Almost 58,000 nervous Leaving Certificate students will open their long-awaited exam results on Wednesday amid fresh calls for a radical overhaul of maths and science subjects.
The worrying trend of large numbers performing poorly in maths continued with a 10% fail rate in the ordinary level paper.
In the higher paper, more than 600 top achievers secured an A1 grade while 309 students failed the exam.
In science subjects - an area the Government has been keen to promote to kick-start the economy - chemistry students struggled with an overall failure rate of 8%, more than 2,000 pupils failed ordinary and higher biology while top results in physics dipped for the second year in a row after several years' progress.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) said results were broadly similar to previous years with slightly more pupils awarded an A1 in English but fewer getting top marks in Irish.
Tanaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan, congratulated this year's students - which included 117 prisoners and 53 pupils at the ISM International School in Tripoli, Libya.
"Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are considered to be the engines of growth and innovation in the smart economy, and I would urge students who have performed well in the examinations in these subjects to consider careers in these areas," the Tanaiste said.
Fergus O'Dowd, Fine Gael education spokesman, hit out at the Government's record on maths and science.
"Ireland needs to focus on high-end, high-tech industries to pull ourselves out of this deep recession. The country needs high levels of achievement in science and technology but, instead of seeing positive moves in this area, the Leaving Cert results have confirmed disappointing trends in these vital areas," he said.
There were big successes in other subjects. For those taking Applied Maths, more than one fifth of the 1,213 students secured an A1 - up 7.4% on the figure for 2009 which had seen the amount securing top marks down 4.3% from the previous year.