The proportion of UK students gaining top grades in IGCSE English language exams has fallen this year, while entries have shot up by two-thirds, according to figures from Cambridge International Examinations, which runs the tests.
Figures from the exam board show that just 3.4 per cent gained an A* this year, down from 5.7 per cent in 2014. And 12.4 per cent gained an A or above, down from 15.5 per cent last year.
Sixty-three per cent of pupils gained a C or above, down from 64.1 per cent last year; 98.2 per cent gained at least a G grade, down from 98.6 per cent in 2014.
The results cover more than 200,000 pupils in England and Northern Ireland who sat Cambridge’s IGCSE English language paper in June. The exam was taken by almost a third of the students in England who took an English GCSE-level qualification this year, the board said.
The results have been published ahead of the main GCSE results, which will be out on 20 August. The results of other exam boards' IGCSE qualifications will also be published on that date.
The drop in top grades comes alongside a significant rise in the number of pupils taking Cambridge’s IGCSE test, from 121,530 in 2014 to 201,858 this year.
Asked about the drop, a spokeswoman for Cambridge International Examinations said: "This year we have seen a significant increase in entries for our IGCSE First Language English.
"It is extremely difficult to draw comparisons between cohorts as each is so different from the last and small changes in grade distributions are to be expected.
"We maintain our awarding standard year-on-year."
Michael O’Sullivan, chief executive of Cambridge International Examinations, said the IGCSE syllabus was popular among teachers because it was “enjoyable to teach” and had “offered them stability during a time of change and uncertainty around the curriculum and exams”.
However, he said many state schools were “under pressure” to stop using the qualification from 2017 because it would be excluded from league tables.