UK & World News
GCSE Results: Record Fall In Top Grades
The proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade has suffered its biggest fall in the exam's 25-year history.
For the second year in a row, the number of pupils given an A*-C grade has dropped - down 1.3% on last year to 68.1%.
The number of A* grades awarded was also lower, falling 0.5% on last year from 7.3 to 6.8%, according to official figures.
The figures show that the overall A*-G pass rate also fell slightly this year, to 98.8% compared to 99% last year.
In contrast to last week's A-level results, girls are still outperforming boys at GCSE and achieved better results at A*-C across every subject.
The national picture emerged as hundreds of thousands of teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their results.
The fall in top grades comes amid major upheaval in the exam system.
The huge rise in entries by 15-year-old as well as tougher exams were blamed for the dip in performance.
The number of 15-year-olds taking the exam has rocketed by 91,000 in just a year.
In maths, thousands of pupils also sat the exam more than once. Almost 90,000 were entered for at least three and two sat it eight times.
More children took exams in languages and humanities subjects with the overall number of GCSEs taken up 4.2% on last year.
But there was a fall in the number scoring at least a C in key subjects, including English, maths and science.
In English, 63.6% achieved a C or higher, down from 64.1% in 2012, as 61,000 more entries were recorded in the subject - more than two-fifths were from pupils aged 15.
The Joint Council of Qualifications (JCQ) said there had been "significant early and repeated entries" in maths, with more than half a million before the summer exams.
Results for 16-year-olds were "virtually unchanged" but those for 15-year-olds showed a decline. Overall, 57.6% of entries scored A*-C - down from 58.4%.
Moves by Ofqual to toughen up qualifications prompted a 7.6% fall in the number of entries achieving a top grade in science.
This is the first summer results have been given for the revamped GCSEs, which were changed after a 2009 report by the regulator found they were too easy.
There was a "dramatic" rise in entry levels for modern languages, with French up 15.5%, German up 9.4% and Spanish up 25.8%.
This could be due to the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, which is awarded to pupils with at least a C in English, maths, science, history or geography and a foreign language.
JCQ director Michael Turner said: "This year's upturn in languages will be welcomed across the education sector and beyond. Not since 2008 have there been this many entries in languages.
"However, it remains to be seen if this is the start of a trend and if more students decide to continue to study a language at A-level."
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss insisted the results showed that the Government's new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) has "not just arrested the decline in the study of academic subjects at GCSE, it is reversing it".
She said: "It is very pleasing to see the increase in these important subjects - the ones that will keep pupils' options open in the future.
"I am particularly delighted to see a languages revival - with an increase in the number of entries to French, German and Spanish GCSEs after years of decline."
However, experts raised concerns about the number of 15-year-olds taking the exams and over repeat entries.
Andrew Hall of the exam board AQA asked: "Why oh why do we now got a significant increase in 15-year-olds taking GCSE?"
He also warned pupils making multiple entries was "really damaging education in this country".
Mark Dawe, from another exam board OCR, added: "Early entry does not benefit the students. The results are far lower for 15-year-olds.
"These qualifications are designed for 16-year-olds. Students should be left to learn for those two years and that is what we would encourage."
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "Michael Gove needs to get a grip on the multiple entry exam practice that is distorting standards."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "People's confidence in the GCSE was severely knocked last year.
"That's why they've done things like trying out IGCSE, multiple entry, early entry - all of these things to try and bring more opportunities to get young people good grades.
"I'm not saying we should be doing that but I'm saying it's understandable."