Highers are taken in S5 when you are 15-16 at a school, sixth-form college or higher education college. They are roughly equivalent to AS-levels (however studied a year early) while Advanced Highers are roughly equivalent to A-levels.
Highers are the normal entry qualifications for universities in Scotland which generally ask for four Highers. If you are looking to study elsewhere in the UK, check with the university of your choice's website for what's needed - many universities are open to those with Highers often asking for five or more, while others ask for three Advanced Highers. Most will ask for a mix of both Highers and Advanced Highers.
You can continue with subjects studied in S4 or study new ones and there are approximately 70 subjects you can choose from which include:
- humanities & social sciences such as economics and psychology
- applied sciences such as electrical engineering, manufacturing, and land use
- arts such as art & design, drama and music
- languages, ancient and modern
- pure sciences and maths
Depending on the course, there will be a final exam, and you might also be assessed through coursework. To "qualify" for the final exam, you need to pass the Nation Assessment Bank (NABs), which are essentially end-of-unit tests in each subject. Final exams take place in May/June, while the results come out 5th August, and you will received an A-D or no award if you failed to achieve the required marks.
After S5 you can then apply to university (you can apply earlier, but most people don't do this) through UCAS. If you already have the grades the university is asking for, you'll obtain an unconditional offer, however they might ask for higher grades, Advanced Highers or more subjects, whereby you will obtain a conditional offer and your place will be conditional depending on your results in S6.
In S6 you can then take additional Highers or Advanced Highers. You might choose to take two or three to Advanced Highers, or just take an extra couple of Highers depending on what you want to do, or what you need to achieve to get into university if you have applied. You can also up-grade or re-take Highers if you didn't get the grade you need.
Advanced Highers are useful if you are intending on taking on the subject further (for example taking Advanced Higher maths if you wish to study maths at university), and while there are fewer Advanced Highers to choose from, there are still more than 50.
Advanced Highers work in the same way as Highers whereby depending on the course, there will be a final exam, and you might also be assessed through coursework. To "qualify" for the final exam, you need to pass the Nation Assessment Bank (NABs), which are essentially end-of-unit tests in each subject. Final exams take place in May/June, while the results come out 5th August and you will received an A-D or no award if you failed to achieve the required marks.
If you find you have more free time in S6, you could always get a part-time job or volunteer for a few hours a week.