The 2019 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations saw 81.3% of matriculants pass - a 3% increase from the 78.2% pass rate the previous year.
This year's NSC exams saw 788 717 candidates register to write, comprising full-time and part-time pupils.
Of that, 504 303 full-time candidates, and 106 385 part-time candidates sat for all seven subjects, including 147 question papers at 6 870 examination centres nationwide.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga made the official announcement in Midrand on Tuesday evening to a room filled with education sector stakeholders.
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This pass rate continues the improved trend for the NSC overall pass rate over the last three years, progressed pupils included.
It also improved by 3.1% from 2017 (75.1%) to 2018 (78.2%), progressed pupils included.
Free State tops provinces
The Free State ranked No 1 in 2019 with an 88.4% pass rate, while Gauteng achieved 87.2%.
This is a reversal of the 2018 results, when the Free State came in second with an 87.5% pass rate while Gauteng achieved 87.9%.
Third for 2019 was the North West with an 86.8% pass rate, followed by the Western Cape with 82.3%.
KwaZulu-Natal is not far behind ranking fifth with 81.3% followed by Mpumalanga with 80.3%.
Northern Cape ranked seventh with 76.5% followed by the Eastern Cape with 76.5%, while Limpopo ranked ninth with 73.2%.