Pupils are celebrating their exam results with record performances across Scotland.

Overall pass rates increased for Highers, Advanced Highers and Standard Grades, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said.

Youth Employment Angela Constance congratulated the 151,000 candidates being sent their certificates in the post.

"The wait for tens of thousands of Scotland's pupils and their families is finally over, and I am delighted that so many have come out with strong grades, leaving them well positioned for whatever they choose to do next," she said.

"The exam pass rates are building on a solid record of achievement, meaning that today is a time for celebration.

"Record pass rates in a set of rigorously assessed exams confirm Scotland's strong record in attainment and I wish the class of 2013 the very best of luck in their next steps, be it another year in school, or moving on to college, university, training or employment."

The results show the pass rate for Advanced Highers increased by two points to 82.1%.

For Highers, the rate increased by 0.5 points to 77.4%

Intermediate levels one and two increased to 77.8% and 81.8% respectively.

Standard Grades increased by 0.1% to 98.9% and access levels two and three increased to 71% and 93.6% respectively.

This year sees the final results for Standard Grades which are being replaced.

The total number of candidates was 150,986, down from 158,908 last year.

Almost 37,000 opted to receive their results by text message or email by 9am. All will receive their certificates in the post.

More people sat Higher English and maths, and there was a "significant increase" in revised sciences, the SQA said.

The number of candidates sitting Chinese languages at all levels continued to rise, up by 36.3% since 2010.

Dr Janet Brown, SQA's chief executive and Scotland's chief examining officer, said: "On behalf of everyone at SQA, I congratulate all candidates on their achievement of courses and awards over the past year. I wish them continued success as they embark on a wide range of different pathways: moving into the workplace, or a training scheme, returning to school or taking up a place at college or university.

"The increased number of courses and awards achieved reflects the tremendous amount of hard work and commitment by candidates across Scotland and the value placed on qualifications in what continues to be a challenging economic environment."

Labour education spokeswoman Kezia Dugdale said: "The increase in pass rates is a testament to the hard work of pupils, the excellent teaching they've received and the support of families. These results should make Scotland proud of our young people today.

"It is always easy for commentators to criticise exam success. But the pupils, teachers and families all know the effort and months of work that have gone into getting these results."

But Tory education spokesman Liz Smith said people find it hard to believe that results are so good.

"First of all, pupils who have achieved so well in these exams should be congratulated. They can only sit the exam placed in front of them," she said.

"However, there have been growing levels of concern in recent years about these tests becoming easier. People find it hard to believe that while employers are complaining about a lack of basic skills from school leavers, exam performances are at an all-time high.

"We have to do all we can to make sure these exams are suitably rigorous. Without that, the whole system risks being undermined and our pupils will be overtaken by those from other countries in an increasingly global market place."

As of midnight, 28,900 applicants were accepted for a place at university or college in Scotland.

This is a 2% increase compared with exam results day last year, according to admissions service Ucas.

Of the total, 22,770 are Scottish, which is an increase of 550 compared with the same stage last year.

Applicants can now use the Ucas website to see if they have been accepted or if they are eligible for "clearing", when universities and colleges offer their remaining places.

Steve Jeffree, Ucas chief operating officer, said: "Congratulations to everyone who has secured a place at their chosen university or college in Scotland. There's every reason to be positive if you find yourself in clearing this year."

Taranjit Kaur, 17, from Pollokshields in Glasgow, was among pupils at Bellahouston Academy to get their results.

She celebrated A grades in Higher maths, English, human biology, chemistry and French and now has a choice of university courses to pick from.

"I was with a friend when I got my results, and was quite nervous," she said.

"I did better than I expected so I'm very pleased."

She can now decide whether to study pharmacy at Strathclyde University or dentistry at Glasgow University.

After an anxious wait, sisters Caroline and Charlotte Dunn received their exam results by post.

Caroline, 17, who completed fifth year at St Ninian's High School in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, got 6 As for her Highers.

"I'm really happy and proud. I can't believe this day has finally come, it has been so long. It feels like I did my exams ages ago, but I'm so pleased," she said.

"I didn't expect this. I expected to get a B in a couple of subjects, or even lower, because I didn't think the exams went well. It must have went better than I thought they did."

She hopes the results will help her get to do a degree.

"It's good because it means I have a better chance of getting into university, into the course I want to do. I'm hoping to do medicine, so it is good I have met the entry requirements.

"It is really hard. It is not a fun experience during exams. You just have to get through it. By the end of the last exam I was exhausted."

Charlotte, 14, achieved eight As in her standard grades.

"I'm really happy as well. I didn't think I would get eight As so I'm really happy, and I am really proud of my sister."