Since 1998, the percentage of African-Caribbean youngsters achieving five or more A*-C grades has risen from 29 to 37, while the proportion of Indian pupils getting top grades has leapt from 54 per cent to 62 per cent.
A group defined as "other Asian", which includes Chinese pupils, also showed impressive gains. Last year, 70 per cent got five or more top passes, up from 61 per cent two years ago.
However, a fall in achievement among Bangladeshi pupils from 33 per cent to 30 per cent and a below-average rise in the performance of Pakistani children means the gap between the highest and lowest achieving ethnic groups has widened.
The proportion of white pupils getting at least ive C grades has increased steadily from 47 to 50 per cent.
Based on a representative sample of 25,000 16-year-olds, the figures reveal that working-class youngsters have achieved the biggest attainment rise, with 30 per cent of pupils whose parents are in unskilled manual occupations securing A*-C results compared to 20 per cent two years ago.
Schools minister Jacqui Smith said: "The substantial progress which has been made by many young people from ethnic minorities and working-class youngsters shows that it is possible to lift achievement significantly among underachieving groups.
"We will need to build on that experience and look at practical measures with the ethnic-minority achievement grant to help those who have not shown similar progress, especially those from the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities."