Alternative Certification Model (ACM) for National Qualifications 2021 Frequently Asked Questions (for Learners)

What is the Alternative Certification Model?

  • The Scottish Government decided that National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams will not go ahead this school session due to ongoing concerns about the impact of Covid-19.
  • The Alternative Certification Model (ACM) for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher means that teachers or lecturers will decide each learner’s provisional results by judging the assessment evidence gathered and checking the results with other staff.
  • This will be supported by quality assurance carried out by each school (or college), Angus Council and SQA. Quality assurance means making sure that the same SQA standards are applied when deciding a subject grade. This means you can be confident that there is consistency across all Angus schools on how grades are awarded.

How will the school determine my subject grades?

  • Your provisional grade for each subject will be based on how well you did in assessments you have completed throughout the year. This is what is meant by ‘demonstrated attainment’.
  • Your provisional grade will not be based on what your teacher thinks you may have achieved in the exam.
  • Teachers will review all the assessments completed to determine the final grade that will be submitted. The provisional grade takes into consideration all your assessments and is not based on an ‘average’ score.
  • SQA will not change the grades once submitted by the school.

What type of assessment evidence will be gathered?

SQA has outlined that the assessment evidence of most value will be:

  • Ideally gathered as late as possible, in the unit of study, or course, to give the best chance to show progress made.
  • We may collect the evidence for some courses at an earlier point in the year because this was the most appropriate time for the assessment.
  • Using an assessment that provides a similar level of challenge to the final SQA exam used in previous years.

How important are the assessments planned to take place in May?

  • As explained above, your teachers will determine your provisional grade by considering a range of assessment evidence gathered over the year. However, most subjects will require a further assessment in May/ June to help make the overall decision for provisional grades.
  • During March and April your teachers have been preparing you for the assessments in May/ June.
  • You will be informed in advance of dates when the assessments will take place. Your school will try to avoid multiple assessments across multiple subjects on the same day.
  • There will be no ‘exam diet’ - all assessments will be completed in the normal timetable periods.

What if there are circumstances that affect my assessment performance or attendance?

  • The assessments planned for May/ June will provide important evidence for determining your provisional grades.
  • If you are unable to attend on the day of an assessment your parents/carers should contact the school the day before or as soon after so that alternative arrangements can be made.
  • The school must be informed before you sit the assessment if there are circumstances which could affect your performance.
  • Circumstances might include illness or accident, death of a loved one, or other significant family event.
  • It is important to note that SQA have already made changes to N5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses to take account of the reduced in-school learning time caused by lockdown and/ or periods of self-isolation.
  • You will be advised by your school what alternative arrangements will be put in place if you miss the assessment, or there are exceptional circumstances as described above.

How can I be confident that my results are fair and accurate?

Every school in Angus is following the same process, so that there is consistency both in the standard of assessments used and the reliability of the marking. This means:

  • All teachers delivering SQA awards have taken part in training that provides a shared understanding of SQA standards which have been applied to all the assessments used in deciding your provisional grade. This means there is a consistent and fair process across Angus schools for determining awards.
  • School staff have checked all the assessments they have used throughout the year are appropriate and meet SQA standards.
  • Schools have shared assessments with other schools as an additional check.
  • After completed assessments have been marked, they are checked by another teacher in the school.
  • Samples of assessment papers are also shared with other schools for ‘cross marking’.

What role does the SQA have in the awarding of grades?

  • Quality assurance measures that have been agreed between Angus Council and schools are intended to ensure consistency and fairness.
  • The SQA will carry out national quality assurance. This will involve sampling assessment evidence in every school across the country and providing feedback to schools and local authorities.
  • The aim of national quality assurance is to provide confidence that the national standards are accurate and consistent across the country.

When will I be informed about my provisional grades?

  • Once all assessments have been completed in May/ June the school will undertake final quality assurance checks to ensure accuracy of marking and allocation of provisional grades.
  • You will be told by your school how the grades will be communicated to you. The final date for submission of provisional grades to the SQA is 25 June 2021, but the school will share your provisional grades with you before the end of term.
  • You will have been getting updates on your progress and the likely final grade from your teachers.
  • Once your school submits the provisional grades, they will not be changed by the SQA

What if I am studying National 1-4?

  • These levels are assessed internally as pass or fail by teachers and there is no formal exam.
  • There are no changes to in school assessment arrangements for National 1-4. 
  • One of the units at National 4 called the Added Value Unit has been removed for this year only.

What happens if you wish to make an appeal?

The arrangements for the appeals process have still to be finalised. Further information on the appeals service for 2021 will be made available at the SQA website.