Scottish National Qualifications: Everything you need to know about choosing your exam subjects

Wondering which subjects to take for your National 4 or 5? Watch our quick guide to help you decide!

Teacher Douglas Elder on all you need to know about picking your exam options.

So, let’s recap:

Which Nationals or other qualifications should I take?

This is really down to a combination of things: your own interests, which optional subjects your school allows you to choose, and your future plans. You can also take SVQs (Scottish Vocational Qualifications). These start at SCQF level 4 and offer courses in over 500 fields. You can also take Highers or Wider Achievement Awards.

If you want to start work sooner, you can take a Foundation Apprenticeship as soon as S6, or you can go on to a Modern Apprenticeship after school instead. For this you'll often need at least three National 4s to apply, sometimes more depending on the course.

So, depending on whether you'd like practical experience in a job you'd like, or would prefer to continue in academic study, there are a wide range of options available to you.

Ask your teachers about the courses available, do your research and discover the best fit for you. This is the first time you can focus on the subjects you like the most and feel you will do well at.

When will I choose my Nationals?

Depending on your school, you will pick your Nationals either at the end of S2 or S3. You will then start taking the exams in S3 or S4, although you can continue to take them all the way into S6.

How many Nationals should I take?

You should expect to take around six subjects. Most courses and jobs you might want to apply for in the future require you to have grades between A to D at National 5 or higher.

Which National subjects are compulsory?

Two of your Nationals will be English and Mathematics, or Application of Mathematics. There may be other compulsory subjects, depending on your school, so check with your teachers.

Can I resit my Nationals?

Yes, if you get a No Award Result at National level 5 or a Fail at National 4 then you can resit your exams to get a pass. You only have to retake the parts of the course that you didn't pass, although if you want to improve your overall grade you can retake the whole year's study.

Your teachers can advise you on whether a resit is a good idea for you, and can tell you when they are likely to take place.

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