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Highers and Advanced Highers explained

Highers and Advanced Highers explainedFind out how Highers and Advanced Highers can pave the way to university.

Who are Highers for?

Highers are the standard Scottish qualification for people who are planning to apply to university. They are usually taken between 16 and 18. However, they can be taken by adults too, either at a college or independently.

Where are they taught?

You can study Highers at your school sixth form or at a further education college.

What subjects can you study for Highers?

There are more than 70 Higher subjects available. You can continue with subjects taken in S4 and S5 and/or take new ones.

Most students take five different Highers, and may move on to Advanced Highers in two or three subjects.

What are Advanced Highers?

If you are particularly good at or interested in a subject, or if it will be particularly useful for the university course you want to study, you can move on to an Advanced Higher.

Most students will take Advanced Highers in S6, after passing Highers in S5.

How long does it take to study Highers?

It will normally take you a year to do your chosen Highers. Afterwards, you can use S6 to improve your chances of getting the university course you want in a few different ways:

  • taking Advanced Highers in subjects you are particularly good at or interested in, or which are key to your course
  • upgrading or re-taking Highers if you didn't get the grade you need
  • getting other skills and experience - for example, by volunteering

You don't have to continue into S6 after taking Highers in S5, even if you want to apply to university, but most students do as it will improve your chances of getting on the course you want.

How many UCAS points do I get with Highers?

If you're applying to university or college, Highers and Advanced Highers earn the following UCAS points:

Higher gradeUCAS pointsAdvanced Higher gradeUCAS points
A 80 A 130
B 65 B 110
C 50 C 90
D 36 D 72


At some universities in Scotland, the right combination of Advanced Highers might allow you to start in the second year of a university course. In the rest of the UK, you may be more likely to be asked for Advanced Highers. The difference is because university courses in Scotland are a year longer than elsewhere in the UK.

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