The overall A-level pass rate fell for the first time in more than 30 years, official figures show - but more top grades were awarded than ever before.
In total, just over one in four (26%) of exams were awarded an A* or A grade, down 0.3 percentage points on last summer.
But the proportion of A* grades handed out rose to 8.2%, up 0.6 percentage points on 2013.
And the overall A*-E pass rate fell by 0.1% to 98% - the first time it has fallen in 32 years.
Boys have outdone girls at A* grade for the third year running, with 8.5% of boys' entries attaining the top mark, compared with 7.9% of the girls.
The latest results come amid major changes to the system, with January exams scrapped, leaving fewer opportunities for students to re-sit papers. All exams are now taken in the summer.
Schools have been warned that they could see more volatility in their results this year due to the overhaul.
It's Exam Results Helpline is also available for students receiving higher or lower grades than expected: 0808 100 8000.