Thousands of anxious students are due to pick up their Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination results today after months of waiting - weather permitting. The nail-biting tension was especially high because students had to wait until 5am to find out whether the release of results would be postponed due to Severe Tropical Storm Goni. Results for 115,527 Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) candidates, 8,757 more than last year, was to be postponed to this afternoon or tomorrow if the No 8 storm signal was still up. Of the candidates, 82,016 are day-school students and 28,096 self-study candidates. A total of 56,104 (71 per cent) of day-school students have obtained the minimum qualification for Form Six, up by 2,694 students from last year. Despite the increase in the number of candidates, there is no increase in the number of Form Six places. There are 25,340 Form Six places in government and aided schools for the coming school year, compared with 25,600 last year, according to the Education Bureau. Thirteen students - four girls and nine boys - obtained 10 distinctions, down two from last year. A total of 42 students got 9As, up three. The oldest student is a 73-year-old man and the youngest an 11-year-old boy taking the exam as a private candidate. The boy is believed to be the youngest student ever to take the HKCEE. Special needs students did exceptionally well this year, with 11 scoring A grades for three or more subjects. One girl with special needs from a mainstream school scored nine As and two boys got eight As and six As. Francis Cheung Wing-ming, secretary general of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, praised them for their perseverance in overcoming adversity. 'They set an example and give encouragement to other students,' he said. Students did better in the English language exams this year. According to figures released yesterday by the authority, 68 per cent of the 82,016 day-school students who took the English exam got a pass mark, equivalent to grade two or above under the standard-referenced assessment mechanism adopted for Chinese and English exams since 2007. Last year the rate was 67.2 per cent. Despite the improvement in exam performance, the figure was still lower than in 2006, when 78.2 per cent of the students taking the syllabus B English exam attained the passing grade E or above. Students did worse in Chinese, with 73.3 per cent attaining grade 2 or above, down 0.5 per cent on last year. A total of 6,300 candidates (both day-school and self-study) scored zero marks, compared with more than 7,000 last year. The Hok Yau Club is offering a non-stop counselling hotline (2503 3399) for candidates until 11pm tomorrow. A total of 3,077 students had called it by last night for career and further studying advice. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups also has a hotline until 2pm on Friday. About 1,380 students had rung the hotline (2777 1112) for help last night. The federation's senior social worker for youth employment, Gary Tang Leung-shun, said competition for jobs would be particularly tough this year in light of the economic downturn. Mr Tang urged students to fully prepare themselves before joining the labour force.