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Past papers and marking instructions

Find past papers and marking instructions for your revision. You can search by topic and or refine by subject and level. To add the matching marking instructions simply tick the box.

We provide up to five years of past papers.

13 Past Papers found

12 marking instructions found, modified past papers.

Some of the 2022 past papers are labelled 'modified'. This means SQA made changes to the question paper in response to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, as part of our modifications to assessment in National Courses. For example, a modified past paper may be shorter, have fewer marks or contain fewer topics than past papers from previous years.

These modifications will stay in place for the 2023 exams.

Specimen question papers

Specimen question papers are available for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications. These show what a question paper looks like - how it is structured and the types of questions it contains. They also include marking instructions. Find them under 'Past Papers and Marking Instructions' on our NQ subject pages .

Digital question papers

Question Papers in Digital Format for candidates with disabilities and/or additional support needs.

Creating your own assessment materials from SQA question papers

Our National Qualifications 2020-21 section has advice on creating your own bespoke assessments from SQA question papers.

Conditions of use

The information in a past paper may be reproduced in support of SQA qualifications only on a non-commercial basis. If it is reproduced, SQA must be clearly acknowledged as the source. If it is to be reproduced for any other purpose, written permission must be obtained from [email protected]

Where a past paper includes material for which SQA does not own the copyright, this material can only be reproduced on a non-commercial basis for the purposes of instruction in an educational establishment. If it is to be reproduced for any other purpose, it is the user's responsibility to obtain the necessary copyright clearance from the copyright owner. The acknowledgements page in a past paper lists the owners of copyright items that are not owned by SQA.


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Higher English

The Higher English Course provides learners with the opportunity to develop listening, talking, reading and writing skills that will enable them to understand and use language. Building on literacy skills, Learners will develop their understanding of the complexities of language by studying a wide range of texts and building on their literacy skills. The course also develops high levels of analytical thinking and understanding of the impact of language.

The examples here can be viewed in web-page format where questions, marking instructions, responses and commentaries are grouped together: see Reading for Understanding, Analysis and Evaluation - Scottish Text -   Critical Essay  - Portfolio . Alternatively, all content is available to view or download from the PDF files page.  

Higher English

Higher English

The critical essay is worth 20 marks.

How to write an introduction-  ppt

How to write a critical essay-  ppt

Essay Questions

Prose non fiction

Check here to read previous essays and see the marks awarded by SQA.

Prose Fiction Notes

Shooting An Elephant

Shooting An Elephant Powerpoint

The Great Gatsby

Gatsby Chapter 1

Gatsby Chapter 2

Gatsby Chapter 3

Gatsby Chapter 4

Gatsby Chapter 5

Gatsby Chapter 6

Gatsby Chapter 7

Gatsby Chapter 8

Gatsby Chapter 9

Setting essay- Gatsby

critical essay higher english sqa

“A Hanging”- George Orwell

A Hanging Fully Annotated

A Hanging/ Macbeth notes

PEAR paragraphs- A Hanging

“Letter to Daniel”

A Letter To Daniel – Annotation

critical essay higher english sqa

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Higher English Online

Critical essay, close reading, folio & nab advice., critical essay writing, higher & national 5 prelims.

Good luck to all Vale of Leven Academy pupils with their prelim exams on Monday. Work as hard as you can this weekend & do your very best. We have great faith in you all.

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Hamlet task.

Read Hamlet’s speech at the end of Act 2, Scene 2. Consider its importance and write a short analysis of this speech. Post it as a comment.

Gatsby Questions

Choose a novel in which envy or malice or cruelty plays a significant part.

Explain how the writer makes you aware of this aspect of the text and discuss how the writer’s exploration of it enhances your understanding of the text as a whole.

Choose a novel in which the death of a character clarifies an important theme in the text.

Show how this theme is explored in the novel as a whole and discuss how the death of the character clarifies the theme.

