The National 5 exams replace standard grades and have been created as part of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), a new course for pupils designed to “ensure continuity” through school studies with more “modern and practical” skills.
Intermediates, Highers and Advanced Highers will also be taken by S5 and S6 pupils over the next six weeks.
The first exams begin today with modern studies and continue until June 6 with the early education and childcare higher exam. Pupils and college students will find out the results on August 5.
The introduction of the CfE has proved controversial, with teachers, parents and unions raising concerns.
Teaching unions have warned about the amount of work linked to the new curriculum, with some teachers saying they have to work more than 60 hours a week. But unions have also stressed that members are committed to making sure the new qualifications are a success.
There have been complaints about an apparent lack of exam practice papers, and one of the architects of the new system left his post only weeks before the new exams begin.
Janet Brown, chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said: “Good qualifications are more important today than ever - and I send my very best wishes to all candidates sitting their National 5, Intermediates, Highers and Advanced Highers over the coming weeks as well as to those who are completing Access, National 1 - National 4 qualifications and Skills for Work Courses.
“The new qualifications are designed to provide the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to prepare students for further study, employment or training and are a natural continuation of the way pupils have learned under CfE.
“These qualifications are modern, relevant, flexible and practical and designed to equip young people with a wide range of skills.
“There is more of a focus on coursework in the new qualifications, to ensure learners are consolidating and can apply the skills and knowledge they have developed throughout the year - and ensure their qualifications reflect that.”
Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, described today as a “new era” in Scottish education.
“Today is a day that thousands of pupils in schools across Scotland have been eagerly working towards throughout the school year,” he said.
“It also marks a new era in Scottish education, with new National qualifications introduced as part of CfE. I extend my best wishes to all candidates preparing for exams over the next few weeks.
“The Scottish Government, working closely with the SQA and Education Scotland, has provided an unprecedented level of support to help teachers and schools prepare for CfE and the National qualifications.
“We want to see every young person leave school with the best qualifications and skills they can. I am fully confident everything has been done to prepare teachers, schools and pupils for these new qualifications.”