Modern Studies

Modern Studies engages young people to develop a greater understanding of the world today and their place in it.  Students will have opportunities to develop important attitudes such as respect for the values, beliefs and cultures of others; openness to new thinking and ideas; and a sense of responsibility and global citizenship.

National 4/5 Modern Studies

Course Outline 

In the National course, there are three key areas of focus: 

 Democracy in the UK

There has never been a more crucial time to have a well-informed knowledge on the British political system and in class you will explore how Parliament works.   What do politicians really do?  You will also learn the ways in which political parties’ campaign for election and participate in your own whole-school mock election campaign.   We will also examine voting behavior to find out who votes for what political party.

Crime and the Law

This is a fascinating topic that covers the nature, extent, and causes of crime. The topic also analyses the impact of crime on individuals and society. The role of individuals, the police, legal system, and the state in tackling crime is also investigated.


Terrorist attacks are a prominent topic within society today. This is due to the frequency of such attacks. In class, you will investigate recent events and research the reasons behind such attacks against humanity.  


National 5 Modern Studies: There is a formal exam at the end of this course which will take place in one sitting. The time allocation is 2 hours and 20 minutes. Pupils will be assessed on all three units covered and the exam is marked out of 80.  

There is also an externally assessed ‘Added Value’ Assignment to complete at National 5 and this is worth 20 marks – 20% of the overall grade. ​ This project will be completed between January and March. This is to be submitted to the SQA by Easter 2024.

There is no external exam for National 4, but internally marked assessments and ‘Added Value’ Assignment to complete.​


Course Outline

The Higher Modern Studies course is comprised of three units. These are:

Social Issues in the UK

We will look at:

  • The reasons why Scotland suffers from more ill health and poverty than any other country in the UK.
  • The reasons behind issues such as alcohol, drugs, obesity, unemployment and gender discrimination.
  • How good the government have been at tackling issues of inequality in our society.
  • Whether or not the government should help people in need or if it is the responsibility of the individual to help themselves.

2. Democracy in Scotland and the UK

We will look at:

  • Possible alternatives for the governance of Scotland; should we be independent from the UK? Should we be given more power to make decisions? Or should we remain part of the UK with no change to the current set up?
  • The implications of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Did the UK make the right decision? And how will this impact the future of the UK and Scotland within the UK?
  • How good MPs and MSPs are at holding government to account for the decisions made on our behalf.
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the system of voting we use in the UK. Is it fair? Is it representative? Should it be changed?
  • The ways in which Political Parties attract voters e.g. twitter campaigns and TV broadcasts. It will explore who the typical voter is for each of the main parties e.g. who working class people normally vote for and why

3. World Power: USA

We will look at:

  • The international influence of the USA, including its response to the Ukrainian crisis
  • The extent to which the US political system allows for democratic participation, including its response to the “storming of the Capitol” by Trump supporters
  • Socio-economic inequality in the USA and its impact
  • Effectiveness of government responses to socio-economic inequalities


Higher Modern Studies: There is a formal exam at the end of this course which will take place over two sittings on the same day. The time allocation is 1 hour and 45 minutes for Paper 1 and 1 hour and 15 minutes for Paper 2. Paper 1 is essay based, and Paper 2 focusses on source-handling skills. Paper 1 accounts for 52 marks and Paper 2 is marked out of 28.

Pupils will also complete an externally assessed ‘Added Value’ Assignment.  This is worth 30 marks and will account for 27% of the overall grade. This is to be submitted to the SQA prior to Easter.

Study Support

To develop study and skills and enhance their chances of success, pupils should

  • Undertake regular revision​
  • Take pride in personal organisation​
  • Act on teacher feedback​
  • Engage with Teams and Satchel One​
  • Attend study classes with class teachers​
  • Engage with SQA past papers and marking instructions​

Useful study websites

Altra Curriculum Explorer (Past Papers)

BBC Bitesize –