The University of Brighton study suggests that the need to rack up points for entry to university is leading students to think tactically about which exams to take. They are dropping German because the leap from GCSE to A-level is seen as too great, the study of students in 258 schools in the south-east of England found.
At GCSE, German entries fell 3 per cent to 122,023 this year while A-level was down 8.1 per cent, with just 6,390 candidates taking it.
Researchers Catherine Watts and Angela Pickering found that German AS-level was described by some sixth formers as "over-complicated" and "daunting".
Students said they found the subject difficult and did not enjoy it. They also did not see its relevance to future career and study paths.
"Interestingly, nearly all of the respondents were planning to continue their studies into higher education, but very few wanted to study a foreign language at degree level," the study found. "There was some agreement that it is harder to get good grades in languages than in other subjects."
The report concluded that there was "a need for considerable revision to the content of the German curriculum at this level".
Michael Fluegger of the German embassy in London, said: "It is a real pity that there is this perception about difficulty because German has some similarities with English, and in many countries, such as eastern Europe, people do not find it so difficult."
The findings will be available in full next month on www.agf.org.uk