Choose a novel or short story which explores loss or futility or failure.

Discuss how the writer explores one of these ideas in a way you find effective.

Choose a novel in which a main character refuses to accept advice or to conform to expectations.

Explainthe circumstancesofthe refusal anddiscuss its importance toyourunderstanding of the character in the novel as a whole.

Choose a novel or short story in which there is a character who is not only realistic as a person but who has symbolic significance in the text as a whole.

Show how the writer makes you aware of both aspects of the character

Choose a novel in which friendship or love is put to the test.

Explain briefly how this situation arises and go on to discuss how the outcome of the test leads you to a greater understanding of the central concern(s) of the text.

Choose a novel in which a central character is flawed but remains an admirable figure.

Show how the writer makes you aware of these aspects of personality and discuss how this feature of characterisation enhances your appreciation of the text as a whole.

Critical Essay Question

Choose a Carol Ann Duffy poem in which the poet explores one of the following emotions: anguish, dissatisfaction, regret, loss.

Show how the poet explores the emotion and discuss to what extent he or she is successful in deepening your understanding of it.

Easter Study Programme

Whilst everyone else will be celebrating the end of term and the start of their Easter holiday, it’s important that you realise that the next fortnight is a huge opportunity for you to increase your skills, knowledge, and understanding, in advance of the forthcoming diet of SQA exams.

I would recommend at least 1 hour of English study every day. If you didn’t pass the prelim exam, I would suggest that you should be doing between 90 minutes and 2 hours of study each day.

The following should be considered the basis of the study that you undertake:

Read all of the Critical Essay questions and ensure that you can undertake at least 2 from each section. Write a plan, including the quotations that you would use, for each response.

SQA Marking Criteria

There are 6 years of past papers – make sure that you have undertaken all of these Close Reading passages.

Close Reading Guide

If you have any difficulty undertaking these tasks, please message me via the comment link below.

Remember, you will only get out what you put in!

Consider the first two sections of George Orwell’s ‘Marrakech,’ and write an evaluation of one of the techniques that the author used in one of these sections.

Post your answer as a comment and I will share this.

What is the Meaning of the Almond Tree?

The almond tree is rife with biblical meanings. Moses’ brother, Aaron, carried a rod cut from an almond tree. When almond blossoms and leaves suddenly sprouted on the rod, this miracle was attributed as a sign that God had chosen Aaron and his tribe to be His priests. Almonds were mentioned often in the Bible, possibly because they are native to the Middle East and would have been widely available during biblical times.

Priestly Meaning

During the many years in the wilderness, the people of the Lord quarreled between themselves trying to determine who should be the priests and directly serve God. So, representatives of all 12 tribes brought their rods and placed them within the tabernacle. The next day, when Moses went into the tabernacle, he discovered that Aaron’s rod which was cut from an almond tree had miraculously burst into flowers. This meant that God had chosen Aaron and his family, from the tribe of Levites, to be His priests.


In Ecclesiastes, the almond is indicative of old age. This is an apt description since the almond bursts into flowers in late winter—and winter is often considered anthropomorphically as an old man. The almond blooms are borne on naked stems before the leaves emerge, and the old blossoms often look like white snowflakes when they fall to the ground.

The almond tree is also referred to as a “watchful” tree by the Prophet Jeremiah when he talks to God in a vision. Yahweh asks Jeremiah what he sees and Jeremiah mentions that he sees “a branch of an almond tree.” Yahweh answers: “You have seen well: for I keep watch over my word to give effect to it” (Jer.1:11-12).

Rod of Authority

In their book “Rod of an Almond Tree in God’s Master Plan,” Peter Michas and Robert Vander Maten propose that the Rod of Authority made from the Tree of Life was passed down through the ages by the biblical patriarchs. Eventually, King David planted it and centuries later it formed the cross on which Jesus was crucified. They believe that Revelation 22:2 states that the relic of the cross will reappear and flower. This will be a sign of God’s authority just as it was in the days of Aaron.

