Hannah Short celebrates grades of A*, A and B at Brighton College in East Sussex / PA


The number of top grade passes at A-level dropped for the second year running, results showed today.

They revealed that 26.3 per cent of all candidates had been awarded an A-star or A grade pass this year - 0.3 percentage points down on 2012.

However, the overall pass rate for the 300,000 candidates sitting the exam went up by 0.1 per cent to 98.1 per cent.

The results triggered a mad scramble for university places with a record 385,910 students having accepted places by this morning - a nine per cent rise on last year. Around 250,000 would-be students are still hunting for places though.

A breakdown of today's results revealed a big increase in the numbers taking maths and science subjects.

This year science accounted 17.8 per cent of all subject entries - compared with 17 per cent last year. In maths and further maths, the figure went up from 11.5 per cent to 12 per cent.

The take-up of languages continued to decline. Although Spanish increased by 4.1 per cent, entries for French and German declined by 9.9 per cent and 11.1 per cent respectively.

"The continued rise in subjects such as the sciences, maths and the extended project ( thesis-style essay writing) will be welcomed," said Michael Turner, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications.

"However, that so few students take a language at A-level is disappointing."