Top grades have improved again on average in the GCSE exam entries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The trend in the performance of GCSE exam entries
More than 600,000 students have been getting results, almost one in five of which were an A* or A - up 0.4 percentage point to 19.5%.
The proportion of entries getting grades of A* to C rose from 62.4% to 63.3%, a rise of 0.9.
The gender gap narrowed, but with girls still ahead. There were more science entries but fewer in French and German.
A head teachers' leader accused businesses of failing to signal languages as a priority in order to make them an attractive option for youngsters - which industry leaders denied.
However, there was a 3% increase in the number of entries for Spanish and other modern languages as a whole - these include such things as Chinese, Arabic and Polish - were up 5%.
The statistics were published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) - representing the main examination boards.
The total number of full course GCSE entries rose a little to just over 5.8 million.
About 70% of those were taken by 16-year-olds, with 14% taken by those aged under 16, 11% by those aged 16 to 18 and 5% by students aged over 18 - of whom there were some 50,000.
Results in both English and maths improved slightly, with more pupils scoring at least a grade C in these two key subjects than last year.
In English, the proportion being graded from A* to C went up from 61.6% to 62.2%. For maths, the proportion rose from 54.3% to 55.2%.
Girls still outshine boys at almost every subject, but boys continue to catch up across the grades, narrowing the gap.
For example, in grades A* to C, the gap narrowed by 0.6 percentage points.
Independent top grades
A JCQ presentation showed a fall in the past two years in the proportion of entries from people in independent schools awarded A* and A grades.
Exam officials said the reason for this was not clear. They dismissed the idea that it was because some 200 of the top, selective independent schools had adopted International GCSEs (IGCSEs).
The schools regard these as more rigorous qualifications - but they are not reported with the GCSE results and do not count in government league tables.
But the Independent Schools Council (ISC) said that was precisely the reason for the change.
GCSEs: KEY FACTS
19.5% entries graded A* or A
63.3% graded A* to C
Overall pass rate 98%
French and German entries down
Single science entries up
It said that the % of A* and A grades when IGCSEs were included rose from 56.9% to 57.2% last year.
"We fully anticipate it will rise again this year."
It accused the JCQ of trying to distract the media's attention from the "hard subject" debate.
Last year 84% of pupils taking GCSEs or IGSCEs at ISC schools achieved five A*-C grades including maths, English, one science and one foreign language, it said. In state schools the figure was 44%.
Schools minister Jim Knight congratulated students.
He said was particularly pleased that the gap had narrowed a little further this year between boys and girls.
He acknowledged that some businesses were not happy with school leavers' basic skills.
This was why schools were being required to meet "much tougher" standards in these core areas, he said.
Shadow children, schools and families secretary Michael Gove said it was important we celebrate the achievements of young people.
"The more young people who master key skills, stay on in education and deepen their knowledge, the stronger our society and the more competitive our economy."