The GCSE exam for 16-year-old children in England is to be replaced by an English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBacc), with the first courses to begin in September 2015, it has been announced.
The new qualification will scrap the retaking of "modules", reduce reliance on coursework and bring back tough end-of-year exams.
Children of all abilities will take the EBacc and there will be only one exam board for each subject, in order to prevent competition between boards to deliver tests which are easier to pass.
Education Secretary Michael Gove and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "We need a new set of exams for students at the age of 16 - qualifications which are more rigorous and more stretching for the able, but which will ensure the majority of children can flourish and achieve their full potential."
The announcement was made in a joint article in the Evening Standard several hours before Mr Gove was due to outline his plans in a statement to the House of Commons - something which is likely to anger MPs who believe that Parliament should be informed first.
Mr Gove and Mr Clegg wrote: "We believe that if we remove modules and reduce coursework, get rid of the factors that encourage teaching to the test and, above all, ensure there is just one exam board for each subject, we can restore faith in our exams and equip children for the challenges of the 21st century."
Teaching of the new English, maths and science certificates will begin in September 2015, with the first pupils receiving EBacc rather than GCSE qualifications in 2017. Other subjects, including history, geography and languages, will follow.
Mr Gove and Mr Clegg said that the EBacc will become a "near-universal qualification" taken by almost all English schoolchildren. Where schools feel that pupils are unable to sit the exams at 16, some will be able to defer their EBaccs until 17 or 18.
Mr Gove and Mr Clegg clashed openly over the future of exams earlier this year, with Mr Clegg insisting he would not accept a return to the two-tier system of qualifications that pre-dated GCSEs, when the academically talented took O-levels and the rest sat CSEs. It is understood that Mr Gove and Mr Clegg have worked closely together over the summer to find common ground.
In Monday's article, they wrote that their reforms "have only been made possible because in this coalition we have been able to be more radical, combining the best ideas and building a consensus broader than either of us could have hoped to on our own".