The gap between A-level performance in Wales and the rest of the UK has widened for the second successive year, official figures show.
The overall A-level pass rate in Wales is down slightly from last year, to 97.1%, while across the UK it has risen to 97.6%.
Education Minister Leighton Andrews said students should be "extremely proud" of their achievements.
But students in Wales face uncertainty due to a shortage of clearing places.
In Wales, 6.5% of all candidate subject entries were awarded the new A* grade, while 24.4% resulted in an A or A*.
And 4,360 students achieved A-grade equivalent in the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification, the alternative recognised qualification.
Mr Andrews said: "It's wonderful to be able to share in the celebrations with students today - once again the young people of Wales have every reason to be extremely proud of themselves.
"Learners have worked very hard to achieve success, supported of course by their parents and teachers. Educational success is a real team effort.
"The A-level figures alone are excellent, and I send particular congratulations to students celebrating achievement of the new A* grade.
"Success at this very top level is something to be extremely proud of; it signals the very highest level of achievement.
"It's great to see our Welsh Baccalaureate qualification going from strength to strength.
"I offer my warmest congratulations to the students celebrating their results today. I wish them all the very best as they continue their learning journey."
WJEC chief executive Gareth Pierce said: "The new specifications confirm the importance of A-levels as very demanding qualifications of the highest quality, so the success achieved by this year's candidates has been gained through sustained hard work by students, supported by the committed efforts of their schools, colleges and training providers.
"This is a very pleasing result for Wales."
The Welsh Local Government Association's spokesman for lifelong learning, Peter Fox, said: "Today's results reinforce the dedication and excellent abilities of Welsh pupils and also reflects the commitment and contribution of our education professionals, both within schools, local authorities and further education institutions across Wales."
But for many students across Wales, the future is uncertain due to a shortage of places through clearing.
Aberystwyth University and Trinity College Carmarthen have already said they will not be taking part in the clearing process because their courses are full, while nine other universities say they will have fewer places than usual.
The National Union of Students in Wales is concerned at the potential impact on students from poorer backgrounds who will not be able to undertake unpaid work experience or voluntary work during the next 12 months.
University admissions service UCAS said 56% of applicants had had their university places confirmed by early Thursday morning, but that figure was due to change throughout the day.
The UCAS helpline number for advice on clearing is 0871 468 0468.