Schoolchildren will no longer be able to take their GCSEs in separate modules to stop the culture of resits, the exams watchdog has confirmed.
Pupils will also be marked for spelling, punctuation and grammar under the short-term Ofqual reforms.
The reforms will take effect next year, so anyone beginning their GCSEs next September will sit their exams in summer 2014.
The changes mark the end of modular courses, where pupils can take a series of exams that can be taken again if failed.
The module system was introduced widely from 2009 but ministers believe they have encouraged teaching to the test and prevented young people achieving a full understanding of the whole subject.
Students will be given an early opportunity to resit maths, English and English Language GCSEs every November because these are key subjects needed to progress to further study or employment, the proposals said.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "We are taking urgent action to restore confidence in GCSEs - the next step in our overhaul of the wider exam system.
"We want to break the constant treadmill of exams and retakes throughout students' GCSE courses - school shouldn't be a dreary trudge from one test to the next.
"Sitting and passing modules has become the be-all and end-all, instead of achieving a real, lasting understanding and love of a subject."
Students will be marked on the accuracy of spelling, punctuation and grammar and their use of specialist terms in English Literature, geography, history and religious studies. It will form 5% of the overall mark.