Boys have dramatically closed the performance gap between them and girls as a result of knuckling down to exams because of the recession, yesterday's A-level results show.
Exam boards officers said they had heeded calls to study subjects like maths and science to get ahead in the search for for jobs.
Figures show that girls are at level-pegging in the percentage of A* grades they have notched up – with 8.2 per cent being awarded the top grade pass. Last year girls were 0.4 per ahead of boys.
Andrew Hall, chief executive of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, the country's biggest exam board, said boys had "recognised the challenge of A* grades" as a growing number of universities insisted on all candidates having at least one top grade pass.
Ziggy Liaquat, chief executive of Edexcel, added the boys' improvement was part and parcel of the rise in take-up of so called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths - subjects crucial for the future of the economy).
"They're beginning to see that the global economy is crying out for people who have skills in science, engineering and maths," he said.
He added that the rise in take-up could also be down to the "Brian Cox effect" as a result of the popular TV programmes the University of Manchester physicist had hosted on science. The candidates who sat exams this year were those who chose their subject options at the start of the recession three years ago.
Figures show take-up of maths was up 7.4 per cent, with biology, chemistry and physics seeing rises of 7.2 per cent, 9.2 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.
The gap in performance between boys and girls at grade A in these subjects had reduced from 0.9 per cent to 0.3 per cent. At grade E it had narrowed from 0.9 per cent to 0.7 per cent.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said: "It is very welcome news that more students are studying the sciences and maths at A level.
"These are the subjects that universities and employers are demanding, so that they can compete internationally."