The proportion of pupils achieving top A level grades has fallen for the second consecutive year it was announced today.
The A* grade, introduced in 2010, was awarded to 7.6 per cent of entries, down from 7.9 in 2012. The proportion of entries gaining grade A or better also dipped for a second year running, by 0.3 points to 26.3 per cent.
A controversial clampdown by exams regulator Ofqual - though a "comparable outcomes" approach - is thought to be largely responsible for the drops which have ended an era of grade inflation.
Last year’s results represented the first fall in the percentage of entries achieving the highest grade for 21 years.
Heads' leaders described today's figures as "a good set of results".
Brian Lightman, Association of School College Leaders general secretary, said: “There is a real issue about the way school improvement in the system is shown in the context of comparable outcomes.
"But our view is that these variations are marginal. Basically A-levels are in a very stable state."
This year did see the overall A*-E grade pass rate rise for the 31st successive year, creeping up to 98.1 per cent.
"Comparable outcomes" involves greater emphasis on pegging results to those of previous years.
Boys have widened their lead over girls at A*. They are still second to girls when A grades are taken into account but the gap has been narrowed.
Subject choices have reinforced existing gender differences. Girls account for 71.8 per cent of English entries, with male entries in the subject down by 2.3 per cent this year and female up by 0.6 per cent.
In physics boys made up 79.3 per cent of entries and the gender gap widened with male entries up by 3.8 per cent compared to last year and female by just 0.2 per cent.
Overall science, maths and technology (STEM) subjects continued their revival in popularity.
But the overall decline in the popularity of modern foreign languages at A level continued. French, German and Spanish have seen a collective 17.8 per cent fall in entries since 2008.
Economics enjoyed the biggest rise in entries - up 7.4 per cent since last year and 50 per cent since 2007. Communication studies, PE and the performing and expressive arts saw the biggest respective drops.