The first exam diet in three years begins today following a preparation period that was hit by Covid-related disruption.

More than 128,000 candidates will take part over the coming weeks. For most, it will be their first experience of sitting national exams after tests were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said it had sent over two million question papers to more than five hundred schools, colleges and training providers that are being used as venues.

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In addition, many learners will be in the final stages of completing National 1-4 qualifications, SQA Awards, Skills for Work courses, National Progression Awards and National Certificates.

However, the pandemic's ongoing impact meant the run-up to exams was far from trouble-free. Disruption was particularly bad during the February-March period, when the Omicron and “stealth” Omicron variants drove Covid-linked school staff absences to record highs for the academic year. Coronavirus-related pupil absences, while lower than the totals recorded in December and January, rose sharply.

The SQA also found itself under fire last month amid widespread anger over revision support material that was branded insulting, unfair and shambolic.

Fiona Robertson, SQA chief executive and Scotland’s chief examining officer, said she wanted to “commend” learners for their “hard work and resilience in the face of the many challenges presented by the pandemic”.

HeraldScotland: Fiona Robertson has praised the "resilience" of Scotland's learners.Fiona Robertson has praised the "resilience" of Scotland's learners.

She added: “I also pay tribute to the professionalism of Scotland’s teachers and lecturers, and their commitment to learners across the country.

"Their work, and that of their colleagues, plays a vital role in enabling our young people to achieve qualifications they deserve.

“Our learners are also being supported by the efforts of around 15,000 appointees, many of whom are in the teaching profession and work tirelessly with us throughout the year, to set, invigilate, mark and quality assure exam scripts and assessments.

“They all play their part to ensure our learners’ hard work and commitment is recognised and valued, standing them in good stead for their next stage of education or working life.”

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The SQA said that, thanks to the help of standards body Education Scotland, local authorities, schools and colleges, it had been able to provide a range of support to reflect the impact of the pandemic.

This includes assistance available on the SQA website and a Your Exams guide. Learners can also download SQA’s MyStudyPlan app to help them make the most of their revision.

Candidates will receive results by post on August 9. However, exam bosses stressed there was still time to register for a MySQA account to get grades by text and/or email.