GCSE Pass Rate Falls For Second Year Running
The overall GCSE pass rate has fallen for the second year running amid concerns changes to the exam system would hit results.
But the proportion of GCSE exams awarded at least a C grade has risen, official figures show.
Just over two thirds (68.8%) of entries scored A*-C, up 0.7 percentage points on last summer, according to statistics published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).
The A*-G pass rate is down 0.3 percentage points to 98.5% from 98.8% in 2013.
The proportion of entries awarded the highest grade has also fallen slightly, with 6.7% gaining an A*, down from 6.8% last year.
It is the third year in a row that this has dropped.
Changes to the exam system brought in by Education Secretary Michael Gove have led to warnings of "volatility" in this year's results.
These include the removal of speaking and listening assessments from English and having less coursework, placing more importance on end-of-year exams.
Pupils have also been stopped from sitting exams early for some course units, which facilitated resits.
There are concerns the so-called "Gove effect" could threaten students chances of getting into a top university or even sixth-form college.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which represents many secondary school leaders, said: "There are individual students who last year, or the year before, with the same work, might have got a higher grade."
Results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed a sharp drop in English grades, with 61.7% of entries scoring A*-C, down 1.9% from last summer.
This is believed to be the biggest drop in the qualification's history.
Meanwhile, maths saw an opposite result, with 62.4% of entries gaining an A*-C grade, up a massive 4.8% on 2013.
The statistics also revealed the gender gap has widened at grade C and above this year, with 73.1% of girls' entries scoring A*-C compared with 64.3% of boys'.
Michael Turner, director general of the JCQ, said: "There has been a significant amount of change to the system this year and although UK level figures are relatively stable we expect more schools and colleges to see volatility in their results."
Defending the Government's school reforms, Education Minister Nick Gibb told Sky News said: "Our education system can't remain static.
"It has to improve, it has to compete with the improving standards in other countries around the world."
He added: "In terms of volatility, we have ended this absurdity where students were being repeatedly entered for re-sits and early entry, and schools that were over-reliant on that approach will have seen some volatility in their results.
"By ending this obsession with the exam treadmill we have given more time for teachers to teach and students to learn."