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SQA results day: what to expect

Our complete guide to SQA results day guide will take you step-by-step through your options, whatever your results. Your journey to university starts here!

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When is SQA results day?

Results day for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is Tuesday 4 August 2020.

What SQA results do I need to apply for uni?

Let's take a few steps back...

Most universities' entry requirements centre around specific grades in four or five Highers which you achieve in S5  with these under your belt, you can then begin applying to universities. This is the opposite of what happens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where you apply with your predicted grades and have to wait until results day to find out if you've got the grades to meet your offer. 

Universities may require these to be achieved in one sitting (in S5) or might allow retakes in S6 we go into more detail about this, below.

Scottish universities don't tend to ask for Advanced Highers (taken in S6) in their entry requirements – usually your Highers grades are sufficient. The exception is where you're applying to a particularly competitive course such as medicine or law. In some cases, you may be asked to take an additional Higher or two alongside this.

That said, there are benefits to staying on at college and studying for Advanced Highers and some universities actively encourage this. It can improve your chances of receiving an offer the following year. Plus, some universities grant direct entry to second year for particular courses, including in the sciences and engineering.

I started out taking two Advanced Highers, but I received an unconditional offer to my first choice uni at the time of my prelims. So I ended up dropping them both and coasting a little after that  I would not recommend doing that! Hannah, Graduate

If you're unsure what you need to achieve, always check specific requirements with the university in question – either search for a course now on The Uni Guide or contact the university directly.

What can you do before results day?

If you're worried that come results day you won't get the Advanced Highers grades you need for that competitive degree course you've applied for, be ready to contact the university straight away to find out whether they'll accept you based on what you do get. Also, you can make a start on a back-up plan just in case.

Competition is stiff for places at Scottish universities. According to Audit Scotland, the number of applications being made has grown at a faster rate than the number of funded places available over the last decade, meaning an offer might be more difficult to come by.

A little preparation for the worst case scenario therefore seems wise. This way, you can carefully plan your next steps rather than make a rushed decision you might regret.

What happens on SQA results day?

Your Scottish Qualifications Certificate (SQC) will arrive in the post on results day (first class, no less).

Those who signed up to MySQA can request to have these sent to them via email or text – a good idea if you'll be away on holiday. If you're applying to university, SQA will send your results to Ucas automatically, so you'll be able to check the status of your application online via Track.

If you don't receive your results on this day, contact your school or college immediately.

I had my results posted to me. Everyone received them on the same day, and I remember everyone being on Facebook posting their results when they'd arrived. Some people didn't receive their results until much later in the day, which I imagine would have been an agonising wait! Hannah Burke, Graduate

What will I receive on SQA results day?

You'll receive the following in your SQC:
  • a cover letter, outlining what is enclosed, your Scottish Candidate Number and SQA contact details if you have any queries
  • a summary of grades, covering all the SQA qualifications and units you've achieved until now
  • a detailed record of attainment, covering in detail the most recent qualifications you've achieved
  • a core skills profile, outlining the five skills you've achieved from your qualifications, which the SQA considers crucial to work.

Your results quick guide

Read our quick guide or scroll down for more in-depth answers.
What are your results? What now? What next?
You're in S6 and applying to begin uni this year.

You got the Advanced Higher results you were hoping for.
Congratulations - you've got onto your course! Looking out for an AS12 email from Ucas, confirming your place at uni.

If your place was unconditional, you will have received this email in the spring.

Get ready for uni:
You're in S6 and applying to begin uni this year.

You've not got the grades you wanted.
Check Ucas Track.

If there are spots left for your firm or insurance choices, your uni may still accept you.

Be patient as the uni may take a while to update Track. If neither of your choices have accepted you, Clearing is an option.
Tip: contact the university directly to see if they'll accept you if you narrowly missed the grades.

Alternatively, find a plan B in Clearing.
You're in S5 and applying to begin uni next year.

You want to start looking into uni options.
Great - start your university search now! Search for your perfect course and university at
You didn't get the grades you wanted.

