The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has released annual attainment data, which shows that Higher passes at grades A-C are down by two percentage points compared with last year.
The 2019 attainment rate at Higher is 74.8 per cent, down from 76.8 per cent in 2018. That marks a 2.4 per cent drop since 2016: the pass rate was 77.2 per cent then, the first year that the current version of Highers were set in their current form without an option of taking the old-style Highers (in 2015 both were on offer).
The number of entries at Higher has also fallen, from 191,951 in 2018 to 185,914 in 2019.
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Year-on-year attainment rates for 2019 have also fallen at National 2 (2.6 percentage points), National 3 (3.6 percentage points), National 4 (2.6 percentage points) and Advanced Higher (1.1 percentage points).
An exception to the falling attainment rates is National 5, where the rate rose from 77.4 per cent in 2018 to 78.2 per cent in 2019.
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Meanwhile, there has been a big rise in those receiving awards for vocational courses: the number of National Progression Awards and National Certificates across all SCQF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) levels has risen from 33,931 in 2015 to 44,744 in 2019.
Results have been sent to more than 133,000 candidates across Scotland. Throughout the year, SQA also awards a number of other qualifications, including Scottish Vocational Qualifications, Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas.
Fiona Robertson, SQA’s chief executive and chief examining officer, said: “First and foremost, I would like to congratulate each and every candidate who received results today. Qualifications play an important role in allowing young people to pursue their ambitions, whether that be continued education and training or entering into employment.
“At the SQA we’re encouraged by learners achieving awards through a wide variety of routes. We are proud to offer a broad range of qualifications which ensures educational attainment is as broad as possible, and provides learners with the right skills and knowledge to meet the requirements of employers, training providers and educators.
“Finally, I would like to thank all our staff and our appointees who work all year to ensure the smooth and successful delivery of SQA courses, culminating in results day.”
Skills Development Scotland (SDS) said expert careers advisers were on hand from to help students with their next steps.
Director of career information James Russell said: "If your results aren't what you expected, don't panic – you have lots of options.
"Our experienced advisers are here to help you and your parents and carers with information on all the options and opportunities available to you."
NSPCC Scotland counsellors are also ready to help any young people worried about their results via the Childline service.
The SDS helpline will be available from 8am to 8pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 9am to 5pm weekdays from Thursday until Wednesday, August 14. The number to call is 0808 100 8000.
Childline's free confidential helpline number on exam results day is 0800 11 11.