Figures released this week show that appeals at Higher and Advanced Higher are down by a quarter to 22,182, from 29,649. They are labelled stage one appeals because of their knock-on effects on entry to further and higher education courses.
The SQA stiffened its guidelines last September after being inundated by what it regarded as dubious appeals at various levels. This put extra strain on the system and teachers and lecturers who adjudicate. Costs were also rising as 85,000 appeals flooded in. Fewer than half were successful.
This year, any school or college which submitted appeals for 10 per cent or more of candidates in a single course had to justify its demand for a second look. The authority further revised its derived grades procedure to ensure that centres that were good at estimating exam performance had their students upgraded automatically without the need for an appeal.
Anton Colella, acting chief executive, said: "We believe this fall in appeals reflects a welcome increase in the understanding of standards by teachers and their professionalism in more accurately matching their estimates against candidate performance."
The SQA also suggests the dip is down to more confidence in the rigour of its marking, which is carried out by some 9,000 teachers and lecturers.
The authority adds that the cut in appeals is related to the increased number of candidates who achieved grades estimated by their centres. For the first time, centres could change candidates' estimates up to the start of the exams. Where results and estimates matched, appeals were ruled out because students achieved what was expected of them.
The figures show appeals in Higher English - the highest uptake subject - were down by 656 and mathematics by more than 1,000. The only Highers to see three-figure increases were administration (up 179) and computing (up 119).