Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced the figure during a live broadcast of the results in Johannesburg on Thursday evening.
The pass rate is an improvement on the year before. The class of 2017 achieved a 75.1% pass rate, itself an improvement from the 72.5% pass rate in 2016.
In total, 790,843 pupils wrote the 2018 exams, made up of full-time and part-time candidates. It was the fourth-largest cohort of matrics to register for final exams.
Motshekga commented that this was the eighth straight year that the matric pass rate had passed the 70% mark.
Provincially, it was Gauteng that came out as top performer, with a 87.9%. Free State (87.5%), Western Cape (81.5%) and North West (81.1%) were the only four provinces to get above 80%.
At the bottom end, Limpopo was the only province to get below the 70% threshold, achieving 69.4% – but this was an improvement of 3.8% from the year before.
The Eastern Cape achieved a 70.6% pass rate, the Northern Cape 73.3%, KwaZulu-Natal 76.2%, and Mpumalanga 79%.
Motshekga said that the class of 2018 wrote 147 set question papers, eight million question papers were printed; 7.6 million scripts were produced and delivered around the country to nearly 7,000 secure examination centres. The exams were supervised by 65,000 invigilators and 41,000 markers were appointed to check the scripts in 141 secure marking centres.
Motshekga said it was “unprecedented” and “remarkable” that all top 10 districts came from just two provinces.