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SCQF Level 6 (24 SCQF credit points)

Highers are the main route into higher education courses at university or college, including Degree, Higher National Diploma (HND) and Higher National Certificate (HNC) level courses.

Most candidates sit Highers in S5 or S6, although it is possible to sit them in S4.

Chemistry: Higher

Why Chemistry?

Chemistry, the study of matter and its interactions, contributes essential knowledge and understanding across all aspects of our lives. Chemistry explains the links between the particulate nature of matter and the macroscopic properties of the world. Chemistry research and development is essential for the introduction of new products. The chemical industry is a major contributor to the economy of the country.

In this course you will learn of the impact chemistry makes on developing sustainability, and its effects on the environment, on society and on the lives of themselves and others. You will develop the ability to think analytically, creatively and independently, and to make reasoned evaluations.

The skills that you develop in chemistry are valuable in many careers, such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, the food industry and the manufacture of plastics.

Entry to the Course

Entry is at the discretion of the school or college but you would normally be expected to have:

Course outline

This course develops scientific understanding of issues relating to chemistry, and uses the development of chemical theory to provide you with an extensive set of skills. Through application of a detailed knowledge and understanding of chemical concepts, in practical situations, you will develop an appreciation of the impact of chemistry on everyday life.

The course consists of four compulsory units and the course assessment unit.

Chemical Changes and Structure (3 SCQF credit points)

In this unit you will:

  • gain knowledge and understanding of controlling reaction rates and periodic trends
  • improve your ability to make reasoned evaluations by recognising underlying patterns and principles
  • investigate collision theory and the use of catalysts in reactions
  • explore the concept of electro-negativity and intra-molecular and intermolecular forces
  • investigate the connection between bonding and a material's physical properties.

Researching Chemistry (3 SCQF credit points)

In this unit you will:

  • learn the necessary skills to undertake research in chemistry
  • research the relevance of chemical theory to everyday life by exploring the chemistry behind a topical issue
  • develop the key skills associated with collecting and synthesising information from a number of different sources
  • plan and undertake a practical investigation related to a topical issue, using your knowledge of common chemistry apparatus and techniques
  • communicate their results and conclusions, using your scientific literacy skills.

Nature’s Chemistry (6 SCQF credit points)

In this unit you will:

  • learn about organic chemistry within the context of chemistry of food and the chemistry of everyday consumer products, soaps, detergents, fragrances and skincare
  • explore the relationship between the structure of organic compounds, their physical and chemical properties and their uses
  • cover key functional groups and types of organic reaction.

Chemistry in Society (6 SCQF credit points)

In this unit you will:

  • learn about the principles of physical chemistry which allow a chemical process to be taken from the researcher's bench through to industrial production
  • calculate quantities of reagents and products, percentage yield and the atom economy of processes
  • develop skills to manipulate dynamic equilibria and predict enthalpy changes
  • investigate the ability of substances to act as oxidising or reducing agents and their use in analytical chemistry through the context of volumetric titrations
  • use analytical chemistry to determine the purity of reagents and products.

Course Assessment (6 SCQF credit points)

The course assessment has two components:

  • a question paper (100 marks)
  • an accounting related assignment (20 marks).

The question paper will assess your breadth of knowledge, understanding and skills accumulated across the course. The question paper will be set and marked by SQA.

The assignment will assess the application of skills of scientific inquiry and related chemistry knowledge and understanding. 


Your work will be assessed by your teacher on an ongoing basis throughout the course. You must pass all four units and the course assessment to gain the course qualification.

The course assessment is graded A-D. Your grade will depend on the total mark for all the units in your course.


If you complete the course successfully, it may lead to:

 Further study, training or employment in: