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SQA denies leap in Higher pass rates

Spot checks that compare year against year make it 'extraordinarily unlikely'

wild swings in performance can distort results, reports David Henderson.

THE Scottish Qualifications Authority has strongly denied newspaper claims about easier pass rates and is to continue its research on exam performance to ensure consistent standards across the years.

Results this year show a modest 0.6 per cent increase in Higher passes, attributed to better teaching and learning. The rise is of little statistical significance, the authority says.

Over the past six years there has been a steady rise in Higher pass rates (pre-appeal) - from 66.6 per cent to 69.6 per cent.

There is no evidence of Highers being easier. Indeed the SQA points to a survey two years ago by the Scottish Council for Research in Education which looked at four Highers over a 10-year period and concluded they were broadly the same standard.

As part of its quality assurance system, the authority will this autumn conduct a spot survey of five Highers - taken in 1985, 1992 and 1998 - to compare candidates' answers. A group of three external and experienced assessors in each subject will report by November. The subjects are English, French, accounting, geography and modern studies. A different set of five Highers will be selected next year.

An SQA spokesman said: "This is expected to further support the case for consistency of standards and it is extraordinarily unlikely that there will be any major swings from year to year."

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