The education secretary Michael Gove has repeated his calls for a reform of the examination process at secondary-school level.
In an interview on the BBC Radio 4 programme Today, the Conservative minister said that the way GCSEs had been operated over the past year "wasn't fair or appropriate".
Those in secondary teacher roles and their pupils were left surprised by the results of the exams in August, after many failed to achieve their predicted grades.
This is believed to be the result of exam boards adjusting the grade boundaries between the January and summer tests, although the regulator Ofqual has refused to remark the papers.
"My heart goes out to those students who sat the exam this year because I don't think the exam was designed in the most appropriate way," Mr Gove said.
Although he ruled out making an intervention to order a remark, the education secretary said that the confusion surrounding this summer's results highlighted the need to return to O-level-style qualifications.
Critics of the old O-levels say it created a two-tier education system, with less intelligent pupils forced to sit a less prestigious CSE exam. However, Mr Gove insisted this would not be the case with his new proposals.
"What we need to do is have an examination which has all the rigour of the old O-level but it's sat by the majority of students," he explained.
Since GCSEs replaced O-levels in 1988, exam results had improved year-on-year until this summer's unexpected decline.
While Mr Gove sees this as evidence that exams have become less rigorous, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman said those in teaching jobs and their charges need to be recognised for their efforts.
"Children are working extremely hard and teachers are working extremely hard to get them through exams," he commented.
Posted by Harriet McGowan