Many pupils are expected to appeal their exam grades as the First Minister said thousands of results were modified to ensure figures were “credible”.
In her daily briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) adjusted pupils’ grades were fair.
However the new grading measures have come under fire by teachers, pupils and political opponents.
Scottish Greens MSP said the official statistics were “grossly unjust” and had disproportionately disadvantaged poor students.
Some schools in Tayside and Fife have already contacted pupils over fears they have had their grades lowered, it is understood.
Ms Sturgeon encouraged pupils to appeal their grades for free if they were unhappy with their results amid the downgrading criticism.
Speaking at the daily briefing, she said: I understand how difficult it will be out there for any young person, whatever their background, if the result they have been given today is lower than they were expecting.
“That is why the availability of appeals is so important. Every young person who is in that position will have the opportunity to appeal and, if there had been a misjudgement made there, the opportunity to have it rectified.
“Today is not the end of the journey.”
However she praised the news that exam pass rates had increased across Scotland.
The SQA figures show the National 5 pass rates was 81.1%, while the Higher rate was 78.9% and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9%, up 2.9%, 4.2% and 5.5% from last year respectively.
She continued: “We know we have an attainment gap in education. Poorer young people don’t do as well as more affluent young people, and that is something we are working very hard to rectify.
“This system of moderation is necessary, and what it has resulted in is around 70% of young people in our most deprived areas have passed their Highers – which is an increase on around 65% on last year.
“This moderation is necessary to ensure we have a credible system of results.”
The method altered 133,000 entries from the first teacher estimate, with 93.1% downgraded.
Education Secretary John Swinney advised the grades were awarded in a “fair and robust manner” as he explained why they had been modified.
He explained: “Without moderation, the rate of attainment at grades A-C compared to last year would have increased 10.4% point at National 5, by 14% for Higher and by 13.4% for Advanced Higher – year on year changes of this scale has never been seen in exam results.
“The combination of teacher and lecturer judgement and SQA moderation therefore means that young people across Scotland can be sure that the qualifications they’ve gained this year have the same very high level of credibility and value as qualifications from previous years and as such, can command the same respect.”
Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive, congratulates everyone receiving their #SQAResults today: "Candidates in 2020 should feel very proud of their achievements. You can now progress with confidence, to continued education, training or employment." https://t.co/wRO5Hj2xGR pic.twitter.com/Qhzm6JDQ0v
— SQA (@sqanews) August 4, 2020
Fiona Robertson, SQA chief executive, told pupils: “I realise this has been a very unsettling time for you and your families but I hope you can have confidence that your hard work has been recognised and rewarded through our qualifications system, this year as in any year.
“Graded courses at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher have been based on teacher and lecturer estimates this year with some moderation of grades from SQA.
“If you feel you have not got the grades you had hoped for or if you feel uncertain about next steps, please speak to your school or college in the first instance.”