You're going to retake your Highers in S6.
Check that the unis you're applying to accept retakes in their entry requirements. Also consider your workload if you retake subjects on top of new ones you pick up. Look up entry requirements for uni courses at


Results day  I'm in S6 and applying to uni this year 

If you get the Advanced Higher results you were hoping for, congratulations! Continue preparing for the big move to university.

Ucas will send you an AS12 email confirming your place after hearing from your university. If your firm offer was unconditional, you'll have received this back in spring anyway (so there's nothing for you to do). 

If you don't get the Advanced Higher or (retaken) Higher results you need, check Ucas Track immediately to see the status of your offer. If it says 'conditional', that means the university is still making a decision over whether to accept you or not – there's still hope! Contact the university directly to speak to someone and get an answer quicker.

If your first choice university ultimately doesn't accept you, you'll revert to your insurance course choice.

If you don't meet the requirements for your insurance option either (or don't have one), you can enter Ucas Clearing to find an alternative course and apply to them. 

How to appeal SQA exam results

You can’t appeal your grades by yourself – such a request must come from your Head Teacher or Principal, so speak to them about this. Because most students have their results sent to them (via post, email or text), make sure you know who to contact (and how) once you get your results in case you need to discuss your options.

Your school or college can request either: 
  • a clerical check: this makes sure that all parts of the qualification materials have been marked, and that the marks given for all answers have been totalled correctly
  • a marking review: this goes further, by also checking that the marking is in line with the national standard and that the correct result has been entered

Ucas Clearing

Clearing mainly exists for those in S6 who don't get the necessary results in either the Highers they're retaking or the Advanced Highers they need for a particular university course. 

Scottish universities begin publicising their Clearing vacancies a few weeks ahead of results day.

However, the number of places available may vary from institution to institution; or the university may restrict who these are open to.

Some universities have very few Clearing spots, or even none at all. This could be due to larger government policies at work, or simply because they're popular and have filled their spots already.

Check with individual universities to see what they're putting on the table during Clearing this year.

Just note that English, Northern Irish and Welsh universities publicise the majority of their Clearing vacancies closer to A-level results day when students there receive their results. But it's worth looking to see what else is available before this to get ahead of the later rush.

Survival guide to Clearing  including what it is, how to find places and more.


Results day I'm in S5 and want to go to uni next year

Once you've got your Highers results under your belt, you'll have a clearer picture of the courses and universities that match your grades in terms of entry requirements. Here on The Uni Guide, use our Highers grade filters to find relevant university degrees that match your grades when searching for a course.

When applying to university in the autumn through Ucas (or directly to a college), think ambitiously and realistically about courses. We'd suggest a mixture of solid options with entry grades that reflect your current results now, plus one or two stretch choices that your S6 results could help you swing. Dig into the details of the course content, modules and application criteria.

If you're planning to begin your university research journey once you have your Highers results, grab our free Getting into Uni guide. It contains everything you need to know about the next 12 months, from finding the perfect course and writing a personal statement to student finance and much more.

If you don't get the Highers results you were hoping for, there is the option to retake these in S6, alongside any Advanced Highers you were planning to take here as well. 

Retaking Highers in S6

Some universities will accept a Highers grade that's been retaken in S6. Check this as it may vary across different institutions, as well as courses within a university; some may only consider Highers taken in one sitting.

It might be that where retakes are accepted, specific conditions are attached. For example, in the past the University of Edinburgh have stated that it will consider retaken Highers sat in S6, but that the minimum entry requirements shift up a grade (so an ABBB requirement in S5 would become AABB if it includess a grade retaken in S6).

But, where competition for places is particularly fierce, losing out on a place to a candidate who achieved the same results in only one sitting (ie they did not do any retakes) might be the reality. Keep your mind and options open to different courses and universities when applying. 

Think carefully about your workload if you plan to retake Highers alongside any Advanced Highers or additional Highers – you'll be in for an intensive year.

Good luck!

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