The standard in this year's Advanced Higher history was "very strong", with evidence that pupils' confidence in writing is growing, said the SQA. Examiners were impressed by the diversity of approach in the dissertations, the quality of some of the exam papers and the obvious dedication and commitment to their subject from teachers, lecturers and students alike.
But some pupils are still writing dissertations on titles that have been discontinued, and those who use the essaynarrative approach rather than chapter headings are more likely to lose track of their arguments. Rather than exceeding the prescribed word length, some candidates are writing up to 1,000 words short of the 4,000 limit, effectively penalising themselves.
Plagiarism continues to be a problem, and the SQA warns that downloading material en masse will incur "significant penalties". One particularly blatant example was referred to the malpractice panel and received no marks at all.
Pupils are also advised to "beware of the internet", with markers describing some websites as "dubious" and "not robust"; "BrainyQuote" should not be cited as an authority, they advise.
The point is made again that in the examination, the best essays are the ones which "answer the question".
"The expectation that a prepared essay will suffice for an answer at this level is naive."
Markers at Higher level were also impressed with the quality of many pieces of work, but in Paper 1 were very concerned by the number of candidates who "seriously misinterpreted specific questions". Pupils' ability to structure and organise the extended essay has improved, thanks to dedicated and effective teaching.
The Intermediate 2 exam question "In what ways did Scots help to improve the lands to which they emigrated?" was often interpreted as simply referring to farming. Markers of the Intermediate 1 exam commented on the amount of "shuffled" copying and warned they will always discover copying from sources, however inventive the attempts to conceal it.