Student Advice

What Is An SVQ?

Karis Nash  · Jul 1st 2022

Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are designed to assess competence in the work-place.


An SVQ qualification helps increase understanding of a particular sector or job role. They are work-based qualifications that include on-the-job assessment which guarantees that an employee is capable of doing their job to the highest of industry standards. SVQs are ideal for those wanting to expand their existing skill set in a particular role, and for employers looking to upskill their staff.

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What is a SVQ?

SVQ stands for Scottish Vocational Qualification and is the Scottish equivalent of the NVQ in England. These work-based qualifications ensure that you can do your job well and to the national industry standards.

SVQs are vocational qualifications therefore they will likely be completed outside of the classroom. Therefore you can complete an SVQ while doing your day-to-day job.

Gaining an SVQ qualification demonstrates competence, motivation, ambition, and commitment to whichever role/ industry you are in.

Each SVQ is recognised on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The SCQF works similar to the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), which is a credit transfer system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The five SVQ levels are:

  • SVQ Level 1: Equivalent to Level 4 SCQF
  • SVQ Level 2: Equivalent to Level 5 SCQF
  • SVQ Level 3: Equivalent to Level 6 and 7 SCQF
  • SVQ Level 4: Equivalent to Level 8 and 9 SCQF
  • SVQ Level 5: Equivalent to Level 11 SCQF

Each SVQ level tests your abilities in the workplace and prepares you for elements of work that other qualifications may not. The levels represent the difficulty of the qualification, therefore allowing for progression in the workplace.

Moreover, within each SVQ qualification, there are different units. Each one of these units focuses on an aspect of a job, and demonstrates what it is to be competent in that aspect.

What are the SVQ levels equivalent to?

The level of SVQ you undergo will determine the equivalent qualification. Each of the SVQ levels equal qualification is presented on the SCQF framework.

  • SVQ Level 1 is equal to Skills for Work National 4
  • SVQ Level 2 is equal to Skills for Work National 5
  • SVQ Level 3 is equivalent to Skills for Work Higher and a Higher National Certificate
  • SVQ Level 4 is equivalent to a Higher National Diploma or an Ordinary Degree
  • SVQ Level 5 is equal to a Masters Degree

A typical SVQ assessment is made up of two different parts. These are a portfolio assessment and an observation.

What age do you study an SVQ?

There is not a set age when you can take an SVQ. They can be studied by school or college students with part-time jobs or work placements, or by full-time employees. They can be completed by apprentices or new staff members, employees taking part in training schemes or those who would like a vocational qualification. With this in mind, SVQs of any level can be taken early or later on in your career.

How are SVQs assessed?

A typical SVQ assessment is made up of two different parts. These are a portfolio assessment and an observation. There are no formal written exams involved in the qualification.

A portfolio assessment allows you to build up a collection of evidence of what you have done at work. You are able to include evidence from up to a year ago, however, it is preferred that your examples are as current as possible to ensure your skills are up-to-date.

An observation is when an assessor will observe you at work and check that you can do the job to the specified standards. You usually meet with your assessor once a month (more if you require support). An assessor will also discuss your work with your managers and co-workers to gain more insight.

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Where are SVQs studied?

SVQs can be taken by full-time employees or students who are on a work placement or have a part-time job, therefore where the SVQ is studied varies. They can either be studied either in a school or college or in the workplace. If an SVQ is being studied by a full-time employee, it could be completed through training in the workplace. Therefore, there may be no classroom teaching involved.

Whilst studying for an SVQ, your performance will be assessed in day-to-day situations. An assessor will visit your place of work and review your progress in conjunction with the SVQ standards. They will also likely speak with your work colleagues and line managers. The visit is also a great opportunity for you to discuss with your assessor the evidence you have compiled whilst working, as they will be able to advise you on what is worth including in your portfolio. You are also able to send evidence to your assessor at any time during the SVQ for feedback.

How long do SVQs take?

On average, it takes eight to six months to complete an SVQ. Saying this, there is no exact time frame associated with the completion of an SVQ. The level of SVQ you are studying for will affect how long it takes to complete the qualifications. For example, SVQ levels 3 or 4 could take up to 12 months, whilst level 2 SVQs take less time, usually nine months maximum.

The completion date is decided between the assessor, employer and the candidate during the induction. Each individual's circumstances are taken into account when setting a realistic deadline. If additional time is needed once this has been set, for example, to gather evidence, then this can be discussed with your assessor.

SVQs are ideal for those wanting to expand their existing skill set in a particular role, and for employers looking to up-skill their staff.

What sectors can I do a SVQ in?

There are over 500 different SVQs available. These SVQs are available in a range of different sectors including accounting, business, childcare, dental nursing and oil and gas industries. You can find out which SVQs are available and in which sectors on the SQA website.

How much do SVQs cost?

There is no set price list for the SVQs as the cost depends on where you are completing the qualification and on the subject or sector. If you're completing an SVQ through workplace training, your company may settle any costs on your behalf.

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