The proportion of entries with the highest score, 9, also fell from 4.7% last year to 6.6% this year, according to Ofqual.
Pupils achieving a 4 or higher, equivalent to a C or higher under the previous measure, also increased significantly from 70% to 79% in England.
In most cases, the scores given to students today came from assessments made by their teachers and schools, called center assessed scores. But in some cases, the students got a higher mark if it had been given by the algorithm previously used by Ofqual.
Gavin Williamson, who came under immense pressure to quit after last week’s fiasco involving Level A grades, said: “Young people who are doing their best today can feel incredibly proud of everything they have. accomplished in the face of immense challenges and uncertainties.
Williamson announced in March that the GCSE and A-level exams would be replaced by a statistical model and school assessments developed by Ofqual. But that was dropped on Monday this week.
“I also want to pay special tribute to the teachers and principals this year who have shown dedication, resilience and ingenuity to help their students get to this moment,” said Williamson.
Mary Bousted, joint secretary general of the National Education Union, said: “Schools and colleges stepped up under difficult circumstances when exams were canceled. They worked tirelessly and professionally to submit grades to their students, based on all the evidence they had, their experience, and their solid professional judgment.
“Teachers know their students better than any model or algorithm and it will be a relief for many to know that the grades they receive now more accurately reflect their achievements.”