Opposition leaders rounded on the First Minister saying the SNP had "failed utterly" over the past decade and branded the Sutton Trust's findings "particularly shameful".
It came after the charity warned talented, poorer youngsters are two years and seven months behind their wealthier peers in science and maths, while in reading they are two years and two months behind.
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The gap in England is two years and eight to nine months in reading, maths and science.
In Wales, it is just under two years in each of the subjects, while in Northern Ireland it is two years in reading and just above that in science and maths.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson lambasted the Scottish Government describing its legacy as a "generation of Scottish children who are being left behind in the race for qualifications and for future jobs".
Ms Sturgeon and the SNP were blasted after a report found bright but disadvantage pupils lag behind
She said: "Scotland used to lead the world in education. Why under the SNP are we always playing catch up?
We now see the consequences of 10 wasted years of this SNP Government
Tory leader Ruth Davidson
"We now see the consequences of 10 wasted years of this SNP Government and the harm it has done to the life chances of our pupils."
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale also challenged the First Minister on the report, saying it exposed "catastrophic failures" by her administration.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson lambasted the Scottish Government
Ms Dugdale highlighted statistics showing a drop in 826 maths and science teachers since 2007, when the SNP came to power.
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Ten years ago there were were 6,821 teachers in these subjects but this plummeted to 5,995 in 2016.
She said: "Time and time again I have come here and argued that the SNP are leaving the poorest children behind.
"Now this report shows they are also holding the brightest children back."
Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly staked her personal reputation on improving the education system and closing the attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale also challenged the First Minister on the damning report
Last year it emerged Scottish schools had recorded their worst-ever performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment tests, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The Sutton Trust study used data from this to examine the performance of 10 per cent of the most able 15-year-olds in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, taking into account their background.
Over the past decade it's analysis found the gap in science between pupils increased by around a year of schooling, which was described by researchers as a "major weakness".
Sturgeon's top moments Fri, December 9, 2016
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in pictures.
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Nicola Sturgeon visits Glaxo Smith Kline.
Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly staked her personal reputation on improving the education system
The report said: "There is no specific area where able children in Scotland really excel."
Defending her government's record, Ms Sturgeon stressed the survey pre-dates £750 million of funding through its attainment challenge fund and promised reforms of the education system.
She also insisted there were signs of a "narrowing of the attainment gap", pointing to record numbers of exam passes and school leavers moving into "positive destinations" such as work, education or training.
Ms Sturgeon added: "I want to see it narrow further and I want to see it narrow faster, which is why we are taking the action that we are doing."
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