Thousands of students across Northern Ireland received their GCSE results on Tuesday with girls still outperforming boys, according to this year's grades.
Results show pupils have improved at the top grades
Over 200,000 GCSE exam grades from the local board, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, were delivered to students.
Results show pupils have improved at the top grades with more getting A* grades.
Figures released by the CCEA showed that 69% of students in the province attained A* to C grades, an increase of 0.6 percentage points on last year.
The figure for A* grades rose by 0.8 to 6.9% for 2003.
However, the gender difference narrowed in the A* to C range. The gap was 9.5 percentage points in girls' favour in 2002 and 8.8 this year.
More girls received A* grades than boys, with 8.5% achieving the top grade compared to 5.2%.
Overall, entries for GCSE exams in Northern Ireland rose by 0.5%.
The most popular courses remained English, mathematics and science subjects, with religion and French figuring strongly.
There were also big increases in the number of students taking Spanish (13.9%), information technology (13.1%), music (12.1%), and home economics (11.6%).
CCEA Chief Executive Gavin Boyd said the Northern Ireland results were "very impressive".
"The CCEA believes that the GCSE remains a valuable and highly sought after qualification," he said.
"Anyone with any doubts on their currency should take a look at the jobs section in their local newspaper or an application form for college or university.
"Employers and further and higher education institutions certainly place
great importance on GCSE results."
However, there is also a worrying trend of more pupils leaving school with no qualifications at all.
The numbers have increased by 2% over the last four years and some believe it could be due to government targets for producing pupils with five or more good GCSEs.
On Thursday, pupils will get results from the English and Welsh boards.
Results from English and Welsh boards account for about 40% of exams in the province.