The findings show that 78 per cent of the 4,817 pupils who took five Highers last year passed them all, and another 13 per cent got four; by contrast only 50 per cent of those who sat four gained all four.
The HMI also checked Higher performance against the best Standard grade scores notched up by those pupils in 1997 and found a similar picture. In the most successful group gaining top Credit results, 99 per cent who took five Highers passed either five or four, while only 84 per cent who took four got all four; for a middle group with mostly Credit awards and some upper General passes, the respective figures were 85 per cent and 55 per cent; and even the weakest group with some Credits but mostly upper General awards revealed a difference at Higher of 53 per cent to 27 per cent.
Further analysis was then carried out to determine the quality of the Higher awards, using university entry scores which give three points for an A pass at Higher, two for a B and one for a C. Again, all of the three Standard grade groups showed the same striking differential between pupils who sat five Highers and those who took four. The pattern was reinforced when the A and B awards were scrutinised.