GCSE results improved again this year, with almost one in five entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland being awarded the top A* or A grades.
The results trend over recent years
The proportion getting grade C or above rose 1.2 percentage points from last year, to 62.4%, with only 1.9% failing.
The numbers studying modern foreign languages, which are no longer compulsory, fell again. German entries were down 14.2% and French down 13.2%.
Boys' results improved faster than girls' though girls still did better.
Northern Ireland retained its place as the highest performing part of the country. Grades A* to C were awarded to 71.7% of entries from candidates there, 62.3% of Welsh entries and 62.1% of English entries.
The statistics are published by the Joint Council for Qualifications - the umbrella group for all the main examination boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
FULL COURSE GCSE RESULTS
Entries: 5.75 million (up 0.3%)
Pass rate A*-G: 98.1% (up 0.3)
A*-C grades: 62.4% (up 1.2)
A*/A grades: 19.1% (up 0.7)
Its director, Ellie Johnson Searle, said: "Students and their teachers can be justifiably proud of the improved results this year, with good performance overall and in the key subjects of English and mathematics.
"There is a welcome increase in entries for physics, biology, chemistry and single science.
"The further loss of entries in French and German is regrettable but with stronger students left studying modern foreign languages there is a corresponding marked improvement in performance."
Results in the core subjects of English and maths did improve - but by less than for all subjects.
The proportion of English entries awarded grade C or above was up 0.7 to 61.6%. In maths the rise was 0.9, to 54.3%.
GCSE GRADES A*-C
England: 62.1% (up 1.3)
Wales: 62.3% (up 1)
Northern Ireland: 71.7% (up 0.7)
All boys: 58.5% (up 1.5)
All girls: 66.2% (up 1)
The government hopes for big gains in these two areas, with employers saying school leavers lack basic skills.
In England it is looking at how to introduce "functional skills" tests - in areas such as grammar, spelling and basic numeracy - to English and maths GCSEs.
In the meantime it is changing the school league tables this year to reflect student achievement in those subjects, to emphasise the importance it places on them even in their present form. The tables are due out in January.
Results for Intermediate GNVQs - worth four good GCSEs in league tables - also showed improvements at all grades.
Entries increased even though the qualification is being phased out.
By far the most popular subject remained information and communications technology with an extra 18.8% entries this year, at 68,917.
Research from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), published on Thursday, suggests 22% of employers would not recruit workers without five good GCSEs or the vocational equivalent.
The LSC spoke to 412 employers and found 15% ignored CVs if the job applicant did not have five good GCSEs.
Some 79% believed such applicants would struggle in their company, while 30% thought they would show less commitment than those with higher qualifications.
On average, employers said they would pay someone a starting salary £1,700 higher (17%) if they had five good GCSEs.
The director of young people's learning at the LSC, Julia Dowd, said: "By not dropping out, young people significantly improve their job prospects and earning potential."
The statistics published by the joint council relate to the performance of the exam entries, not the candidates.
The first collated statistics on candidates' performance - such as how many did get the equivalent of at least five good GCSEs, with and without English and maths - are due in October.
This year about 1,500 candidates have been able to receive their grades online, as part of a pilot scheme run by the Edexcel board.
As usual, students who sat exams with the Northern Ireland board CCEA received those results on Tuesday, two days before everyone else.