LSG: Presentation of data in science subjects for SQA

The Learned Societies’ Group on STEM Education (the LSG) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s (SQA) consultation on its draft guidance document2 on the production, use and interpretation of graphs and charts in SQA assessments. This consultation provides a timely opportunity for SQA to develop a clear policy, which it can then apply consistently across its own documents as well as giving guidance to teachers and students. We support the SQA rationale for the consultation that, “[a]s far as possible skills taught in science should be transferable across science subjects to ensure that learners study ignore than one science are not disadvantaged”.

The LSG comprises representatives from the: Association for Science Education; BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT; Edinburgh Mathematical Society; Engineering Policy Group in Scotland; Institute of Physics; Royal Society of Biology; Royal Society of Chemistry; Royal Society of Edinburgh; and Scottish Mathematical Council. The LSG collaborative grouping brings together these organisations to discuss and contribute to the major reforms in STEM education in Scottish schools. LSG representatives would be pleased to discuss further our comments with SQA officials.


This consultation presents SQA with an opportunity to develop clear policy for providing consistency across SQA documents as well as guiding teachers and learners.

Data should be presented in line with internationally agreed standards and follow best-practice guidance.

Data presentation at different levels should be appropriate for each level, but data should be presented consistently within exams and courses at each level.

There should be a clear distinction between the standards expected of data presentation in documents published by SQA, such as examination papers, and the standards acceptable in student responses to assessments.

In accordance with best practice advice, tables and graphs should have headings and labels reflecting that they are mathematical devices dealingwith pure numbers. They should follow the convention, “quantity/units” for example “mass/g”.

Download this Advice Paper