Shirley-Anne Somerville announced in August that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) will be scrapped and replaced while Education Scotland will see its powers of inspection removed.
The move came following a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
On Wednesday, the Education Secretary went further, outlining plans to overhaul the exams system – although the final outlook is not yet clear.
Professor Louise Hayward of Glasgow University will lead a group to engage with stakeholders, Ms Somerville said.
“The issue of assessment and qualifications generates strong and sometimes conflicting opinions, however I am convinced that, given the experience and views expressed over the last two years, the time is right to signal that the Scottish Government supports reform of national qualifications and assessment,” she told MSPs.
“The Scottish Government will consult on the purpose and principles which should underpin any reform of national qualifications and assessments.
“This will be the first step in a process which will be done with careful thought and consideration, recognising the importance of national qualifications to learners.”
The Education Secretary said the group led by Prof Hayward, which will begin its work in the new year, will help to “provide advice to Scottish ministers as to how agreed principles will be translated into a design for delivering assessment and qualifications while ensuring that externally assessed examination will remain part of the new system”.
Scottish Tory education spokesman Oliver Mundell said the statement “confirms that the only plans the SNP have got is to double down on radical and ill thought out reform that will end exams as we know them”.
In response, Ms Somerville said: “I don’t think Oliver Mundell read the statement which he got in advance or listened to what I’ve said, because I specifically said in the statement that we’re not talking about ending exams.
“What we are talking about is having a discussion about the best way of us being able to look at what a learner achieves and recognise that achievement.”
She went on to tell Mr Mundell “it’s not too late to drop the soundbite and the press release you’ve no doubt already put out and genuinely take part in a discussion about what the qualifications and assessment process will look like going forward”.
Labour education spokesman Michael Marra accused the Education Secretary of being “content to leave the SQA – unfit in its current form, as the Cabinet Secretary agrees – presiding over our assessment process this year and potentially beyond”.