Pupils to sit new Highers as Scottish exams get under way
Thousands of pupils are preparing to sit the new look Higher qualifications as the exams period gets under way in Scottish schools.
Changes were made to tie them in with the new National 4 and 5 qualifications that replaced Standard Grades.
Some students will sit a mix of both the old and new exams, with many schools choosing to defer some new of the new Highers for a year.
The first exams taking place are in drama and economics.
More than half a million exams will be sat by more than 132,000 candidates, who are taking courses at 473 schools and colleges.
The new Highers are directly comparable with the old ones and are worth the same when students apply to colleges and universities.
Schools were given the option to phase in the new Highers, with provisional figures released by Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) earlier this year showing almost half (45%) of pupils will sit the existing and not the new qualification this year.
All pupils are due to study for the new qualifications from the 2015/16 school year on, but teaching unions have raised concerns about the implementation of the reforms and their impact on teacher workload.
This year also marks the last year of the Intermediate courses - which were stepping stones on the way to more advanced qualifications.
Minister for Learning Dr Alasdair Allan insisted the reforms are benefiting young people as he wished exam candidates well.
He said: "Scottish education now offers more flexible learning opportunities for our young people.
"This year marks an important milestone in the ongoing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with the introduction of the new Higher.
"Curriculum for Excellence has been designed to equip our young people with the skills they need to succeed both in Scotland and in the global workplace, with local authorities having the freedom to shape education to meet the needs of our pupils, whatever their background."
Dr Janet Brown, SQA chief executive and Scotland's chief examining officer, said: "All of our qualifications, including the new Higher, provide candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge and understanding they've acquired and prepare them for further study, employment or training.
"Our qualifications are robust, relevant and designed to equip young people with a wide range of skills."
The exam period will finish on 5 June with candidates due to receive their final results on 4 August.