Great Quotations

Click on the relevant image of Leonardo DiCaprio to link to some great quotations from Romeo & Juliet & The Great Gatsby.


Higher English – Holiday Study Tasks

It’s only 8 weeks until the Higher English Prelim. As such, it’s really important that you spend a little time studying during the Christmas holidays.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t relax and enjoy the festive season, but you should also arrange your time so that you can undertake the following tasks as an absolute minimum.

Remember that you make your own choices and that only you can put in enough work to get the grade you desire.

Task 1 Spend 1 hour undertaking the following critical essay task on any Drama text.

Choose a play in which a character makes a crucial error. Explain what the error is and discuss to what extent it is important to your understanding of the character’s situation in the play as a whole.

Task 2 Spend 1 hour undertaking the following critical essay task on any Prose text.

Choose a novel with an ending which you found unexpected. Explain briefly in what way the ending is unexpected and go on to discuss to what extent it is a satisfactory conclusion to the novel.

Task 3 Click on the link below. It takes you to the assessment criteria for Higher English Critical Essays. Self assess your essays, based on this criteria, identifying a mark and 2 improvement points. This task should take about 1 hour.

Task 4 Click on the link below and undertake Paper 1 of the Close Reading past paper. This should take approximately 1 hour.

SQA 2008

Task 5 Click on the link below and undertake all of the Close Reading past paper. This should take approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes.

SQA 2010

Good Luck. If you have any questions about any of these tasks, please post a message using the link at the top of the screen.

Critical Essay – Personal Response

Personal response is a key aspect of your Critical Essay. A marker must see that you have engaged with the text. A very structured way to achieve this is to make one of the following statements towards the end of your evaluation (MARE,), prior to the part where you link to the question:

I hope this helps.

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Youtube channel video: knowledge builder 1, saturday, january 31, 2015, youtube channel video: skills booster 1, sunday, august 31, 2014, update: intermediate/higher page (2014 past papers), update: intermediate/higher page, monday, april 14, 2014, national 5 english exam: 2014.


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  1. 2021 Higher English Critical Reading Text Question Paper

    SECTION 2 — Critical essay — 20 marks. Attempt ONE question from the following genres — Drama, Prose Fiction, Prose Non-fiction,.

  2. SQA Past Papers and Marking Instructions

    Tick to download 2022 National 5 English - Reading for Understanding Analysis and Evaluation (246KB), 2022 ; Tick to download 2022 Higher English - Critical

  3. Higher English

    Finalised marking instructions (External link to SQA website). Candidate 1 Scottish text: The Slab Boys, Critical Essay: The Great Gatsby.

  4. Higher English

    Analysis and Evaluation - Scottish Text - Critical Essay - Portfolio.

  5. Essay

    How to write a critical essay- ppt ... Check hereto read previous essays and see the marks awarded by SQA.

  6. Critical Essay Writing

    knowledge, and understanding, in advance of the forthcoming diet of SQA exams.

  7. How to write a 20/20 HIGHER english Critical Essay!

    The critical essay is thought to be the most challenging part of the higher English exam, and commonly candidates try to give themselves

  8. 2015 English Higher Writing Folio Finalised Marking Instructions

    SQA's NQ Assessment team may be able to direct you to the secondary sources. These Marking Instructions have been prepared by Examination Teams for use by SQA.

  9. rhsenglish.com

    Links for all past papers for National 5 English have been added to the National ... 2015 Higher (SQA): Critical Essay & Close Reading .pdf

  10. Higher English Course Notes

    The Critical Reading paper: 40% (Scottish text - 20%; critical essay - 20%). ○ The Writing Folio: 30%. Internal Assessments. Higher English no longer

  11. Higher English Useful Information, Websites and Revision Tips

    Use the BBC Bitesize sites for their tips on improving critical essays.