Advanced Higher English Essay Writing


The Advanced Higher English Course provides learners with the opportunity to apply critical, analytical and evaluative skills to a wide range of complex and sophisticated texts from different genres. Learners develop sophisticated writing skills, responding to the way structure, form and language shape the overall meaning of texts. This enables learners to access their own cultural heritage and history, as well as the culture and history of others.

Learners have the opportunity to personalise their study; choices enable learners to encounter a wide range of texts in different genres and to produce sophisticated writing in chosen literary forms. Building on the four capacities, Advanced Higher English enables learners to communicate, be critical thinkers, develop cultural awareness, and be creative.

Course Content

The Course is made up of twomandatory Units. The main purpose of the Course is to provide learners with the opportunity to apply analytical and evaluative skills to a wide range of literary texts. Learners interpret complex literary forms, produce sophisticated language and develop the skills outlined in the Units.

Analysis and Evaluation

The general aim of this Unit is to provide learners with opportunities to extend and refine their analysis and evaluation skills through the study of a range of complex and sophisticated texts in different literary genres. Pupils develop the skills of responding critically to complex and sophisticated literary texts using appropriate critical terminology.

Creation and Production

The general aim of this Unit is to provide learners with the opportunity to extend and refine their writing skills through the production of a range of writing in different genres. They will also critically reflect on the development of their writing.

Assessment Overview

Pupils will be assessed in the following ways:

Internal Assessment

For the Analysis and Evaluation unit, learners will be required to provide evidence of their critical analysis and evaluation skills by:

  • analysing and evaluating at least two complex and sophisticated literary texts in depth.
  • providing details of their literary research, and organising their findings.

For the Creation and Production unit, learners will be required to provide evidence of their writing skills by:

  • producing at least two drafts of one piece of their own writing and show critical reflection of the development of the writing process.


External Assessment

The four components identifed below will provide pupils with their overall grading. The first two components are undertaken in an Exam, while the Portfolio and Dissertations are undertaken in controlled conditions in school.

  • Literary Study (Component 1) – 20% (One Critical Essay)
  • Textual Analysis (Component 2) – 20% (One Essay on an unseen passage)
  • The Portfolio (Component 3) – 30% (Two pieces of writing from creative and/or discursive writing)
  • The Dissertation (Component 4) – 30% (One piece of writing demonstrating an in-depth knowledge and understanding of complex and sophisticated literary text/s)

Further details on the external assessment can be found here.

Entry Requirements

  • Pass in Higher English at A or B AND
  • A joy of reading and analysing texts.

SQA Website for Advanced Higher English

If you wish to see all SQA's documentation about the course, click here.




What does Advanced Higher English involve?
In many respects, Advanced Higher English more closely resembles a university course than its preceding Higher. Candidates at Advanced Higher will be expected to show independence of thought, create writing of complexity, and analyse literature to a great degree of depth.     

How is Advanced Higher English assessed?

60% of a candidate's Advanced Higher score is assessed through coursework; 40% is assessed through a final exam.
I. Coursework
Candidates at Advanced Higher must submit a portfolio of writing (30%) and a critical dissertation (30%) to the SQA.

Candidates must submit two pieces of writing. Unlike National 5 and Higher, there is no maximum word count for Advanced Higher folio pieces. Pupils' pieces must represent two of the following genres: persuasive, informative, argumentative, poetry, prose fiction, drama, or personal/reflective.

The Advanced Higher dissertation requires pupils to independently select pieces of literature - two novels, six short stories, or five to six poems - and write an extended essay of 2500-3000 words critically analysing them. The Advanced Higher dissertation stresses independence: with guidance, pupils will choose the texts and the topic of their dissertation, and research it.

II. Exam
The final exam consists of two papers, each worth 20% of a candidate's grade.
Paper 1: Literary Study (90 minutes)
In this paper, pupils will write a critical essay which asks them to compare and contrast two texts studied in class.
Paper 2: Textual Analysis (90 minutes)
In this paper pupils will be presented with a piece of literature, or an extract from a longer piece of literature, which they have not seen before. They will be asked a mini-essay question requiring them to analyse and critically evaluate it.


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