Northern Ireland students have registered another strong GCSE performance, with the percentage of top grades up once again.
Results out today show that 8.9% of entries in the region achieved the top A* grade, compared to 8.5% in 2011.
There was also a small increase in the A*-C bracket, with 75.6% of entries achieving these grades - up 0.8% on last year.
But while performance levels are on the up, the number taking GCSEs has declined for the fifth year in a row.
Entries dropped from 178,017 in 2011 to 171,354 this year - a fall of 3.7%. Around 32,000 pupils sat GCSEs in Northern Ireland in 2012.
The drop is explained by demographic changes that have seen the number of year 12-age pupils drop by almost 2,500 over the last five years.
Girls are still outperforming boys when it comes to results - at the A* level by 3.8%, at A*-A by 9.4% and at A*-C by 7.3%. The results were published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).
Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, one of the bodies represented by the JCQ, said: “This is an excellent performance.
“It reflects a tremendous amount of hard work and effort on the part of students and teachers across Northern Ireland. We wish all students every success in their future career pathways.”
This year recorded more strong Northern Ireland performances in the sciences, maths and technology.
The percentage of entries achieving A*-C in chemistry was 93.6% (93.3% in 2011), in physics 93.7% (92.6% in 2011), and in biology 90% (91.4% in 2011).
Entries in biology and chemistry remained steady. Physics saw a fall of 2.8% in entries from 2,966 in 2011 to 2,884 in 2012.
In mathematics and design and technology, there were also rises in the percentage of entries gaining top grades.
In mathematics 62.9% of entries achieved grades A*-C (60.9% in 2011). In design and technology, performance at A*-C rose to 73.9% (71.3% in 2011).
There was a small rise in the percentage of English entries achieving the top grades, with 4.2% gaining A* (3.8% in 2011) and 19.7% achieving A*-A (18.6% in 2011).
But the 68.2% in the A*-C bracket represented a decrease from the 2011 figure.
The JCQ noted a fall in modern languages entries.
After gains last year, 2012 saw a drop in entries for most modern language subjects.
French, Irish and Spanish all saw a fall in entry figures. In contrast, entries for German have risen by 6.2% to 1,138.
The most popular language remains French, with 6,402 entries.
Entries for GCSE double award were down by 2.9%, with entries dropping from 8,200 in 2011 to 7,965 in 2012.
The most popular double award in Northern Ireland was science, with 93.8% of the overall double award entries.