An analysis of last year's exams confirms recent conclusions by Edinburgh University academics that the Higher Still programme has been most successful with pupils of lower and middle abilities who are increasingly staying on in education after the age of 16.
A Scottish Executive breakdown of the 2002-2003 exams shows that attainment at the two Intermediate levels has more than doubled since their introduction in 1999-2000.
David Raffe, director of research at Moray House School of Education, concluded last month after a four-year study that Intermediate courses were more worth while and had higher standing than the modules they replaced.
But it was still difficult for Intermediate 2 students to move on to Higher and be successful, Professor Raffe pointed out.
This week's analysis confirms previous evidence that students from Chinese, Indian and mixed race families perform best at Standard grade, although the Executive issues a cautionary warning that small numbers in some of these categories may distort final figures. Pakistani and Bangladeshi students fare poorly in comparison to other Asian groups and are well behind white Scottish students.
At all stages, girls do better than boys, a trend that has been confirmed over the past six years. The results also show that, overall, pupils who attend schools in rural areas do much better.
Older pupils perform better than younger pupils in the same year. This is likely to confirm the view among many parents that the later their children start primary school, the better.