Methods of assessment will have to change radically if they are to mirror developments under A Curriculum for Excellence, the parliamentary education committee heard.
The Skills for Work model of assessment - where pupils are assessed performing a range of different tasks, including practical assignments, short tests and keeping personal records - should be adopted more widely, suggested David Cameron, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.
It used "the most exciting and innovative assessment techniques" but in subject areas where it is perceived the stakes are lowest, he said.
The current examination models used by the Scottish Qualifications Authority were not compatible with the new curriculum.
"Assessment must reward the pedagogy that we wish to encourage," he told MSPs.
"The kind of learning that A Curriculum for Excellence aspires to is conspicuous by its absence in schools in the period leading to certification in most subjects. Instead, we see an emphasis on examination, revision of content and detail."
The Educational Institute of Scotland, however, was clinging on to the Standard grade because it represented some stability in the system.
Larry Flanagan, education convener of the EIS, said: "We are less than a decade from the introduction of Higher Still, which was introduced by the same partners who have introduced ACfE. It is barely bedded in, yet now we are talking about major changes.
"As soon as you unpick one part of the qualifications system - Standard grade - you start to unravel the whole thing."
It was not possible to simply tinker about with Intermediate 1 and 2 and Standard grade examinations and marry them together, as this would lead to confusion in the minds of students and the general public, he said. "Standard grade is an S3-4 course. If we accept ACfE, Standard grade will have to go or be modified," he added.