Students have known their individual grades since the end of June, due to the use of an alternative grading model focused more heaviy on teacher judgment.
But, in general, the number of students receiving between and A and a C – known as the attainment rate – fell in all of the qualifications published by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on Tuesday.
For National 5 qualifications, the attainment rate was 85.8 per cent this year, compared to 89 per cent in 2019/20.
Higher attainment fell from 89.3 per cent to 87.3 per cent, while Advanced Higher dropped to 90.2 per cent from 93.1 per cent.
The number of total entries to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) rose by 8,201 to 660,661, with almost 137,000 pupils receiving certificates on Tuesday.
Despite the drop in the attainment rate, education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville described the results as “strong”, adding they had been “achieved under extraordinary circumstances”.
“It’s been one of the toughest academic years we’ve ever known, with the pandemic throwing significant challenges at our young people,” she said.
“So to have this many learners receiving certificates and for the number of passes at Higher and Advanced Higher to be so high is incredible.
“These results are testament to the hard work, resilience and determination of learners – and to the dedication of their endlessly supportive teachers and lecturers, who have been with them every step of the way, going above and beyond to make sure pupils got the grades they deserve.
“Learners can be confident that their awards are fair, consistent and credible. Indeed, industry representatives have made it clear how much they value this year’s qualifications.”
SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson said: “This has been a very challenging year for everyone and today is a results day like no other.
“With awarding based on teacher and lecturer judgment this year, learners have known their results since the end of June. However, as envelopes, text messages and emails arrive from SQA this morning, it is a time to celebrate the achievements of learners right across Scotland.
“Today, almost 137,000 learners have received SQA certificates, the largest since 2017 and we report on a strong set of results.
“The whole Scottish education system, including learners, parents and carers, has worked together to develop and deliver an alternative certification model that makes sure that learners have received the qualifications they deserve, and can move on to further or higher education, training or employment, with confidence.
“Everyone worked hard to ensure the model was credible and fair so we can all have confidence in the certificates that have been awarded today.
“I want to thank everyone who has played their part, directly or indirectly, in delivering for learners this year in the most exceptional circumstances.”
Children's charity NSPCC had warned in the lead-up to the release of exam results that thousands of young people would face “incredibly tough” stress as the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on their mental health takes its toll.