Michael Gove has confirmed he will not press ahead with plans to scrap GCSEs, saying the reforms were "a bridge too far".
The Education Secretary told the Commons on Thursday that there was a consensus that the exams system needs to change.
But he admitted that flagship plans to axe GCSEs in favour of new English Baccalaureate Certificates in core academic subjects was "one reform too many at this time".
The u-turn comes following widespread opposition and pressure from within the coalition from the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Gove told MPs that instead of new qualifications, GCSEs will be reformed, with exams taken at the end of the course, rather than in modules, extended questions and less internal assessment.
He also confirmed that he will not be pressing ahead with plans to hand each of the core EBC subjects to a single exam board - a move he had previously argued was essential to prevent boards "dumbing down" standards to attract more schools.
"Last September we outlined plans for changes to GCSE qualifications designed to address the grade inflation, dumbing down and loss of rigour in those examinations," Mr Gove said.
"We have consulted on those proposals and there is now a consensus that the system needs to change. But one of the proposals I put forward was a bridge too far."