach to assessment and the processes you use.

  1. Valid, reliable and proportionate
  2. Focus on breadth, challenge and application
  3. Learner engagement is crucial
  4. Using a variety of assessment approaches
  5. Evidence gathered across the four contexts for learning
  6. CfE principles underpin reporting
  7. Quality assured assessment
  8. Professional dialogue/agreeing standards.

CfE builds on existing good practice, encouraging lecturers to use a greater range of techniques and methodologies for assessment. In this way, lecturers can ensure that assessment is fit for purpose for their subject/s and level/s and support and is aligned with their chosen learning and teaching approaches.

As with other qualifications, assessments can be designed which provide evidence covering more than one Outcome or across one or more Units.

What Building the Curriculum 5 means for colleges
  1. Building the Curriculum (BtC) 5 says evidence of learners’ progress can be gathered across the four contexts for learning.

Although BTC5 refers throughout to experiences and outcomes which are key features of learning up until the Senior Phase, lecturers should encourage and look for opportunities to recognise and reward learning and achievement in all its forms.

Learners may develop valuable skills and abilities out with formal class based learning and is important that they are aware of the wide range of skills, aptitudes and abilities that they are developing. Where appropriate, learning can be formally assessed and recognised.

Many college courses and programmes are levelled against the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The SCQF level descriptors are a valuable resource which college staff can use to help them determine the level of any previous informal learning.

Modern learners are increasingly mobile and may complete study visits or work experience abroad either before or during their time at college. There is also a range of Vocational Education Tools which learners can use to help capture information on this type of experience and their learning.

  1. Curriculum for Excellence principles should underpin reporting.

By encouraging self-reflection and providing high quality feedback to learners throughout their learning journey, college staff can help learners, especially at key transition points, become more self-aware of the broad range of skills, abilities and attitudes that they have already developed and those which they want or need to develop further.

This process should include considering the ‘hidden’ skills that may for example have been including those which have been developed through teaching and learning activities but which may not have been formally assessed.

When planning for assessment, lecturers should use a variety of assessment methods and approaches. See A framework for assessment to support the purposes of learning 3 to 18.

Assessment within Curriculum for Excellence

Assessing New National Courses

SQA as the awarding body, and centres delivering the qualifications have a shared responsibility to quality assure the internally assessed elements of the new National qualifications.

Two key elements of the system are:

  • Internal verification
  • External verification

SQA provides detailed information about these and the other quality assurance elements and processes.